Hanfu Encyclopedia

Hanfu, the traditional attire of the Han Chinese, also known as "Yiguan," "Yishang," or "Hanzhuang," embodies the essence of China as a "country of rites and etiquette" and "a land of splendid culture." It carries the remarkable craftsmanship and aesthetics of Chinese dyeing, weaving, and embroidery, inheriting over 30 items of intangible cultural heritage and protected Chinese arts and crafts.

Hanfu "began with the Yellow Emperor and reached its peak with Yao and Shun," originating from the coronation attire of the Yellow Emperor. Later, during the Zhou Dynasty and the reign of Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty, it underwent modifications and became standardized, eventually establishing a complete system. Subsequently, each successive dynasty in the Huaxia region followed the Zhou and Han traditions in inheriting Han attire as a national matter, leading to the inclusion of a section on chariots and attire in the Twenty-Four Histories. "The Yellow Emperor, Yao, and Shun wore garments to govern the world, enhancing their authority derived from the heavens," indicating that the form of the upper garment and lower attire was determined by divine will and thus held sacred.

Similar to the term "Hanren" (Han people), the meaning of the character "Han" in "Hanfu" has expanded from referring to the Han Dynasty to representing the entire ethnic group. For example, the earliest recorded mention of "Hanfu" in the "Marquis of Dai's Tomb Texts" states, "Four beauties, two wearing Chu attire and two wearing Han attire," where "Hanfu" refers to the clothing and ritual system of the Han Dynasty, as outlined in the "Rites of Zhou," "Yili," and "Liji." Conversely, in the "Book of the Southern Barbarians," compiled during the Tang Dynasty, it mentions, "Initially adopting Han attire, later slightly imitating the customs of various barbarian tribes. To this day, only the style of tying the headscarf differs, everything else is the same," where "Hanfu" refers to the clothing and ritual system of the Han people.

Furthermore, Hanfu has also influenced the entire Sinic cultural sphere through the Chinese legal system, with ethnic costumes in various Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, and Bhutan possessing or borrowing characteristics from Hanfu.

Hanfu Encyclopedia

Hanfu History

Some ancient texts suggest that the Han ethnic group (and their ancestors) already had a unique clothing system. For example, "Records of the Grand Historian" states that "the clothing of Huaxia was made by the Yellow Emperor" and "before the Yellow Emperor, there were no clothes or buildings. When the Yellow Emperor built buildings and made clothes, he organized funerals, and the people were thereby relieved of the hardships of survival." Before the era when archaeological evidence was available, the earliest appearance of Hanfu should be during the Yin and Shang periods. About five thousand years ago, during China's Neolithic period, known as the Yangshao culture, primitive agriculture and textile production emerged. People began making clothes from woven hemp fabric, and the Yellow Emperor's wife, Leizu, invented sericulture and silk production, leading to the refinement of clothing and accessories.

Establishment of the Ceremonial Dress System

After the Shang Dynasty, the ceremonial dress system began to take shape. During the Western Zhou period, the clothing system gradually improved and formed the chapter clothing system with "the emperor's ceremonial dress" at its center. "Riding on the chariot of Yin, wearing the ceremonial dress of Zhou" embodies the essence of Confucian governance. The Zhou rituals referenced and drew from the ritual and music systems of the Xia and Shang dynasties.

Development in the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period

During the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, clothing styles became extraordinarily diverse. In the later period of the Zhou Dynasty, due to significant changes in politics, economy, and cultural ideology, especially the refinement of clothing influenced by the various schools of thought, there were noticeable differences in clothing and customs among the vassal states. This era also saw the creation of deep clothing. The ceremonial dress system was incorporated into the scope of "ritual governance" and became a form of ceremonial expression, thus making China's clothing system more detailed. The deep clothing, worn by both upper and lower classes, became the representative clothing of the era and the distinctive feature of ancient clothing.

Hanfu Encyclopedia

Later Developments

After the unification of China by the Qin Dynasty, various systems were established, including the clothing system. Qin Shihuang abolished the core six ceremonial dress system of the Zhou Dynasty and established his own new official dress system. Despite these drastic changes, the overall style of clothing at that time still retained the characteristics of the Han ethnic group. Later, the Qin Dynasty's clothing system extended throughout the Western Han Dynasty.

