Culture| The Secrets of Chinese Hanfu

People from different countries each have their traditional attire. Japanese have the kimono and the Scottish have their kilts. China also has traditional clothing, which is called ‘Hanfu’( 汉服hàn fú). The name stems from the Han nationality, who are the dominant ethnicity in China, and who account for more than 90 percent of the mainland’s population.

The traditional clothing system of Han people is today divided into two phases: ancient and modern. Ancient Hanfu dates back to the time of Yellow Emperor, which was about 4,000 years ago. It continued developing until about 300 or 400 years ago, when the Qing Dynasty’s policy on hair and dress intervened.

Around the beginning of the 20th century, the country started moving more towards Western-style clothing. Before that, there were dozens or even hundreds of styles of traditional Chinese clothes throughout its history. Let’s take a peek at the most typical styles of Chinese traditional clothing.

Women’s Hanfu


Ruqun one kind of hanfu. The clothes worn on the upper body are called “Ru”, and the part on the lower body is called “Qun”. Together, they are called “Ruqun”. It is a typical “Shangyi Xiachang” (top clothes and underdress) form. Ruqun has an obvious feature: the shirt portion is very short and the skirt portion begins very high, usually just below the collarbone. The Ruqun appeared in the Warring States Period; it was worn by females in China until the end of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.


Shenyi, in contrast, is a style of clothing with a longer upper portion and accent colors/fabrics on the edging and belt. The top, which can come down to the knees or below, crosses in front and is held closed with a waist tie. This style of clothing (see below) looks very graceful and elegant. Shenyi can be subdivided into “Zhiju (直裾-Straight Ju Dress)” and “Quju (曲裾-Wavy Ju Dress)”.

3.Round collar Robe(圆领袍)

This style of clothing has a long gown with a round neckline, and can have a collar that that buttons on the side of the neck. This style could also have slits on the sides for horseback riding. Nowadays, this clothing style is regarded as the official dress of China.

In addition to these three types, there are many subdivisions with subtle differences.

Men’s Hanfu

Similar to those of females, men also have Shenyi (深衣), Zhiju (直裾), Ru (襦) and the Round collar Robe (圆领袍). In addition, there are two other distinctive styles for men.

1.Yishang (衣裳)

Similar to the concept of Ruqun, women wear Ruqun, while men wear Yishang. Yi is worn on the upper body, and Shang are worn on the lower half of the body, like a dress. Yishang is the most typical type of clothing for men’s Hanfu.

2.Lan shan(襕衫)

Lan shan is a special form of Shenyi. These are a single piece that crosses and attaches on one side. This clothing is practical for everyday wear, and was worn mainly by students.

Chinese Hanfu has so many sub-types and it continues to evolve as time goes by. It would take an entire book to explore all the styles and sub-styles, but we wanted to give you a little taste of some of Chinese traditional fashion.

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