Garments Change in China Modern Times

Big Differences between Cities and Countryside

After the 1911 Revolution, the garments changed greatly, and the dresses and the official cap buttons were eliminated. Particularly, hair plait was cut off, but chi-pao / qipao (one-piece mandarin robe) still existed. The Blue Short Gown of schoolgirls was the main style, and it gradually became popular.

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Along with the emergence of cinema, film stars became eminent persons gradually. Shanghai City became the fashion center of women’s wear in China. The garments of Guangdong Province and Hong Kong became one of the branches of Shanghai City garments.

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Garments during the Republic of China period in (1912-1945)

The government specified formal dresses of men and women in the first year of the Republic of China (1912-1949). Men wore suits which were day suits and evening suits. Day suits were of Western style and Chinese style (e.g. long gown and mandarin jacket). There is collar for women formal dress and was long to the knee with buttons down the front. Skirts were decorated with cartouches in the front and back, both sides were sewn with pleats, and both ends had patterns of knots.
At the wedding ceremony, the urban girls were in full dress of silk, wrapped white gauze over the head and held a white bouquet to celebrate the wedding, while the rural girls still followed the tradition and wore red robes and a hat decorated with jewels, riding in red sedan .

490Girls wearing western style dresses to a wedding in Shanghai

During the period of the Republic of China, the government specified new dress code, and men wore western-style clothes and Sun Yat-sen’s uniform (Chinese tunic suit). These two styles of clothes were foreign styles, and most officials and intellectuals more usually wore them. White garments were worn in the summer, but black or dark garments were worn in other seasons. The style with a mandarin jacket over a long gown was still one of the common dressing styles. The student’s clothing with erect collar, three pockets and seven buttons were mainly the uniform of students of universities and colleges. The style with a sleeveless jacket or a waistcoat over a long gown was also a common style. In addition, the common dressing style of rural men and women was a jacket and trousers or covered with a ramie skirt (long or short small skirt fastened on body).

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Women’s costume changed greatly during the period, some kept the Qing Dynasty (1644-1840) style of trousers and clothes with curving front, some imitated western-style with a jacket and a skirt, most schoolgirls wore black silk skirts and short jackets that had a large front, a round lower hem and short sleeves to elbow. The common garments of social women were mainly Chi-pao / qipao.

The overall tendency of new garments was in two types: one type was the long Chi-pao / qipao was in solid color and made of fabric with laces and patterns were added to the edges. The small waistcoat and silk scarves were over the jacket. Other than qipao, the upper garment and lower skirt separated for other types of garments.

In the 1920s, people began to wear Chi-pao / qipao whose style was mostly the same as that of the Qing Dynasty. Later, the cuff was reduced gradually, and embroidered edge was not as broad as previously. By the end of the 1920s, dressing style was affected by Europe and America, and the style of chi-pao / qipao changed significantly. By the early 1930s, Chi-pao / qipao was very popular. The main changes of garments in that time were the modifications of collar, sleeves and length. The garments with high collar were popular at first, and the higher collar, the more popular. Gradually, garments with low collars began to be popular, and the lower collar, the more modern. Finally, people wore collarless and sleeveless Chi-pao / qipao.

 Influence of Foreign Costumes from 1930s to 1940s

With the import of foreign products into China, western life styles penetrated into the people’s life. Women living in big cities in China began to attend social events in the 1930s and 1940s. This resulted the change of social morals accordingly. Women wore western-style clothing and skirt together with glass and watch, and gloves, looking more modern and romantic. The modern and fashionable dress of Europe and Japan affected Chinese women in terms of short skirts, underwear and colors, etc. More and more women began to imitate them, and some even imitated the simple dressing style of America. Ladies who liked sports always wore red pleated skirts and bras to replace the old-time Dudou (an underwear that was made of red embroidery cloth and hung from the neck with gold or silver chains, it came down from ancient times). In addition, women’s one-piece dress was more popular. During the 1920s-1940s after the founding of the Republic of China, fur coats were still popular in rich families.

The hairstyle with bangs or buns was fashionable at the time. The dressing style of slim coat, black skirt (without embroidery pattern), watch, elliptic sunglasses, cuspidate leather shoes, handbag and umbrella was brought into China by Japanese Ladies. This dressing style, called the dressing style of Free Lady, first appeared in Guangzhou City at the end of the Guangxu reign in Qing Dynasty (1875-1908), showing that their thoughts and behaviors were open.

