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Traditional Beijing Costumes

"Buddha needs to be decorated with gold, whereas human beings need to be decorated with clothes". "The four elements of life are clothing, food, residence and transportation, in which clothing comes first". These two old Chinese proverbs imply the significance of attire in Chinese culture. For Chinese, clothing is no longer just a necessity to keep warm. It represents a person's economical status and symbolizes an individual's role in the society. In the ancient capital of Beijing, costumes are (as they have been for a long time) more representative, reflecting the different societal custom and living habits throughout the different phases of Chinese history.

When the early Manchu rulers came to China proper (or the Central Plains) in the mid 17th century, they moved their capital to Beijing and set up the Qing Dynasty, which later unified China and the nationwide costume as well, with Chang Pao, cheongsams and Ma Gua replacing loose gowns and large sleeves of the former Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). And the Manchu empire forced the Hans to shave their heads and plaited their hair at the back, as the Manchu people did. Man had to wear Manchu style clothing but women could still wear Han style clothing.

The traditional costumes in Beijing are mainly legacies from the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and the Republic of China (1911-1949), adopting both Han and Manchu styles.

Qing Style

Chang Pao was men's common wear, lower than the knees and with a round collar band. It was a long gown featured collarless, narrow horseshoe-shaped sleeves, buttons down the left front, four slits and a fitting waist. The slits could enhance men's freedom of mobility while they were riding the horse. Men wore thin Chang Pao made of cotton cloth in the summer, and warm cotton Chang Pao or fur-lined robe in the winter.


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