The ritual system of the Western Han Dynasty was established based on the ritual systems of the Xia, Shang, and Zhou Dynasties by the Grand Historian of Han Gaozu, Shusun Tong. Men's and women's clothing in the Western Han Dynasty still followed the form of deep clothing. Typical women's deep clothing in the Western Han Dynasty came in two styles: straight skirt and curved skirt, with a cut different from that of the Warring States period. The outer garment of men's deep clothing in the Western Han Dynasty had a wide collar extending to the shoulders, with a straight skirt worn on the right side, the front lapel hanging down to the ground, and the back skirt cut in a trapezoid from below the knees to create a swallowtail shape on both sides. During the Han Dynasty, women preferred to wear a ruqun (a type of traditional Chinese attire) on top and a long skirt underneath when doing labor, while men wore a ruqun on top and dū bí kù (a type of pants) underneath, with a cloth skirt wrapped around the outside of their garments, suitable for people from all walks of life. However, the depiction of Emperor Han Wudi wearing a crown in historical portraits has no historical basis—only until Emperor Han Mingdi, the second emperor of the Eastern Han Dynasty, advocated Confucianism did the ceremonial dress system resume.

During the reign of Emperor Han Mingdi of the Eastern Han Dynasty, the ceremonial dress system of the Han Dynasty was established, mainly distinguished by hats as the main symbols of rank. The attire presented an overall style of solemnity and elegance. Han Mingdi was an important figure in the development of Hanfu in Chinese history. He restored the ceremonial dress system that had been abandoned since the Zhou Dynasty's demise, continuing the Zhou rituals and initiating a cultural revival in clothing following the suppression of the Hundred Schools of Thought by Emperor Han Wudi.

During the Qin and Han periods, men mainly wore loose robes with wide sleeves, mainly divided into curved-hem robes and straight-hem robes, which could be worn on all occasions except for sacrifices and court meetings. Another characteristic of the Han Dynasty was the implementation of the system of paired ribbons. Han women generally combed their hair backward into a bun, with various styles of buns, too many to enumerate. In addition, noblewomen adorned their heads with step-shaking, flower hairpins, and makeup accessories such as goose yellow, flower ornaments, and facial adornments. Servants often wore headscarves. The ceremonial dress for Han women was deep clothing, unlike in the Warring States period. There were also ruqun and pants. The Han Dynasty also had strict hierarchical regulations for shoes.

The clothing during the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties was influenced by various aspects such as social politics, economy, and ideology. From the Wei and Jin Dynasties' adherence to the old Qin and Han systems to the mutual influence, absorption, and gradual integration of various ethnic groups during the Southern and Northern Dynasties, the clothing of this period was characterized by natural elegance and simplicity. Using cloth and silk to wrap the head was the main headwear during this period. A popular style was the "cage crown," a small crown with a cage veil added on top. The clothing of Han men during this period mainly consisted of loose shirts with wide cuffs that were not tightly fitted. Han women's hairstyles also had distinctive features, with the fashion of false buns prevailing. Women's clothing during the Wei and Jin periods inherited the customs of the Qin and Han dynasties, with some improvements made on the traditional basis. Generally, they wore shirts, jackets, and ruqun, with a slender upper body and loose lower body, tight-fitting upper body, wide sleeves, and pleated skirts dragging on the ground, achieving a graceful and free effect.

During the Tang Dynasty, clothing continued the traditions of the past while also paving the way for the future. Ceremonial attire and regular attire coexisted. Ceremonial attire comprised traditional ritual clothing, including crowns, robes, and skirts, while regular attire, also known as public attire, consisted of formal attire worn on ordinary formal occasions, including round-necked robes, headscarves, leather belts, and long boots. Clothing colors had already become standardized by the Tang Dynasty. Tang women's hairstyles were complex, with various bun styles and the addition of gold hairpins, rhinoceros combs, and decorations like goose yellow and flower ornaments on the faces of noblewomen. The main clothing for Tang women was skirts, shirts, and jackets. The combination of shirt and skirt was the main dress for Tang women. During the Sui Dynasty and the early Tang Dynasty, women's short shirts were all made with small sleeves, worn with tight-fitting long skirts tied high at the waist, some even tied under the armpits with ribbons, giving a slim and tall impression. The shirts and skirts in the mid-Tang period were slightly wider than those in the early Tang period, with no significant changes otherwise.