The influence of western-style garments in China mainly appeared after the World War II. Many Chinese students studying abroad went to famous cities of Europe and America to seek spouses, so they brought the oriental ornaments to western countries and took western garments and adornments back to China.

The big inflow of foreign cheap goods greatly oppressed the production and consumption of Chinese goods of the same kind, and the sales of Chinese goods went sluggish for a time. In order to open the sales channels of Chinese garments, relevant personages held the Fashion Show of Chinese Garments at the Shanghai Dahua Restaurant on January 9, 1930. It can be considered the first fashion show in China.

(source: http://traditions.cultural-china.com/en/15Traditions7951.html

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Modern Chinese Clothing

Historical facts about Chinese clothes

Chinese clothing is as both gracefully as it stands for tradition and shows living power. Archeological findings from the Shantingtung early civilization excavated items obviously pointing out that embellishments have been used already at that time. Outfits combined with colors were common; for instance green was used for spring time, the hot seasons color was red, white stood for autumn and the color of winter season was black. Ancient Asian clothing preferred darker shades and a sophisticated scheme of fitting, aligning and opposed colors and shades was used in garments. Nowadays it joins the old motives of luck with the more recent fashion designs of the modern dressing.

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Today’s clothes styles

A wide scale of remarkable styles for teens and young women’s sexy wear is created in today’s China, which involves cats, gods and masks of Chinese opera. Fashionable shapes are applying motives and colors from the old Asian outfit. Images, textiles, ornaments, and motifs from old traditions are combined with modern materials and designs to create today’s fashionable outfits and Oriental fashion. Traditional clothes from China originate from customary motives and rites. In modern Chinese clothing ancient motifs as dragon, phoenix and flower embellishments, which have been used on garments of emperors, are returning. These symbols and styles on the one hand are beautiful and on the other hand stand for ancient tradition. There was a nine dragon and five cloud symbols which should bring luck to the person, and this symbol today also gets the same importance for this kind of wear.

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The combination of recent and old apparel, style and imagery is winsomely and natural. The old-school macramé is widely spread in modern Chinese silk clothes for the outfit’s decoration. We can find it on hems, shoulders, buttons, buttonholes, pockets, holes, silk corsets and edges. For instance the recent wedding tiara is a further established fusion of customary style and fashionable design. In the Hunan province currently can be seen scarves in old-fashioned red, green and blue ornaments. In general Asian clothes are made of different high quality fabrics, like brocade, satin, cotton, silk brocade and Thai silk. Various motives are used for Chinese style clothing, like dragon, phoenix, butterfly, plum blossom, cherry blossom, fish, flower, peony, chrysanthemum, peacock, longevity, bamboo, lotus and you can get them embroidered.

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Ancient and modern styles

On nowadays social events you still can watch men in a sophisticated traditional wide robe. And often ladies dress up an altered kind of garment from the Ch’ing Dynasty. In Asian dresses there are uncountable modifications in size, style and embellishment. Yet the silk producing, weaving and yarning old-aged methods have been refined by recent garment factories. Traditional Chinese fashion as a result gives it’s wearers over the whole world the possibility to delight ancient characteristics and modern style in garments. You can compress the same thing though by wearing fashion which has seen lines, and bows around the waist area too.

Chinese silk clothing

The traditional silk garment is apparently varying because utterly anchored and merged with old traditions. Ancient silk clothing from China nowadays will continue to affect recent Asian fashion greatly. Without doubt the Shang dynasty with their weaving, yarning and producing of silk has the greatest impact. From cultural view China is not completely modern nor totally traditional; this is important for the daily life of Chinese people, for recent modifications of traditional garments and certainly for old-fashioned art styles shown as symbols and patterns on modern clothes. Notwithstanding the arrival of Western values impacts China, but modern sexy Chinese silk clothing persists deeply in it’s own history and traditional rites. This can be seen in different kinds of clothes like Chinese shirts and Chinese vests for example.

Chinese clothing within the fashion scene

Sexy Chinese apparel becomes more and more popular especially in Western culture. It combines the elaborate elegance of Chinese tradition with unique elements of style. Because of its particular charm it is like a wonderful flower in the colorful fashion scene. Another beauty is that it is made of high quality material and to varying lengths. It can be worn either on casual or formal occasions. In either case, silk garments create an impression of elegance. With distinctive features silk outfits enjoy a growing popularity in the international world of high fashion. For convenient movement and display of the slender legs of women female Asian dress generally has two big slits at either side of the hem. The slits expose a woman’s legs indistinctly when she walks, as if there was a blurred emotional appeal of “enjoying flowers in mist”.

