Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Hanfu Girl

Photo Courtesy Hanfugirl 
Readers of this blog know of my "chinoiserie" phase in my photographic trajectory, which ranges from photojournalistic projects such as documenting various types of Chinese opera to what I call "fashion themed storytelling'.

It's the latter that led me to discover the work of Ms. Gong Pan Pan, a Singaporean whose passion is to re-enact the ancient/traditional Chinese female’s way of dressing, either through modeling the dresses herself or relying on friends to do so. Ms Pan Pan's delightful blog is The Hanfu Girl, and she pens a number of historically and visually interesting posts about her passion.


One of specific interests at this time is the Hanfu style. Hanfu is the term for traditional clothing worn by the Han Chinese before the 17th century. Of the 56 different ethnic groups in China, the Hans are the largest, and make up approximately 90% of the population in China.

In a recent interview, she estimated that she has between 50 and 100 sets of hanfu clothes/costumes, and elaborate hair pieces, jewelry and props, all bought from mainland China.

Many of us think of the cheongsam (or qi pao) as the quintessential Chinese dress, but these are actually Manchurian creations, and which is popularly -and erroneously- assumed to be the de facto traditional Han Chinese garb.

Hànfú (literally:"Han clothing") is one of the historical/traditional clothing of the Han people, and influenced the clothing of East Asia such as the Japanese kimono and Korean hanbok.

The Hanfu style evolved in various iterations -as well as dropping in and out of favor- throughout Chinese dynasties. The rulers during the Qing dynasty (as an example) endeavored to expunge Han identity, and prohibited the Han to wear their national dress, requiring them to wear garments in the Manchu tradition....but that was fiercely resisted, and the policy was eventually relaxed. Men, government officials, Confucian scholars, and prostitutes wore the Manchu style; while women, errand boys, children, monks, and Taoists were free to wear Han styles. Han dress was also permitted for special occasions such as weddings and funerals.