Appreciation of Hanfu photography work
Disclaimer: This article has the authorization from the photographer @老妖_Choco to repost her work but the opinions on Hanfu and its background history of this article are reserved for the author and do not represent this photographer and her team.
In the West, Kimono has already become a symbol of the Oriental culture. Its beautiful form and pattern attracted many fashion houses and magazines to use elements of the Japanese national dress. Sometimes, the use of kimono usually attracts a heated debate of its inappropriate cultural appropriation. Hanbok, the beautiful Korean traditional costume is also becoming increasingly known around the world with South Korean’s strong cultural export via its K-drama and K-pop.
In comparison, the Chinese national costume is always known to the world as the Qipao or Cheongsam, which also are quite popular fashion elements in Western high-end runway shows and on silver screens. Hanfu, the Han Chinese national dress was sadly pushed to the margin and left unknown since the establishment of Qing dynasty (1636–1912).
Indeed, the famous Qiapo is actually developed from the Manchurian dress that associated with the memory of being conquered by Manchurians. More interestingly, when the rest of the world, or to be more exact, when the Western world started to interact with Chinese community on an unprecedented level during the 19th century, what the West saw was a Manchurianised Chinese society with Manchurian lifestyle and costume – such as the iconic male pigtails and ladies’ Qipao.
With the imperial expansion of the West, the iconic image of men wearing long pigtails and ladies wearing Qipao become cultural symbols of China in the world. The process of Manchurianisation of China is actually tainted with blood of hundread of thousands of Han Chinese people who would rather die than to change into Manchu costumes back in the early days of the Manchu conquest of China (please refer “留发不留头shave your head or die”, “剃发易服 tifa yifu” “扬州十日Ten Days Massacre in Yangzhou”, “嘉定三屠 Three Massacres in Jia Ding”) However hard they tried, the image of Chinese national dress has remained the Manchurian style ever since.
It is a great shame that China has 55 minor ethnicities and each has their own costumes whereas the major Han ethnicity has been using Manchu styled Qiapao as its national dress. Authentic Han costume has been absent from the public eyes in China for a few centuries, not to mention known by the rest of the world. Back in the 2000s, many Han Chinese young people felt it is their responsibility to bring Hanfu back against the background of government’s encouragement of reviving the Confucius traditional culture.
With the development of modern social media, more and more like-minded young people gathered together and started the Hanfu Revival Movement and are still trying their best to bring back the Han Chinese beautiful national dress into modern daily life. Ironically, even in the early days of the Hanfu movement, when these young people wore Hanfu on the street, the general public thought they were wearing Kimono or Hanbok and thought they were not Chinese at all.
Fun fact: Kimono and Hanbok were actually inspired by Hanfu, and thus they share many similarities.
To give a simple and maybe a little bit overly simplistic explanation here, Kimonos were developed from China’s Tang dynasty costume while modern Hanboks included many elements of Ming Dynasty’s costume. The irony of this phenomenon is that the Manchurianisation of China has eliminated the Han Chinese public’s memory of their own costume.
The history and the complexity of the Hanfu are confined to academic studies in costume history, whilst the Hanfu revival movement will probably go on for a long time to achieve its goals. By far due to the high cost of Hanfu and the debate between divided opinions on a what is the “standard” Hanfu, Hanfu is still limited to middle class young people and reserved for ceremonial occasions or artistic photography shooting.
Now on a more light-hearted tone, I would like to introduce a series of gorgeous photography work by a young independent female photographer: @老妖_Choco from Shenzhen. She and her team created a photography series named Nine Fairy Tales in Hanfu, which is widely circulated on China’s biggest social media platform Weibo. Their motivation is to create this series to use their own Oriental visual style to reinterpret their childhood memory of beautiful fairy tales they watched from Disney but not limited to Disney production. “This would be a nice way to explore the beauty of East meets West,” says the talented photographer.
Sleeping Beauty：@柏原莉娜 @祁九_
Little Red Riding Hood：@Ruya露叶
The Steadfast Tin Soldier：@Loki_吴山风啸黄泉渡 @_东方破晓