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Today you can get it with different lengths and kinds of slits (one slit on the side or front as well as two slits). The material: Chinese attire usually is made of excellent materials like silk, silk brocade, satin, satin brocade or velour’s. Nearly all colors can be used. Often it gets a certain pattern, such as Chinese dragons, different kinds of flowers, butterflies or other typical Chinese icons (e.g. prosperity, wealth). Asian outfit has close links to social status and identity. Thus a modern Chinese outfit serves as a magnifier for examining transformations in the lives of individuals and communities undergoing change. You can get Chinese dresses for evening, party and cocktail events for both summer and winter.

 

source: http://chineseclothing.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/traditional-modern-chinese-clothing-information-and-article-extracts/

Differences between Chinese and Western Clothing

Firstly, there are obvious differences on clothing concepts between Chinese and Western people. Influenced by Confucian value and ethical function, Chinese people have always maintained an eastern style conservative. Skin is closely covered and concealed. To some extent, Chinese clothing culture is a kind of “cover” culture. People should not “reveal” body shape and even skin. A large space is maintained between clothing and the body. This kept clothing relative stable in change on form, but to develop more surface decoration, patterns, colors, material textures and decoration styles. These developments have always kept Chinese clothing in strict form, except for some Men’s clothing.

It is different in western culture, except for a period when people are influenced by the Christianity. Denied the existence of human and human body’s performance, western clothing was used to present body shape in a very realistic and even exaggerated way. This is reflected both in ancient “loose clothing” culture and “close-fitting clothing” culture since the Renaissance. Clothing has been  used to “stand out” and even “intensify” different sex characteristics between male and female, and skin were more and more exposed (especially for women’s clothing). They have also found some methods to “further expose” skin. This brought many profile changes and man-made structure to western clothing.

Secondly, there are differences on function awareness of clothing between Chinese and Western culture. Chinese people attach great importance on social ethics function of clothing since ancient times. They defined the function not only concerning warm and decorative features, but more concerning social status. From the Xia, Shang to the Zhou dynasty, this concept has never been given up in the improvement of ceremonial costume. Every ruler in every dynasty has attached great importance to unify people’s thought by wearing and clothing.

Although the Romans attached great importance to identity function of clothing, and have introduced a variety of apparel ban in feudal times. Very few cultures have such social function development of clothing as in China. Most of them focused mainly on wealth and aesthetic functions of clothing.

Thirdly, the human beings in different environment have created their own material culture since the end of Primitive society. From long time ago, Chinese people have begun to use plant fiber, such as linen, ramie, etc., and animal fibers, such as wool to weave, and they have begun to weave silk sericulture. Silk is a great contribution to human life from Chinese people, so it is impossible  to talk Chinese clothing culture without silk.

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Different from silk culture in China, flax culture prevails in ancient  Egypt, wool culture prevails in the Mesopotamia and cotton culture prevails in India. Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome have no pioneering work in materials, and they imports flax and wool cultures from Mediterranean coasts and Upper Paleozoic civilizations. As for silk, although ancient Rome has touched silk from Far East through Silk Road in BC, they were never able to  understand the mysteries of this beautiful fabric. Lately, they knew the secrets of silk from two missionaries sent to China by the Byzantine Empire. Then one century later, the first silk is produced in Byzantine Empire, but Europeans produced first silk until the Italian Renaissance in 13-14 century.

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What’s more, there are also different dressing ways between Chinese and western clothing cultures. Chinese clothing is featured of upper and lower part separated, with opening in front  and using ties to fix clothing for the convenience to wear off; and western clothing developed from put-on style to cast-over style, and then to front-open style in various forms and complex dressing skill, in which, pins or buttons are often used to fix clothing. It is hard to see cast-over clothing method in China. However, this style is very sophisticated in western countries from Tunic in ancient Egypt to Tunica in ancient Rome. Cast-over style is often found in one-piece clothing, a very sophisticated women’s clothing in nowadays, or in other words, the most formal clothing is still in cast-over style. Although “long gown” has shown in the Spring and Autumn Period BC, it is front-open style from the start, and all kinds of gowns, shirts later on are still in this style. The Western shirts in front-open style nowadays are also developed from cast- over style in the past. Front-open shirts emerged only since mid-19th century.