Clothing during the Song Dynasty largely continued the traditions of the Sui and Tang Dynasties. However, due to the Song Dynasty's prolonged internal and external conflicts and the influence of factors such as Cheng-Zhu Neo-Confucianism, clothing during this period advocated simplicity, rigor, and restraint. The soft-footed headwear of the Tang Dynasty had evolved into a headdress with inner wooden bones and outer lacquered gauze. Emperors, officials, and distinguished figures wore tall headdresses, while public servants and attendants wore flat headdresses, and Confucian scholars wore headscarves. Men's clothing during the Song Dynasty mainly consisted of round-necked robes, and officials wore robes except for sacrifices and court meetings, distinguished by different colors. Song women's hairstyles favored the tall bun that was prevalent in the late Tang Dynasty, with hairpins adorned with flowers, rhinoceros combs, and makeup accessories such as goose yellow and facial adornments. Song women's clothing mainly consisted of skirts, jackets, and headscarves. Jackets with overlapping fronts were worn over skirts.

The clothing of the Yuan Dynasty was collectively called robes, with little difference in style between the north and the south, but there was a vast disparity in material quality between the rich and the poor. The hairstyle of Han men during the Yuan Dynasty did not change much, but the hairstyle of Han women in the north was simplified compared to before.

At the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, efforts were made to eliminate the influence of Mongolian clothing systems on Hanfu, "ordering the restoration of clothing and headwear as in the Tang Dynasty," but this was not fully implemented. It was not until the twenty-sixth year of Hongwu's reign that many clothing systems began to be established. During the Ming Dynasty, cotton cloth became popular, and the clothing materials of ordinary people improved. The main ceremonial attire for Ming officials continued to use the headwear of the Song and Yuan Dynasties with slight differences. The clothing of common people, whether long or short, shirts or skirts, basically followed traditional styles, with a wide variety. During the Ming Dynasty, the common headwear included the six-unity hat and the four-square flat headscarf, which were personally established by Zhu Yuanzhang and promulgated nationwide, used by scholars, farmers, craftsmen, and merchants alike.

Hanfu Encyclopedia

Shaving the Head and Changing Clothes

In order to weaken the ethnic identity of the Han people and maintain the rule of the Manchu people, the Qing rulers implemented the policy of "shaving the head and changing clothes," imposing severe penalties on those who wore Han clothing and hairstyles. After the Manchus entered the customs, they ordered the Han people to shave their heads and change their clothes, stating that "all should respect the customs of our dynasty."

In the first year of the Shunzhi reign (1644), in May, the regent Dorgon issued an edict: "In various places, messengers are sent to recruit... Those who claim to surrender but do not shave their heads are suspicious and hesitant. It is necessary to inspect the regions near and far, set a deadline, and when the deadline arrives, come to the capital. Consider granting mercy. If they fail to arrive by the deadline, it is clear resistance, and they shall be punished."

Subsequently, the Qing court issued edicts several times regarding the shaving of heads and changing of clothes.

In the second year of Shunzhi's reign, the Qing army captured various provinces in Jiangnan, and the Qing government subsequently ordered the implementation of the head-shaving and clothes-changing system nationwide. The Qing government once again issued decrees requiring "within ten days inside and outside the capital, and within ten days of the arrival of the local authorities, hair should be shaved," and those who "still adhere to the Ming system and do not follow the system of our dynasty shall be killed without mercy." This was accompanied by forcibly changing the styles of Han clothing. At that time, countless people were arrested and killed for wearing Han clothing. The people of Jiangyin rose up to resist, persevering in a three-month-long battle. Despite the city being breached, the entire population fought to the death, with no one surrendering. The people of Jiading also persisted in their struggle for over two months, enduring brutal massacres by the Qing soldiers, resulting in an unprecedented tragedy in Chinese history. In many parts of China at that time, due to the devastation of agriculture and handicrafts by feudal rulers in the late Ming Dynasty, as well as the suppression of peasant uprisings by government troops, many areas were desolate, with scenes of devastation as far as the eye could see. Following this brutal policy was the change of attire and headgear. The Qing court once again used decrees to forcibly require Han civilians and military personnel to all wear Manchu clothing. Some rural farmers, unaware of the court's laws and regulations, occasionally wore Ming Dynasty clothing into the city. Most of them were stripped naked, fortunate to preserve their lives. It can be seen that the change of attire was carried out through coercive means, just like the edict of head-shaving.

The long-term resistance of the Han people forced the Qing government to consider making some concessions to stabilize the situation. Therefore, they proposed the so-called "ten follows, ten not follows," that is, on clothing, men follow women not, the living follow the dead not, the yang follow the yin not, officials follow the subordinates not, the old follow the young not, Confucianism follows but the monk does not, advocates follow but the actor does not; and marriage follows but the official title does not, the country's name follows but the official position does not, taxes follow but the language does not. This limited concession finally preserved some features of Hanfu, but overall, Hanfu gradually disappeared under the bloody repression and slaughter of the Qing rulers. This also resulted in the Han male attire during the Qing Dynasty being based mainly on Manchu attire for more than two hundred years. The cheongsam, Changshan, and magua were all improvements and developments of Manchu-based national costumes, rather than traditional Han ethnic costumes.

