Hanfu, not na­tion­al­ism

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By Wang Han

Hanfu is a tra­di­tional robe of the Han peo­ple, which has a his­tory of thou­sands of years in China. In re­cent years, the num­ber of pro­mot­ers of this an­cient at­tire have grown both on­line and off­line, with an­nual events pro­mot­ing hanfu cul­ture tak­ing place around the coun­try.

But I have no­ticed some for­eign me­dia dis­parag­ing the hanfu re­vival by call­ing it “na­tion­al­ism,” which they mean to be a bad thing. For ex­am­ple, an ar­ti­cle head­lined “A Retro Fash­ion State­ment in 1,000-Year-Old Gowns, With Na­tion­al­ist Fringe” was pub­lished on the Chi­nese web­site of the New York Times re­cently.

I did not feel com­fort­able read­ing this ar­ti­cle, as it sug­gested that the hanfu re­vival is a sym­bol of China’s ris­ing po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism (as op­posed to our sin­cere ap­pre­ci­a­tion of our her­itage). The author quoted Kevin Car­rico, a lec­turer at Mac­quarie Univer­sity in Aus­tralia, as say­ing that “most peo­ple in the hanfu move­ment that I met were na­tion­al­ists look­ing for the thrill of wear­ing tra­di­tional cloth­ing.”

In my opin­ion, the ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity of hanfu among the younger gen­er­a­tion of Chi­nese is mainly due to our per­sonal in­ter­est in the aes­thet­ics, art and val­ues of an­cient China, and has noth­ing to do with our proud pa­tri­o­tism to­ward mod­ern China.

I started to learn about hanfu about a year ago af­ter see­ing pic­tures of my fe­male friends dressed up in hanfu on their so­cial me­dia. The un­usual ap­parel of hanfu, with its delicate and fem­i­nine de­signs and vi­brant col­ors, all taken to­gether, en­hanced the form and beauty of the wear­ers.

It is ob­vi­ous that for many hanfu lovers, it is a per­sonal hobby and does not have any se­cret con­no­ta­tions or cult-like sym­bol­ism, which some for­eign me­dia are sug­gest­ing. Not un­like fans of Lego or com­put­ers games, we find a sim­ple joy and hap­pi­ness when play­ing dress up in our hanfu.

Like kilts to Scot­tish peo­ple and ki­mono to Ja­panese, hanfu are a tra­di­tional Chi­nese cloth­ing that we en­joy for their beau­ti­ful de­signs and cul­tural ap­pre­ci­a­tion. It has ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do with the “na­tion­al­ism fringe” the New York Times ar­ti­cle wrote about. Sadly, many Western me­dia wish to link hanfu with na­tion­al­ism, and I think this will only hin­der peo­ple world­wide from dis­cov­er­ing the real his­tory and joy of hanfu.

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