CHINA Podcast: Story in the Story (6/18/2019 Tue.)


Podcast: Story in the Story (6/18/2019 Tue.)

People's Daily app

00:57, June 18, 2019


From the People's Daily app.

And this is Story in the Story. 

China has embraced Western fashion and futuristic technology as its economy boomed in recent decades. But a growing number of young people are looking to the past for their sartorial choices and are donning traditional hanfu, or "Han clothing."

The traditional clothing of the Han ethnic group is enjoying a renaissance in part because the government is promoting traditional culture in a bid to boost national identity.

Dramas have also contributed to the surge of interest in traditional Chinese garb. The Story of Minglan (2018), a TV series set in the Song Dynasty, garnered more than 400 million viewers in three days when it debuted earlier this year.

Today's Story in the Story looks at how Chinese revive fashion from ancient dynasties.


A dancer dressed in hanfu performs in Kunming, Southwest China's Yunnan Province. (Photo: IC)

Mo Li, chairman of the Sichuan Hanfu Association, said the revival started in about 2005 when a question was raised during online debate.

Netizens said Japan has the kimono, South Korea the hanbok, and other Chinese ethnic groups have traditional costumes that are worn on special occasions. So why did present-day Han Chinese have no idea about clothing to represent their cultural heritage?

"People then started looking into the history books and researching Han people's clothing," Mo said. "They found that they had a traditional costume dating back thousands of years, but this disappeared when the Manchu started ruling around the middle of the 17th century."

After confirming the existence of hanfu, a revival movement started. A large number of enthusiasts formed various online groups to promote the culture. They have also held many offline events to showcase the beauty and cultural connections of the clothing.

"Many Han Chinese didn't really know about hanfu or its history, and would wear other traditional dress such as the qipao," Mo said. "But in recent years, the number of hanfu lovers has grown rapidly and knowledge of the culture has widened."

About 300 days a year, 25-year-old Zhou Zhiluo wears long, flowing robes with big sleeves, a skirtlike lower garment and a belt at her waist. Her long hair is tied in a variety of intricate styles, including loose buns.

"I feel quite myself wearing hanfu," said Zhou, referring to the term coined by internet users to describe clothing worn by Han Chinese before the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

"I'm proud that we Han people have such beautiful traditional clothes," said Zhou, who hails from Henan province, adding that she has been wearing such clothing for about six years and has more than 200 outfits in her closet.


(Photo: China Daily)

Coco Wu, cultural strategy consultant for market research company Kantar, said part of the reason for the increasing popularity of hanfu is people's growing confidence in their own culture, due to the country's rapid economic growth and continued government efforts to boost cultural development in recent years.

"Having great confidence in their culture makes people more willing to trace their traditions. To them, wearing hanfu can be compared with wearing a cultural icon," she said.

Moreover, the huge differences between hanfu and modern clothing makes the costumes ideal choices for cosplay, as wearing them can offer people "novel experiences" and make them feel as if they are traveling back in time to an ancient world, Wu said.

Wu also added that it is now common to see younger people wearing the attire on visits to ancient sites and parks.

"The younger generation has become the main driving force behind the revival," she said. "To them, wearing hanfu can be more fashionable than wearing luxury global brands, and caters to their need to search for novelty and showcase their personalities."

While the hanfu revival originated online, it has also spread through short-video platforms such as Douyin and Bilibili that are used by the younger generation, Wu said.

On April 7, Bilibili and the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China hosted the second celebration of hanfu culture. More than 20 million people watched a livestream of costumes and related performances.

Mo said short videos have contributed greatly to promoting the culture in China.

"Such videos showing people in the costumes performing various activities in everyday life actually showcase a new lifestyle, telling people that they can wear the attire and perform many fashionable, classic, funny or cool tasks," she said. "They bring the culture closer to the public." 

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Chelle Wenqian Zeng, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe and Da Hang. Music by: Text from Global Times and China Daily.)

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