Preservation and Revival

Although Hanfu itself disappeared under the Qing Dynasty's policy of head-shaving and clothes-changing, some of its elements never died out. Until modern times, some elements of Hanfu were still preserved among Han people who believed in Taoism, Buddhism, as well as some remote mountain people, and many ethnic minority costumes in China still retained characteristics of Hanfu. Some important rituals, commemorations, folk festivals, etc., in modern society also incorporate elements of Hanfu. At the beginning of the 21st century, with the development of China's national strength, people began to examine the excellent parts of their traditional culture. Some traditional culture enthusiasts, through researching Hanfu, extracting its essence while discarding the dross, restored traditional Han clothing. By wearing Hanfu during traditional festivals, promoting traditional teachings, playing traditional musical instruments, etc., they reintroduced Hanfu through a movement called the Hanfu Movement.

Hanfu Encyclopedia

Basic Structure and Types of Hanfu

Hanfu is cut from a fabric with a width of about 50 cm (approximately two feet and two inches) and is divided into ten parts: collar, lapel, front panel, collarband, hem, sleeve, cuff, belt, and pleats. Taking two equal lengths of fabric, folding them separately, and using them as the front panel and back panel, they are sewn together along the back center seam. A garment with a front panel and no lapel is called a straight collar garment. If another piece of fabric is taken, cut into two lapels, and sewn onto the left and right front panels, it becomes a slanting collar right lapel garment. The central seam of the front panel and back panel is called the Du, which corresponds to the Governing Vessel and Conception Vessel. Since the lapel is on the right side of the Conception Vessel, it is called a right lapel garment. The length of the hem is divided into waist, knee, and ankle lengths. Depending on the length of the hem, Hanfu has three types: ru, dou, and deep garments. The seam where the sleeve meets the front panel and hem is called the cuff, and the sleeve opening is called the cuff. A complete set of Hanfu typically consists of three layers: inner garment, middle garment, and outer garment.

Cross-collar Right Lapel

The left lapel of Hanfu crosses over the right lapel at the chest, naturally forming a "Y" shaped neckline. This type of collar is vividly referred to as a "cross-collar." The crossing of the lapels on both sides at the centerline of the garment embodies the traditional concept of symmetry in Chinese culture, showing a unique sense of balance and representing the idea of being impartial. If Hanfu represents the unity of heaven and humanity, the cross-collar represents the earth within the round heaven and square earth concept, which corresponds to human morality, that is, square and upright; while the sleeves represent the round heaven. This manifestation of the round heaven and square earth concept on Hanfu is also a reflection of ancient Chinese culture.

The most typical collar style in Hanfu is the "cross-collar right lapel," where the collar is connected to the front panel, and the front panels cross over each other at the chest. The left front panel presses over the right front panel, creating a "Y" shape on the exterior, resulting in an overall tilt to the right side. Historically, Hanfu has long maintained the tradition of the "cross-collar right lapel," which is closely linked to China's traditional "right is superior" ideology, distinguishing it from the attire of other ethnic groups.

In addition to the "cross-collar right lapel (straight collar front panel)," other common collar styles in Hanfu include the "straight collar front panel" and the "round collar front panel." The straight collar front panel has the collar hanging parallel to the neck without crossing over at the chest, sometimes with ties at the chest, and sometimes open without ties. This type of straight collar front panel garment is generally worn over cross-collar Hanfu, such as the hechang and beizi. The round collar front panel is a common style in men's wear, with a circular collar that is also right-lapel and fastened with fabric buttons on the right shoulder. It was used in official attire from the Tang Dynasty onwards and is also found in casual wear.

Wide-sleeved Robe

Hanfu has long robes for ceremonial occasions and short robes with wide sleeves for everyday wear. Compared to contemporary Western attire, Hanfu undeniably offers superior comfort and freedom for human movement. The sleeves of Hanfu, also known as "sleeves," have a unique style in the history of world ethnic costumes. Most of Hanfu's sleeves are round, representing the roundness of heaven within the round heaven and square earth concept. The combination of a wide and long sleeve shape in Hanfu reflects an elegant, graceful, and ethereal charm. However, not all Hanfu garments follow this style; smaller sleeves and short sleeves are also common, such as in the clothing of laboring commoners, military officers, and winter wear for warmth. Throughout history, different dynasties exhibited varying economic, cultural, and aesthetic trends, resulting in different sleeve styles, such as large sleeves being more prevalent in the Han and Tang dynasties, while small sleeves were common in the Song and Ming dynasties.

