Wedding practices, garments and traditions may vary from culture to culture, but there’s no denying that the core idea of the wedding ceremony remains the same: the joining of two people into a marriage recognized by the country’s laws and religion.
The Chinese culture is rich both in history and complexity. It is considered to be one of the most famous and influential cultures around the world. Although Chinese wedding traditions may no longer be required in most parts of the country, there are still a number of traditional couples who choose to get married wearing traditional Chinese garments and following practices established by long-gone dynasties.
One of the most popularly depicted traditional costumes in pop culture includes the Chinese clothing called Hanfu.
The Hanfu or the Chinese Silk Robe (also known as Han Chinese clothing, Huafu, Hanzhuang, or guzhang), pertains to the historic clothing worn by the Han Chinese people prior to the beginning of the Qing Dynasty in 1644. It consists of different garments arranged together in a specific and orderly fashion.
Every single Hanfu garment is a combination of different articles of clothing mixed together to form one costume. The following are some examples of the different pieces of clothing worn:
- Yi: The “yi” refers to an upper garment worn by both sexes. It has loose lapels and is left open.
- Shan: “Shan” describes an open and cross-collar jacket or shirt that can be worn over the yi.
- Ru: The “ru” is a cross-collar shirt.
- Pao: “Pao” pertains to an entire closed garment that is worn exclusively by men.
- Shang/Chang: The “shang,” also referred to as the “chang”, pertains to a type of skirt. Skirts worn by women can also be referred to as “qun”.
- Ku: The word “ku” pertains to pants or trousers.
Hanfu collars are marked by their diagonal cross-collar nature, where the fabric from the left side is made to cross over the right. Sleeves for upper garments are usually very long and loose. These garments are fastened shut with either a sash or a belt
Jade pendants and tassels commonly accessorize the garments. These ornaments are usually hung from either the sash or the belt, and are referred to as “pei.”
Hats and hairpieces were also traditionally worn during this period. These accessories were worn both inside and outside the house. Hair accessories and hats were very telling of a person’s social status or rank, since commoners had to wear a different hat style or hairpiece style from their privileged counterparts. Academics and officials were also asked to wear a different set of hats to show their rank.
Historical and Cultural Significance of the Hanfu
The history of Hanfu clothing spans over three millennia. It was even rumored that the legendary Huangdi or the Yellow Emperor wore it. Since this time, the Hanfu has undergone numerous modifications and alterations under different ruling emperors or Dynasties. While most people seem to think that the traditional Chinese costume is the qipao, the truth is, the wearing of qipao is a result of brutal laws made by the Qing Dynasty’s Manchurian rulers. It was an attempt to completely eradicate the use of Hanfu. Anyone who was caught wearing the traditional Hans Chinese clothing was punished severely.
Today, the use of Hanfu is greatly limited. Hanfu is worn during special ceremonies like the rite of passage ceremony, as a ceremonial outfit for priests, for cultural exercises and during historical reenactments. It’s also pretty common to see Hanfu worn by actors and actresses in historical films, television series’ and other types of media performances.
Because of the rare use of this traditional garb, groups from China and various Chinese communities in other parts of the world are rallying for the revival of Hanfu and its use in Chinese celebrations and in everyday life.One way you can bring back the use of these highly elaborate clothes is by wearing the Hanfu instead of a modern wedding dress. It’s the perfect way to add a dash of tradition to your modern-day wedding.
Watch the video below of Handfu used as wedding dresses.