In addition, put-on style clothing are popular in western countries, but it is only introduced to China with Buddhism from India far later, and it only can be seen on monk’s robes even in nowadays. The clothing going with a piece of cloth, focuses on fold down effect when put on. This is also a style different from traditional Chinese costumes and dressing way. The words “loose clothing” has totally different forms, content, concept and effect in Chinese culture and western culture.

Lastly, the color of clothing is also different. We all know that red is known as the Chinese element,which represents happiness, so when holding wedding ceremony ,everyone is supposed to wear red clothes. And yellow is     considered as a kind of special color, only used by emperors. In the West, red is the unlucky color. They prefer white, on behalf of purity, integrity, or black, representing the noble and mysterious.

Although the Chinese and Westerners have established their own cultures, world view, sense of worth, aesthetic standard and clothing cultures in different geographical environment, as the human living together Earth, there are still some forms and cultural patterns in common when facing survival issues. Therefore, in addition to the differences in clothing culture mentioned above, there is something in common.

At present, the development of Chinese clothing should take on the path of both learning from the advanced technology and culture from the West, and maintaining the unique culture of Chinese people. In so doing, China clothing will be improved and recognized as a new Oriental art form by people around the world, and thus it will make its way to the world stage.

 

source: http://wenku.baidu.com/view/8c9a3eeb6294dd88d0d26b4f

Dudou, the artistic underwear of ancient China

“Dudou”, or bellyband, is a piece of cloth that covers one’s belly. It dates back thousands of years. It was used by Chinese women as an undergarment in ancient times and can be considered China’s most original underwear.

“Red Underwear”, a painting by Liushi Zong

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Origin

Dudou was invented by the Chinese somewhen in the 17th century with the sole practical purpose to keep the chest and stomach area warm. It is just a square or rhomboidal piece of cloth with attached straps that were tied around the neck and at the back. It was worn by children, women and men alike to prevent not only cold but, according to some sources, diarrhea as well.

Dudou, early 20th century. The National Museum of Taiwan History

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Patterns

“White Rabbit and Fuwa”. This embroidery theme is a symbol of life and fertility

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This simple garment worn underneath, however, artistically decorated with embroidery. The embroidery served not just as mere decoration, each figure or pattern had a special meaning. The patterns’ subjects depended on who the dudou was intended for. Those for lovers obviously had love as their theme: romantic stories taken from operas, myths and folklore; those for young women and brides could contain figures of dragon, phoenix and fish as symbols of good luck, happiness and fertility; the patterns used for the bellybands of babies and children often had tiger as their main character who was believed to give protection against evil; dudous for older people could be embroidered with images of tortoise, a symbol of longevity.

Materials

Dudou, late Qing dynasty, satin, silver chain. Embroidery depicts “both husband and wife around the house” story. China National Silk Museum

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Traditional dudous were mostly made of silk satin. The straps could be of the same fabric or cotton but those from rich families used gold or silver chains instead.

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In recent years the dudou has made a come back, as a fashion item as well as an underwear. Nowadays there are different designs of dudou on the Chinese market that can be worn in the streets as a backless top combined with skirts or jeans or at home as a sexy lingerie.

 

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

Embroidered Insoles with Rich Meanings

Insole is a common type of foot wear in China, hidden but full of meanings. The fact that it is hidden from sight doesn’t lessen its exquisiteness in craftsmanship and its richness in cultural meanings. It perfectly exemplifies the combination of aesthetics and functions. Originally used for maintaining feet sanitation (help absorb moisture) and comfort (improve thermal insulation and give feet massage while walking) as well as protecting shoes from abrasions, insoles graduate as a carrier of love, a letter of good wishing, a book of cultural symbols and a peephole to women’s sentiments, lives and aspirations . It is the art under the feet.

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Insoles materialize the bonding between family members, lovers and friends. When a woman married into a new family, she would give exquisitely embroidered self-made Hebao (tiny hanging belt bags for small daily objects) or insoles to her new family members to formalize her relationship with them. Embroidered insole also plays the role of a love token. Women embedded their affection into every thread and every stitch to form resplendent patterns, entrusting her sentiments to the insole. A typical metaphoric pattern for romance is “butterfly in love flower”.

