Three Types of Traditional Chinese Clothing

Written by guy gardner
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Three Types of Traditional Chinese Clothing
The Cheongsam is one kind of traditional Chinese clothing. (Sky View/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Chinese culture is one of the few surviving ancient cultures of the world. Chinese traditional dress has evolved over thousands of years, and many examples of different dress exist in the kung fu films and historical epics that are set in ancient China. However, most of the traditional clothing worn today has its origins in the Qing Dynasty and the Republican Period of the early twentieth century.

Qing Clothing: Part 1

The traditional Chinese women's dress is called the Cheongsam in Cantonese, also known as the Qipao in Mandarin. This clothing is, perhaps, the best-known representative of traditional Chinese clothing and is among the most often worn traditional Chinese clothing today. The dress is form fitting, with a high mandarin collar, slits up the sides of the legs, tight waist and short or long sleeves. The dress buttons up the side, and it can be made from a variety of material, including silk and cotton. Originally a foreign dress, the design dates back to the Qing dynasty and was introduced by the Manchus, who ruled over the Han Chinese during this period.

Qing Clothing: Part 2

The male equivalent of the Qipao is the Tangzhuang, meaning Tang Clothing. In this case, tang doesn't refer to the Tang dynasty that ruled China before the Qing and Ming dynasties, but to the reference to Chinese as Tang People, or Tangren. The Tangzhuang was also worn during the Qing dynasty and has carried over to modern China as the men's traditional clothing. Loose fitting and comfortable, the tangzhuang fastens up the centre of the chest with cloth buttons and cloth loops, similar to the Qipao, and also has a short Mandarin collar. It is shirt length and comes with long or short sleeves. Loose fitting trousers of the same material are often worn with the tangzhuang.

Republican Clothing

The first western-influenced clothing to be widely adopted by Chinese was the Zhong Shan Zhuang, or Sun Yat Sen Clothing (see reference). This clothing was named after the President of the Republic of China, Sun Yat Sen, who introduced the clothing as a modern Chinese dress blending western and eastern influences. In the west, it is better known as the Mao Suit, after Mao Ze Deng and members of the People's Republic of China who adopted it as national clothing. The clothing is similar to the tangzhuang except that round hard button are used to button up the chest, and the mandarin collar has been replaces with a fold down collar similar to that found in western shirts and jackets. The clothing was usually dark blue, grey or olive drab. Although introduced as modern at the time, it has become an old fashioned piece of clothing, and one that is still worn in less developed parts of China. It is usually worn by seniors.

Wedding Dress

Similar to the Qipao, the traditional Chinese wedding dress is an elaborate garment made of red silk and gold and silver embroidery. The Dragon and Phoenix are embroidered into the dress in a detailed and elaborate pattern. The dragon represents the groom, and the Phoenix represents the bride. The greater the detail in the embroidery, as well as the amount of thread, the greater the price for such a dress. Men also have a traditional red tangzhuang they can wear at weddings, but most Chinese grooms dress in the western style for the wedding, wearing a suit or tuxedo.

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