Ties and Hidden Buttons

In Hanfu, there are hidden buttons, including those without buttons and those with buttons. Most Hanfu garments are secured with ties. For example, in a straight collar front panel garment, there are typically three pairs of ties: one pair under the left armpit and one pair under the right armpit, with the three pairs of ties being tied and knotted separately to complete the dressing process. Sometimes, depending on the needs, larger and longer ties are added around the waist, not only for practical purposes but also for decorative effects. Compared to Japanese kimono, the belts of Hanfu are narrower.

Common buttons in Hanfu include metal buttons, pearl buttons, and fabric buttons.

Structural Types

Although Hanfu has a variety of styles and complexities, and is categorized into ceremonial, casual, and daily wear, based on its overall structure, it is mainly divided into one-piece garments (connecting top and bottom) and two-piece garments (separate top and bottom).

Hanfu Encyclopedia

Hanfu Ornamental Accessories

Hanfu, including garments, headwear, hairstyles, facial adornments, footwear, accessories, and more, forms a comprehensive attire system that embodies the outstanding craftsmanship and aesthetics of Chinese culture, such as weaving, wax printing, embroidery, and brocade. It inherits over 30 intangible cultural heritages of China, showcasing the reputation of China as a land of splendor, etiquette, and ceremonial attire.

Fabric Patterns

Fabrics Hanfu fabrics have mainly consisted of hemp and silk since the time of the Yellow Emperor, collectively referred to as "fabric," each overseen by dedicated officials. Additionally, a separate department managed hemp for making hemp fabric. Hemp fabric, also known as summer fabric, was used for mourning and sacrificial ceremonies, as well as for deep garments. Finer hemp fabric is called zhousi. In summer, hemp, linen, and gauze were used, while silk and cotton were used for winter garments, hence the terms "winter cotton summer hemp" and "summer gauze winter silk." Cotton spinning and weaving began to flourish in Hainan and Yunnan during the Eastern Han Dynasty. Fabrics are further classified into brocade, damask, gauze, silk, yarn, velvet, chiffon, crepe, satin, and more, based on weaving techniques and warp and weft organization. During the Qin and Han dynasties, renowned fabrics included Qi's damask and Lu's gauze, as well as Wu's damask, Yue's gauze, Chu's silk, and Shu's brocade. Later, the Northern Song Dynasty established the "Damask and Brocade Institute" in the capital, recruiting many weavers of Shu brocade to create ceremonial attire for nobles, thus forming Song brocade. After the Ming Dynasty moved its capital to Nanjing, Yun brocade emerged. Woven gold, brocade, gauze, and damask were the most expensive fabrics, with official attire made of blue gauze garments, red gauze skirts, and red gauze covering the knees. Round-collar official robes were made of damask. The front and back of official robes were made of the finest embroidered satin from Yun brocade.

The Zhou dynasty's laws stipulated the involvement of designated individuals in dyeing and printing, with officials responsible for managing plant dyes for clothing dyeing. Traditional Hanfu dyeing and printing are divided into mineral dyeing and plant dyeing. Mineral dyes include cinnabar, orpiment, indigo, malachite, alum, gypsum, and carbon black. Traditional plant dyes include indigo, safflower, dark plum, madder, sumac, Amur cork tree, alum, wormwood, sophora, pagoda tree, mulberry bark, bluegrass leaf, lotus seed husk, and mung bean powder, among others. Paste-resist dyeing, wax-resist dyeing, and tie-dyeing are unique printing and dyeing techniques in Hanfu. Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty ordered artisans to print colorful paste-resist patterns on gauze skirts to be given as gifts to palace maids and officials' mothers. Grey resist dyeing, known as wax-resist dyeing since the Tang Dynasty, was made with bluegrass dye and called blue printed fabric, known as medicinal spotted fabric in ancient times. The Zhou dynasty also established positions such as "embroidery mistress" and "seamstresses" to oversee embroidery. According to regional traditions, different embroidery styles with distinct characteristics have developed. Among them, the most famous are Jiangsu's Su embroidery, Hunan's Xiang embroidery, Sichuan's Shu embroidery, and Guangdong's Yue embroidery, collectively known as the "Four Great Embroideries of China."