Patterns employed on insoles can be flowers, birds, insects, mythological or religious figures and Chinese characters—all rich in cultural meanings.

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The pattern “one stem, double lotus” has rich religious meaning. Lotus flower is the holy flower for both Buddhism and Daoism, representing the good and the kind; on the other hand, in folk culture, double lotus on one stem is frequently used to symbolize pure and committed love, on top of which, the lotus flower with intertwined roots, exuberant leaves and abundant seeds and makes the most graphic emblem for abounding off-springs and forever-thriving families.

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“Mandarin duck with lotus flower” is another popular pattern on insoles. Mandarin duck is a lucky bird in traditional culture who always comes in pairs, which makes it the ideal model for loving couples. According to classic ancient document the Book of Birds, Mandarin ducks always swim in pairs, they lean on each other in the morning while cross their necks and overlap their wings at night; if one lose its spouse, he/she would keep single forever. Therefore, Mandarin ducks symbolize committed love. On insoles, Mandarin ducks are usually companied by lotus flowers, conveying a wish for unwavering love and healthy kids.

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Phoenix is an auspicious bird in Chinese mythology, “Phoenix represents honorable women just like Dragon represents prominent men”. In ancient mythology, the advent of phoenix will bring world peace and harmony. On insoles, phoenix is welcomed to pair with peony flowers, for Chinese people believe phoenix is the queen of all birds while peony is the queen of all flowers. Their combination emblemize high social status and prosperity, which is further extended to flourish of lives.

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“Magpie at the door” is a pattern for good luck. Magpie in Chinese means literally “lucky bird” and is culturally believed to be able to bring good luck. The flower on the insoles is plum blossom whose Chinese name is homophonic to “door” in Chinese. So lucky bird on plum blossom sounds just like “lucky bird at the door” in Chinese. Therefore, this pair of insoles carries the maker’s or the wearer’s wish to possess good luck.

In modern China, while traditional cultural motifs, symbols and patterns have subsided in mainstream fashion (retreated to either extreme high-end or low-end fashion), the hidden-fashion under people’s feet thrived. You can see business men in suit and tie putting on his black leather shoes a pair of insoles with characters meaning “good luck with every steps” or “attracting treasures and happiness” that are hand-made by his mother on the countryside; you don’t have to be surprised when you see a modern urban girl with avant-garde style showing a glance of China Red while taking off her shoes. The insoles are the bond between rural and urban when mothers and grandmothers stitch their love for their sons and sons of others into the insoles. It is a miraculous path tradition managed to make into the ever-changing modern cities. Different from other types of clothing, insoles are hardly meant for viewers, they are for the wearer themselves; they are between the maker and the wearers; they are less ambiguous because they are more personal and private; they are hidden for they represent something inside—aspiration, wishes, faith and love.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

Seven Traditional Crafting Techniques for China Luxury Jewelry

1.Beijing Enamel

Also known as ‘silver enamel,’ this technology flourished during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). The Beijing Enamel process is typically used in silver jewelry-making, particularly in north China. Contemporary artists have taken up the Beijing Enamel process in recent years, managing to innovate by using it in new and interesting ways.

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2.Cloisonné

Cloisonné, also known as ‘copper wire enamel,’ is one of the most famous traditional crafts of China. The style’s production techniques matured during the Ming Dynasty’s Jingtai period (1449–57 CE), and it typically incorporates blue enamel glaze. Hence it’s known in Chinese as Jingtai blue. Cloisonné is one of the top traditional exports of China, and was seen in the courts of emperors throughout the imperial period. Nowadays, Cloisonné is undergoing a period of transition as more designers are using it in more modern designs.

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  1. Jade carving

It is acknowledged by the world that jade carving is one of the oldest carving arts in China. Jade is a high-quality stone and has a good many variants. There are white jade, yellow jade, jasper, jadeite, agate, turquoise, etc. Jade carving refers to the process to carve a piece of jade into a fine article of art. A carving artist has to thoroughly examine a piece of jade, cudgel his brains to make a design according to its natural colors and shape, and turn it into an artistic work. Jade can be carved into human figures, containers, images of birds, animals flowers as well as small things like a brooch, ring, seal or decorative object.

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  1. Filigree Inlaying

Filigree inlaying first appeared in China during the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BCE), and later became popular during the late Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE). By the time of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, it had become one of the eight Yanjing traditional handicrafts. Today there are few craftsmen who work in filigree inlaying and the technique is in danger of fading away. However, with the famous Chinese jewelry and jade company Zhaoyi engaged in preservation initiatives, perhaps this traditional craft has a chance to live on and flourish in the years ahead.

