Wearing pride: Centuries-old Chinese fashion is making a comeback

When Zhang Lingshan was a child, she would watch the Chinese period drama "Palace" on television, entranced by the characters' ancient clothing. The costumes were colorful and regal, long gowns embroidered with lotus flowers and dragons, topped with intricate headpieces.To get more hanfu, you can visit shine news official website.
She didn't know what these beautiful clothes were called -- only that they were from some distant past.
"When I saw it, I really liked it," she said. "They looked fairy-like, dreamy. I was completely drawn by the beauty of these clothes, and then eventually came to understand the culture of Hanfu, and I liked it more and more."
Now aged 19 and living in Beijing, Zhang is a member of China's growing "Hanfu" movement -- a renaissance of the ancient clothing traditionally worn by ethnic-majority Han Chinese before the Qing dynasty. The movement, which started in the early 2000s as a fringe subculture on online forums and websites, has now stepped out onto the streets.Though it's still not mainstream, if you walk through major cities you may see a fan dressed in the sweeping robes, crossed collars and wide sleeves of Hanfu, which literally translates to "Han clothing."
There are Hanfu shops, designers and researchers, and even photography studios that rent out accessories and outfits.
Hanfu outfits cost anywhere from $30 to a few thousand dollars, depending on the quality. Sales have soared in recent years -- the Hanfu industry's total market value is estimated to be worth 1.09 billion yuan (about $154 million), according to state-run media China Daily.
Tight-knit Hanfu communities and university clubs often meet up for themed activities like folk games or costume showings. Zhang and her friends sometimes visit places with ancient architecture, like Beijing's Forbidden City, where emperors once resided, to take photos in costume and post them on social media.
Chen Zhenbing, chairman of the China Hanfu Association, fell in love with the clothing when he was 16 and handmade his first Hanfu suit back when it was still a niche interest. He recalled holding a 2005 Hanfu event that only attracted about 50 attendees -- five years later, a similar event drew up to 500 people, he said.
Nowadays, Hanfu events around the country can draw upwards of a thousand attendees.
He and many others see Hanfu as a way to celebrate Chinese culture and improve national self-esteem. For years, Chinese professionals looked to the West for their wardrobes, wearing dress shirts and suits as the country's economy raced to catch up. Now, "we don't think China is underdeveloped," said Christine Tsui, a fashion columnist and researcher based in Shanghai. "So it's the confidence of the younger people, the confidence of the country."
And yet, there are others who take a more critical view of Hanfu's popularity, seeing it as a reflection of a monoethnic nationalist surge under President Xi Jinping, who has repeatedly promoted "traditional virtues" and patriotism.
China officially recognizes 56 ethnic groups, of which 55 are minorities. Han, the majority group, makes up about 92% of the country's population.
Critics of the movement like Kevin Carrico, a senior research fellow in Chinese Studies at Melbourne's Monash University, argue that the popularization of Hanfu only reinforces Han cultural dominance, to the detriment of the millions of people making up China's ethnic minorities.
In this context, he and other academics say Hanfu is no longer just an innocent fashion trend -- but something to be weaponized in promoting a nationalistic political agenda.


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