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Splendid Chinese Costumes

Over the past several thousand years, silk garments were worn by emperors and the aristocracy as well as the common people. The traditional clothing and accessories of the northern nomads and the Han nationality created a “historic nation of clothing and accessories,” which became a symbol of the culture of the Chinese nation.

Warring States to Han Dynasty (475 BC-220 AD)
In light of the theory “Qian is heaven, Kun is earth”, in early times Chinese people wore “Yi as tops and Shang (skirts) below.” From the Warring States Period to the Han Dynasty, Shenyi (one-piece robes with the top and bottom sewn together) was worn by both men and women. Shenyi usually took two forms: Qufu, with a slanting opening, and Zhifu, with a straight vertical opening. The robe with an embroidered body, jin-silk trim and wide sleeves was popular among the aristocrats of the time.

Jin Dynasty and Tang Dynasty (265 AD-907 AD)
The Jin and Tang dynasties, when exotic fashions were absorbed through the Silk Road, are the most brilliant chapters in the history of ancient Chinese costume. Of great influence was Hufu, a style of dress characterized by narrow sleeves and long trousers, which before long replaced traditional Chinese robes. Chinese costume, especially women’s wear, attained an unprecedented elegance at the time.

Liao Dynasty (916-1125)
The “One country, Two systems” policy was adopted during the Liao Dynasty founded by the Khitans. On one hand, they kept their traditional nomadic features, and a typical Khitan costume consists of a long robe with left opening, narrow sleeves and central vent on the back, a pair of boots, a waistband on which a leather bag hung. On the other hand, some people were also allowed to wear traditional Han-style costumes.

Song and Yuan Dynasties (960-1368)
The Song and Yuan dynasties witnessed another integration of costumes among different nations. Traditional costume style of the Han people was fundamentally preserved in the Song Dynasty. Men usually wore gowns with round collars, while women wore skirts with matching jackets. Such style was partially changed in the Yuan Dynasty founded by the Mongols. People in the north wore shining gilded robe made of Nasiji and leather boots, while most people in the south still wore Han-Chinese garments.

Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
After unifying China, Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of Ming Dynasty, ordered the people to revert to Han Chinese style and established new rules for clothing and accessories in 1370. The characteristic garments of the Ming Dynasty were gowns with loose sleeves. In the early Ming, officials began to differentiate their ranks with mandarin squares. At meanwhile, ladies mainly wore jackets and skirts.

Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)
After the rulers of the Qing Dynasty forged their way through the Shanhai Pass, they enforced the costume style of the Manchus on the Han Chinese people. In 1761, Emperor Qianlong published a set of rules for Manchu costumes. However, men’s daily wear consisted mainly of robes and Magua, a mandarin jacket worn over a gown. Manchu women wore mandarin gowns long enough to cover their feet. Han women were not required to obey this system and could still were the typical top and skirt.