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  1. Engraving

Engraving as an art form has been around almost as long as Filigree Inlaying, having begun in the late Spring and Autumn Period and become popular during the Warring States period (475-221 BCE). Different engraving techniques were used over the years to decorate gold and silver with colorful patterns, peonies and chrysanthemums, fairies, unicorns, phoenixes and dragons in the traditional Chinese style.

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  1. Kingfisher Feather Ornamentation

As a traditional process in the creation of gold and silver jewelry production, due to the complexity of the process, the difficulty of preserving the finished product, and the use of kingfisher feathers — which is more difficult as environmental protection requirements become stricter — this traditional jewelry-making technique has almost been lost. The vast majority of examples of this type of ornamentation we see today have been handed down from the Qing Dynasty, since the technique really peaked during the Qianlong period (1735-1799 CE).

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  1. Gold and Silver Threading

First appearing in the Shang and Zhou Dynasties and mainly used in the decoration of bronze vessels, over the course of history gold and silver threading gradually disappeared from the world stage as a result of the difficulty of the process. Today, though, some artisans are bringing this art form back to life, restoring thousands of years of lost time.

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by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

Accessories and Motifs for Traditional Chinese Clothing

China is an ancient country with a very rich heritage. The thousands of years of history have laid a rich basis for the lives of its inhabitants today. While some of the ancient Chinese myths and cultural traditions have been forgotten or are no longer observed, many of them are still remembered and incorporated into everyday life. Taking a look into the cultural traditions of Chinese clothing can reveal a lot about the way that the people live.

One of the most interesting bits of Chinese can be found in what is known as the Jade Culture. Jade was a very fashionable emblem of ancient Chinese Culture. From very ancient times, during the Western Zhou Dynasty, jade has been used as a decoration that used to hang from the sash holding the Hanfu (a garment that was a part of the Ancient Chinese Clothing) closed. Jade was important in China not only because of its beauty, but also for its virtue and cultural significance. According to Confucius, jade had 11 virtues, some of which include beauty, purity and grace. Jade is of two types, soft jade, known as nephrite, which is native to China, and hard jade (jadeite) which was imported from Burma starting in the 1200’s.

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One of the most recognizable symbols of china is the dragon. A derivative of the serpent, it had a scaly body and five claws. It is a symbol of auspicious power and has been even Chinese Folklore. This symbol is very obviously found in Ancient Chinese Clothing particularly on imperial robes. The rulers considered themselves descendants of the dragon and so the scenes pertaining to dragons on their clothes were indicators of their power. Traditionally, the Chinese being an agriculture-based nation are very dependent on water. So, the dragon is associated with the weather and is the bringer of rain and water in China. The dragon is also the embodiment of the yang (male). The female counterpart is known as the Fenghuang (the phoenix)

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Some of the other popular motif designs are willow trees, chrysanthemums, cranes and bamboo. These are depicted on pottery, paintings, vases and of course clothes. Imagine owning a piece of Ancient Chinese Clothing complete with rich and elaborate patterns that once belonged to the rulers of this splendid civilization.

No Chinese object is complete without a depiction of at least one of the four favorite plants – the bamboo, the Chinese plum, chrysanthemum and orchid. Of these, the bamboo is used in the most versatile manner, from tableware – chopsticks and utensils – to flutes to paintbrushes and even hair accessories.

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Combs made of bamboo, ivory, jade and other materials further enhanced the ensemble of Ancient Chinese Clothing of women. Headgear in ancient times included hats for men and hairpieces for women. Traditionally, the Chinese wear their hats indoors as well as outdoors unlike their Western counterparts. This is mainly because most hats are too impractical to take off and carry around.

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Fashion of ancient China has constantly evolved through the various dynasties. For example, during the Sui Dynasty in the 500 AD, the emperor declared that only the rich people could wear colors while the poor people had to be dressed in blue or black.

 

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

Traditional Chinese Jewelry Making Techniques

Traditional Chinese jewelry can be made of stone and jade beads and discs, coins, and cord. Chinese jewelry making techniques date back to antiquity. Chinese jewelry is often worn for more than simple ornamentation. Jewelry frequently contains elements of amulets and talismans, with gold often being a form of saving resources for later use.

