Traditional chinese clothing for children

Written by cathy o'brien
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Traditional chinese clothing for children
Silk-covered buttons add elegance to a pien-fu. (Chinese fashion image by Liu Xiang from

Traditional Chinese clothing for children has an internal symbolism that represents an event from the past or a tradition in the Chinese culture. The clothing is both elegant and meaningful, which helps to make Chinese children proud of their heritage and the deep symbolism behind every outfit. Traditional Chinese clothing for children is still worn in modern times for special events and occasions.


The Chinese tradition of symbolic clothing dates back 18,000 years. According to Chinatown Connection, archeologists uncovered evidence of sewing materials, beads and ornamentation on clothing from that period in history. The traditional clothing for children that is still used in modern times took shape roughly 4,500 years ago during the reign of the Yellow Emperor and Emperors Yao and Shaun. Children’s traditional clothing became sophisticated and refined by the Shang Dynasty from the 16th to the 11th centuries B.C.


Traditional Chinese clothing for children is wide with large, voluminous sleeves. The clothing is designed with straight lines and fits loosely. The loose fit allows the garments to hang with natural folds regardless of whether or not the child is wearing a belt.

The clothing is simple in design yet highly sophisticated. Embroidery is used around the edges and the shoulders are embellished with beads or ceramic pieces. Bands are decorated and sashes are often worn to add more formality to the costumes.


There are three types of traditional Chinese clothing for children. The pien-fu is a two-piece costume used in ancient ceremonies. The top is a long tunic which reaches to the knees, and the skirt is straight with the hemline hitting at the ankles. Boys wear trousers in place of the skirt. This costume is topped off with a cylindrical ceremonial cap called a pien. The pien-fu has buttons down the front which are covered in silk.

The ch.’ang-p’ao is a long robe or dress. There are many variations of this garment such as a dress for girls and a robe or coat for men. The ch.’ang-p’ao is made out of silk and heavily embroidered.

Shen-i is a variation of the pien-fu. This garment is also two pieces with a long tunic and skirt or trousers. The shen-i tunic is constructed like a pullover without ties or buttons.


Chinese children benefit from traditional clothing because there is both historical significance and symbolism designed into the garments. For instance, the plumes worn on top of hats symbolise the bold and warlike spirit of warriors dating back to the Warring States Period from 475 to 221 B.C.

The colours used in traditional Chinese clothing for children symbolise the annual cycles of the earth. Green clothing symbolises spring and new beginnings. Summer is recognised with red fabric and symbolises fire. White clothing is favoured in the fall, while black clothing is worn in the winter.


Traditional Chinese clothing for children is worn for special occasions such as cultural memorials, tourist attractions, parades and weddings. Children also wear traditional clothing for the theatre while performing on stage in operas, ballets and plays.

The ch.’ang-p’ao is considered the traditional formal dress. Children wear it to attend the theatre, family weddings and special events.

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