The patterns on Hanfu are diverse and rich, with the Zhou dynasty's belief that "patterns signify nobility" representing Han culture's beliefs and customs. The patterns on Hanfu are closely linked to various cultural symbols such as celestial bodies, yin and yang, Bagua, intangible and invisible forces, and auspicious patterns, reflecting the beliefs and concepts of the Han people. The Fu robes of the Yellow Emperor were the earliest upper garments with patterns, with Fu referring to contrasting patterns. The Book of Songs states: "The nobleman is here, wearing a Fu robe with embroidered skirts, carrying jade ornaments with dignity, and the auspicious examination is unforgettable." The twelve patterns of the Yu emperor, such as the sun, moon, stars, mountains, dragons, butterflies, ceremonial vessels, algae, fire, rice, and Fu, represent various auspicious meanings. The sun, moon, and stars symbolize brightness and represent the creation and nourishment of all things. Mountains and dragons bring clouds and rain and adapt to help people. Fire is bright and fierce, emphasizing the spirit of enlightenment and ritual respect. For example, the tiger symbolizes ferocity, and the butterfly symbolizes wisdom, representing martial prowess and stability. Rice grains symbolize the people's livelihood. Fu symbolizes decisive decision-making. The Fu patterns on official robes recorded in the New Book of Tang include auspicious grass and geese carrying belts, as well as yellow plants intersecting. Ming dynasty civil and military officials' official robes had patches to indicate their ranks. The patches depicted animals, such as cranes for civil officials of the first rank, pheasants for the second rank, peacocks for the third rank, wild geese for the fourth rank, white cranes for the fifth rank, egrets for the sixth rank, coots for the seventh rank, orioles for the eighth rank, and quails for the ninth rank. Military officials of the first and second ranks had lions, the third and fourth ranks had tigers and leopards, the fifth rank had bears, the sixth and seventh ranks had leopards, the eighth rank had rhinoceroses, and the ninth rank had seahorses. Commoners' clothing often featured animal-inspired patterns distinct from those on official attire, with the most prominent being the twelve zodiac animals. Additionally, Hanfu patterns often feature the Bagua diagram. Hanfu patterns often incorporate auspicious symbols, such as "harmony in the six directions," "abundance of the five grains," and "adding flowers to brocade." Depending on the occasion, different patterns may be chosen. For example, wedding garments and gifts exchanged between lovers often feature predominantly Mandarin duck patterns, such as "Mandarin ducks in harmony" and "Mandarin ducks playing in water." Birthday garments often feature patterns symbolizing longevity, such as "pine and crane longevity," "crane offering peaches," and "tortoise and crane of the same age."

Hanfu Encyclopedia

Hanfu Footwear


Main Entries: Xi, Lv, Ju, Ji, Xue, Xie

Hanfu footwear includes xi (wooden sandals), lv (cloth shoes), ju (straw sandals), ji (clogs), xue (boots), and xie (shoes). Wooden sandals were first worn after the reigns of Yao, Shun, and Yu. Yi Yin wore grass shoes, while silk shoes came into use during the Zhou dynasty. Hemp was used for shoes by people during the Zhou dynasty. Clogs are wooden sandals with teeth underneath, also known as wooden clogs. In Jiangnan, they were made with paulownia wood soles, bulrush for the shoes, and hemp for the nose. The "Nanyue Records" state: "Paulownia wood grows near water, fragrant and flexible, suitable for making clogs, called paulownia clogs. People in Chaozhou hollow them out to make clogs, which are light and soft, known as Chaozhou clogs." It is also said that "many maids in Guangdong wear red leather clogs, and scholars also favor clogs. When bathing and cooling down, they wear them loosely on their feet, called 'loose clogs.' Loose clogs use the leather made in Chaozhou for elegance." Grass shoes were made by the ministers of the Yellow Emperor and are also known as grass shoes. Boots originated from Zhao Wuling King's adoption of the attire of the Hu people for equestrian activities. The crafting techniques of Chaozhou clogs, Hangzhou embroidered flower shoes, Pizhou embroidered flower shoes, and Pizhou hemp-woven shoes have been listed as intangible cultural heritage.

Ceremonial Attire


Headwear is an essential part of Han ethnic attire. In ancient times, after Han ethnic men and women reached adulthood, they tied their hair into a bun and secured it with a hairpin. The main headwear includes hats and scarves. Hats mainly include gauze hats, wind hats, and straw hats, while scarves mainly include pure silk scarves and net scarves.