Chinese Knotting

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Chinese knots are, in some ways, similar to Celtic knots. Each knot represents a particular traditional Chinese form, and in many cases are representative of Buddhist precepts like the continuation of life. Chinese knotted jewelry usually incorporates a main jade or stone centerpiece and jade, stone, coins or glass beads. The cord from the knots usually is extended upward to make a lanyard for a necklace, but with some bracelet styles the knot or knots are extended around the wrist with a macramé style knot.

Chinese knotting was nearly lost as an art form. In recent years, several books teaching knotting techniques have been released. The cord used in making the knots is readily available at craft or fabric stores.

Chinese Jade

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Jade is a common material in Chinese jewelry. Jade is usually carved with symbols to bring luck, prosperity and good fortune. Jade is considered protective and is often carved into a solid ring.

Although carving jades is a very specialized skill that often requires years of training, simple cabochons can be made using commonly available lapidary grinders and polishes. A cabochon is an excellent way to show the color and texture of a particularly beautiful piece of jade.

Gold

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Gold jewelry is viewed as being an investment and store of wealth. Gold is frequently used as a setting for jade and other gemstones.

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If you are interested in setting jade in gold, look for basket settings at a jewelry-supply store. You may also make a wire-wrap setting using either pure gold or karat gold wire.

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Cloisonné is a jewelry-making technique where bright colors of enamel are inlaid in a metal base and fired in a kiln. Cloisonné dates back to the 13th century Yuan dynasty. Although cloisonné is used for a variety of items, including bowls and cups, it is a very popular jewelry form. Cloisonné centerpieces are made into pendants, earrings, rings and bracelets.

Premade cloisonné beads are available at bead shops, but you can also make your own. Several companies make inexpensive ovens in which glass and low-temperature ceramics can be melted with brass or bronze wires as separators. With one of these ovens, which operate at a higher temperature than household ovens but not as high as a kiln for most ceramics, simple, but beautiful, cloisonné items can be made.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

Chinese Jade General Introduction

Jade has a history in China of at least four thousand years. Unknown to some, it is found contained within the development of religion and civilization, having moved from the use of decoration on to the others such as the rites of worship and burial. Although other materials like gold, silver and bronze were also used, none of these have ever exceeded the spiritual position that jade has acquired in people’s minds – it is associated with merit, morality, grace and dignity. In the funeral objects of the people of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD), for example, we can see only high officials were buried with jade articles.

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Jade has influenced all walks of life. In ancient times, people expressed abstract notions with concrete patterns of Chinese character, which were influenced by Taoism and Buddhism. Jade craftworks were among the most precious and luxurious ones; people wore and decorated rooms to indicate loyalty, elegance, beauty, and eternity. The most popular patterns were: peach (longevity), mandarin duck (love), deer (high official ranks), bat (blessing), fish (affluence), double phoenixes (thriving), bottle (safety), lotus (holiness), bamboo (lofty conduct), and fan (benevolence), etc.

Types of Jade

Jadeite

As early as the 16th century, it was believed to be a precious and hard jade with healing qualities for the human stomach and kidneys. Since it was brought into China during the early Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911), it had been doted on greatly. It contains an iron component which appears red, chromium that appears green, and many other colored types. Known as the ‘king of jade’, it is usually a more expensive type.

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Nephrite Jade

Nephrite’s robustness is due to the fact it contains tremolite. It also can be divided into several sub-classifications according to color: white, grey, green, topaz, and black jade.

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In China, the most reputable jade producing area is Hetian in Xinjiang Province. Hetian jade is so hard that it can scratch glass. It has often been found in very huge pieces.

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Serpentine jade, or Xiu yu in Chinese, is mainly from Xiuyan County in Liaoning Province. Made of many different ingredients, it takes on various appearances: white, yellow, light yellow, pink, green, dark green, light green and so on. This type is usually coloured in various shades of green. Usually serpentine jade is semi-transparent or even opaque like wax.

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Lantian jade is produced in Lantian County, north of Xian in Shaanxi Province. It was also among the most charming ancient jades, for its rigidity made it easier to be carved into decorations and jewelry by our ancestors. The hue is uneven in colors of yellow or light green.

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Nanyang County in Henan Province is famous for its abundant Nanyang jade. The ore district is located on an isolated 200 meter high hill, called Dushan Hill (thus its other name of ‘Dushan jade’). It is distinctive for its whimsicality. Among the Nanyang jade artworks, you will find rare purple, blue and red ones.

