Hanfu or Han Chinese Clothing

Han Fu or Han Chinese clothing, referred in English simply as Silk Robe or Chinese Silk Robe, is the historical dress of the Han Chinese people worn for thousands of years before the conquest by the Manchus of the Qing Dynasty in 1644.

Portrait of Confucius, Showing the Han Fu of the Spring and Autumn Period193

History of Han Chinese Clothing

Han Fu has a history of more than three millennia, and is said to have been worn by the legendary Yellow Emperor.

Shang and Zhou Dynasty Han Fu

Shenyi a type of Han Chinese clothing commonly worn from the pre-Shang periods to the Han Dynasty. This form is known as the quju and worn primarily by women.


Another type of Han Chinese Shenyi commonly worn from the pre-Shang periods to the Ming Dynasty. This form is known as the zhiju and worn primarily by men.


Two traditional forms of ruqun, a type of Han Chinese clothing worn primarily by women. Cuffs and sleeves on the upper garment may be tighter or looser depending on style. A short skirt or weighted braid (with weight provided by a jade or gold pendant) is sometimes worn to improve aesthetics or comfort of the basic ruqun.


The Shang Dynasty (1600 BCE-1046 BCE), developed the rudiments of Han Fu. It consisted of a narrow-cuffed, knee-length tunic tied with a sash, and a narrow, ankle-length skirt worn with a length of fabric that reached the knees.

The dynasty to follow the Shang, the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046-771 BCE), established a strict hierarchical society that used clothing as a status meridian, and inevitably, the height of one’s rank influenced the ornateness of a costume. Such markers included the length of a skirt, the wideness of a sleeve and the degree of ornamentation. In addition to these class-oriented developments, the Han Fu became looser, with the introduction of wide sleeves and jade decorations hung from the sash.

12th century Chinese painting of The Night Revels of Han Xizai showing musicians dressed in Han Fu.197

In the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770BCE-221BCE), the “deep robe” appeared a combination of tunic and skirt. The upper and lower halves were cut separately but sewn as a single unit. An additional change was the shaping of the left side of the costume into a corner, fastened on the chest.

Tang Dynasty Han Fu


Tang Dynasty (618CE-907CE) was a period of golden age for the people where culture and economy thriving. Especially, the Women’s dress and personal adornments saw some major reform in this era. Although it still continues the clothing of its predecessors such as Han (206BCE – 220CE) and Sui (581CE – 618CE) dynasties, fashion during the Tang was also influenced by its cosmopolitan culture and arts. Communications and trades were flourishing between the Tang and many places and cultures and that it has changed the thoughts and concepts of the old practices. Before the Tang, Chinese women were restricted by the old Confucian code where a woman’s status was low and her clothing had to be concealed. However during the Tang, women’s clothing gradually became broad and loose. Tang Dynasty was considered by some as another turning point for Han Fu. During the Tang era, foreign culture was lively accepted by the Chinese and blended into Chinese traditional culture.

Song Dynasty Han Fu


Some features of Tang Clothing carried into the Song Dynasty (960CE – 1279CE) Such as court customs. Song court customs often use red color for their garments with black leather shoe and hats. Collar edges and sleeve edges of all clothes that have been excavated were decorated with laces or embroidered patterns. Such clothes were decorated with patterns of peony, camellia, plum blossom, and lily, etc. Although some of Song clothing have similarities with previous dynasties, some unique characteristics separate it from the rest. Many of Song Clothing goes into Yuan and Ming.

Ming Dynasty Han Fu


Ming Dynasty also brought many changes to its clothing as many dynasties do. They implemented metal buttons and the collar changed from the symmetrical type of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) to the main circular type. Compared with the costume of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the proportion of the upper outer garment to lower skirt in the Ming Dynasty was significantly inverted. Since the upper outer garment was shorter and the lower garment was longer, the jacket gradually became longer to shorten the length of the exposed skirt. Young ladies in the mid Ming Dynasty usually preferred to dress in these waistcoats. The waistcoats in the Qing Dynasty were transformed from those of the Yuan Dynasty.

Han Fu in Modern Day

Today, most Han Chinese wear Western-style clothing in everyday life. Han Chinese clothing is presently worn only as a part of historical reenactment, festivals, hobby, coming of age/rite of passage ceremonies, ceremonial clothing worn by religious priests, or cultural exercise and can be frequently seen on Chinese television series, films and other forms of media entertainment.


by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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