Men often wear crowns, scarves, hats, and other headwear, with various styles. The main types include crowns, bian (a type of headwear), and futou (a type of headwear). In the Han dynasty, those with official positions would first wrap their hair and then wear a crown, while commoners would only wrap their hair without wearing a crown. During festive occasions, they would use white silk scarves to wrap their heads, while they would only wear small hats or straw hats during ordinary times. During the Tang dynasty, hats were predominant, and hair was tied with white silk scarves. Iron wire futou appeared during the Song dynasty, while horsemen wore folded wing futou, constables wore right-angle futou, and commoners wore straw hats in summer and deep-brimmed hats or dust hats in winter. During the Song and Yuan dynasties, there were various types of headscarves, such as round-topped scarves, square-topped scarves, Qin-topped scarves, gauze scarves, silk scarves, Dongpo scarves, Chengzi scarves, and peaked scarves. During the Ming dynasty, there were various types of hats, and they varied from person to person.

Women's ceremonial attire mainly consists of hair accessories and braids. Hairstyles can be styled in various ways, with various ornaments such as pearl flowers and hairpins added to the hair bun. The temples on both sides of the hair are decorated with elaborate hairpins, and they may also wear veiled hats or cover their heads. Han women have eight major ornaments, namely hairpins, combs, hairpins, decorative hairpieces, hairpins with pendants, golden hairpins, pearl flowers, and forehead ornaments. The Di hairstyle is a combination of gold and silver ornaments among the eight major ornaments. In the Song and Yuan dynasties, besides hair accessories, there was a prominent feature of wearing crowns. The practice of inserting combs into the hair has been recorded since the Han dynasty. During the Southern Dynasties, women liked to insert combs into their hair. In the Tang dynasty, women commonly wore hairpins and combs. In the Northern Song dynasty, women in the palace often inserted long combs with white horns into their crowns, which later spread to the folk, featuring high buns and inserted combs. A line from a Song poem goes: "Hairpins and combs adorn the clouds and hairstyle." During the Ming dynasty, women in splendid attire wore full sets of hairpins and combs on their heads. Han women also had the custom of wearing silk flowers, known as "treasure hairpins and flower hair." During the Ming dynasty, the Kong family set up a tenant flower farm in Dazhuang, supplying the Kong family and their wives and daughters with flowers to wear throughout the year, as well as for practicing the dress and attire of palace maids. The craft of flower silk inlay is a unique jewelry craft of the Han people, which reached a high level of artistic achievement in the Ming dynasty, represented by the flower silk craftsmanship of Chengdu and the flower silk inlay craftsmanship of Beijing.

Hanfu Encyclopedia

Hanfu Color and Accessories


An important feature of Han ethnic decoration is the fondness for jade ornaments. Other accessories include knee covers, cloaks, socks, scarves, sachets (fragrance pouches), swords, silk ribbons, seals, ceremonial tablets, ivory tablets, leather belts, jade belts, buckles, and ornaments like flying dragons. Waist decorations mainly include ornaments such as jade buckles, jade pendants, jade seals, silk ribbons, fish ornaments, plaque ornaments, and belt decorations. The furniture for storing Hanfu is called a clothes chest, and the clothes rack for hanging Hanfu is called a garment rack.

Decorative Patterns

In the decorative patterns of Han ethnic clothing, animals, plants, and geometric patterns are commonly used. The expression of patterns has generally gone through several stages from abstraction, standardization, to realism. Patterns before the Shang and Zhou dynasties were as concise and abstract as primitive Chinese characters. After the Zhou dynasty until the Tang and Song dynasties, patterns became more orderly, balanced vertically and horizontally, and the layout of patterns became more compact. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, emphasis was placed on realistic techniques, with various animals and plants often depicted delicately, vividly, and realistically, as if they were directly picked from real life without any processing, fully demonstrating the diligence and wisdom of the Han people.