How to Appreciate and Maintain Jade

Experts believe that, although more expensive, diamonds and gold cannot be compared with jade – it is animated with a soul. They often buy to collect their favorite jade artworks, while people with little knowledge may buy coarse works.

To obtain a real jade article, you should take pains to learn and appreciate it. The criteria lie in the brightness of color and luster, compactness of inner structure, and the delicacy of the craftwork. For example, nephrite creates an oily luster and jadeite creates a vitreous luster. Tiny cracks can lower its value; on real one, air bubbles cannot be seen; the more lenitive the higher quality of jade, and so on.

Having purchased a jade article is just half the process of collecting. It is like a child that needs constant care. Enthusiasts need to work more to maintain this artwork, or blemishes may appear.

First, avoid bumping into hard surfaces as it is delicate. Although sometimes a crack cannot be seen by the naked eye, the interior structure may have been damaged. As time goes on, it will appear and reduce the value of the piece.

Second, protect it from dust or greasy dirt. If tainted, they must be scrubbed with a soft brush and light suds and washed with clean water.

Third, when left unused it is best to store it in a case or box to protect it from being bumped.

Fourth, it should be kept away from perfume, perspiration or chemicals. Its brightness risks corrosion, especially emerald and other high quality jade, so it is better to clean it with a soft cloth after wearing it.

Fifth, do not expose it to sunlight for a long time, or it may expand and the quality will change slightly.

Finally, jade has certain water content so keep it in an area of humidity to protect it from over-drying.

 

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

Dian Cui, Traditional Chinese Jewelry Making Crafts

Dian Cui (literally translated from Chinese mandarin) is a traditional Chinese crafts for making gold and silver jewelry. It plays the role of embellishment and beatification for jewelry. Cui, is the feather of Kingfisher namely. The technique is the perfect combination of traditional metal workmanship and feather crafts, which is produced as the following procedures: firstly make base of different patterns with gold or gilded metal, then inlay the bright blue feather-like materials carefully in the base to be made into all kinds of jewelry items.

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Colors of the feather-like material would vary with the location and crafts, due to the natural texture and dreamy color of the material, the finished works will be vivid and lively. Though without the gorgeous beauty of gem products, accessories made with Dian Cui have its own plain beauty, which would embody the spirits of paying attention to details and emphasizing on fine and implicit beauty of oriental area.

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Materials of the crafts

Kingfisher is also called “emerald” as well. The bird which is of blue body and ventral brown would perch and wait next to the water for long time with straight posture. Whenever seeing a fish or shrimp pass by, it would dash into water to capture the creature with mouth rapidly and fiercely. Sometime it would fly above the water about five to seven meters high with bowing head to look at the water, which looks like it is hanging on the half-air. The bird would have it nest built in the sand of field and embankment, which is created like a tunnel and about 60 centimeters deep. The kingfisher gained its name “Cui Niao” in China due to its dazzling and glittering characteristics of the feather. Due to the protection of the bird recent years, the feather of the bird is avoided, and some other alternation which is like this kind of feathers is applied.147

Producing crafts

Jewelry made with Dian Cui is of excellent gloss and bright color; what’s more, the color will never fade. However, the crafts are not that easy to be accomplished. Firstly, a base made with gold and silver metals which are arranged in the shape of flower would be needed, with a groove welded with gold wire along the edge of flower shape follows, then paint right amount of glue in the middle section and skillfully paste the feather-like objects onto the base to form auspicious and exquisite patterns. More elements such as gate, red coral, jade and pearls would be added, which would add more charm of elegance and nobility to the wearer. The crafts was alternated with special ribbon or papers in Qing dynasty, while substitutes would be used in contemporary society.

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Historical development

The Chinese ancient costume of the emperor took the feather of kingfisher as decoration. After long time of development, the skill can still bring us much shock. Therefore, the crafts “Dian Cui” prevails a long time in the gold and silver jewelry manufacturing industry and its techniques has been improved continuously, which reached the highest point in the era of Qian Long, one greatest emperor of Qing dynasty. Due to the national animal protection reasons, feathers of the kingfisher are banned to be used, substitutes of the feathers of current Dian Cui jewelry are applied. However, like many age-old techniques, people who can manipulate the crafts becomes less, it risks being lost forever.

 

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com