The dyeing of classical fabrics follows ancient customs and reflects the beliefs in yin and yang and the five elements. There are records like "black earth, white earth, red earth, blue earth, yellow earth" and "the sky is called mysterious, the earth is called yellow, blue follows white, red follows black, mysterious follows yellow. Blue and red are called patterns, red and white are called decorations, white and black are called patterns, black feathers are called patterns, and all five colors are called embroidery... Mix the five colors of the four seasons to create designs, which are called skillful". There is also the theory of six elements and six colors: blue represents the wood of the east, red represents the fire of the south, white represents the metal of the west, black represents the water of the north, mysterious represents the sky, and yellow represents the earth. In addition to the six primary colors, there are corresponding intermediate colors: xun (yellowish-red), purple (bluish-red), red (reddish-white), green (bluish-yellow), and piao (bluish-white). Intermediate colors were also the color system for official uniforms after the Southern and Northern Dynasties: vermilion, purple, pink, green, and blue. For example, during the Tang dynasty, officials of the third rank and above wore purple official uniforms, the fourth rank wore deep pink, the fifth rank wore light pink, the sixth rank wore dark green, the seventh rank wore light green, the eighth rank wore dark blue, and the ninth rank wore light blue. There are also colors like gan (dark blue with red), fei (red), jiang (bright red), ti (reddish-yellow), and zhu (deep xun). There is a clear class division in the traditional choice of clothing colors. Since the Tang dynasty, yellow has long been regarded as an honorable color worn only by the emperor and nobles. The colors of ancient Hanfu were valued with dark colors being the most noble and light colors following. Therefore, formal ceremonial attire often used deep-toned woven patterns with one primary color, decorated with bright and gorgeous embroidery. Commoners' everyday wear mostly consisted of light colors, hence terms like "Qian's heads, white laborers, blue clothes, blue collars, blue shirts, and ochre clothes".

Hanfu Encyclopedia

Hanfu Clothing Culture

Cultural Connotations

Hanfu clothing has evolved from the attire mentioned in the saying "Yellow Emperor, Yao, and Shun, bestowed garments, and the world was governed." The ancient clothing of the emperor, queen, scholars, and warriors forms the core of the Hanfu system, which has been passed down for over four thousand years. The ceremonial cap is the root of Hanfu clothing and best embodies the Huaxia belief in "communication between heaven and earth." It has been worn by Han people for millennia in ceremonies to worship gods and ancestors, symbolizing auspiciousness.

The combination of the Emperor's six robes and the Queen's six robes not only symbolizes the twelve earthly branches but also represents the Tao of heaven and earth, the three seasons, and the five elements, thus representing the two basic clothing systems of Hanfu: the Yi Shang system and the Shen Yi system.

Confucius wore the clothes of Yi and You from the Ji clan of the State of Lu, the clothing of Yanju from Duke Zhou, and the crown of Zhang Fu when he lived in the State of Song. "Zhang Fu's crown" refers to a type of Yin crown, called Wei Mao crown or Zibucrown in the Zhou dynasty, which was worn when managing state affairs. Zhuangzi mentioned the scholarly attire and the warrior's attire, known as the sword attire. Therefore, scholarly attire became the robe of later generations. Scholarly attire and sword attire became the basic clothing system for civil and military officials of the Huaxia dynasties, as well as for scholars and warriors.

Hanfu is the traditional national costume inherited by the Han nationality for over four thousand years, and it is the ceremonial system of the Four Books and Five Classics. It is based on the ritual culture inherited from Confucian classics such as the "Book of Songs," "Book of Documents," "Rites of Zhou," "Record of Rites," "Book of Changes," and "Spring and Autumn Annals," as well as the "Kaiyuan Code" of the Tang Dynasty, the "Records of the Imperial Office" from the Twenty-Four Histories, and other collections of classics. The Hanfu system demonstrates the hierarchical culture, kinship culture, political culture, emphasis on primogeniture, respect for elders, and the Confucian ideology of benevolence and righteousness in Chinese civilization. In the context of ancient Chinese kinship culture, clothing played a role in showing social status, distinguishing between noble and common, and was used for ceremonial occasions such as auspicious, inauspicious, guest, military, and festive occasions. In addition to national ceremonies, ordinary Han people's family rituals include the four rituals of crowning, marriage, mourning, and sacrificial rites. The Four Books and Five Classics have detailed descriptions of Hanfu ceremonial clothing.

The overall style of Han ethnic clothing over thousands of years is characterized by simplicity and ease, emphasizing harmony between heaven and humanity. The ancient Han ethnic robe best reflects this style, with its main features being wide sleeves, generous dimensions, and broad belts. Looking at some Han clothing depicted in Han Dynasty paintings and some figure paintings from the Wei, Jin, Sui, and Tang dynasties, the simple-cut Han robe attached to figures of different body types instantly exudes a vivid vitality, with graceful and smooth lines. The robe fully embodies the Han nationality's gentle, tranquil, and elegant character, as well as its natural, reserved, and elegant aesthetic taste.

Taking the typical Shen Yi as an example, its form must conform to the principles of "rules, squares, lines, and balances." The hem of the Shen Yi uses a total of 12 pieces of cloth, symbolizing the 12 months of the year, reflecting a strong belief in the law of heaven. The sleeves of the garment are curved to conform to the rule, and the collar is rectangular to conform to the square, symbolizing the need for propriety in one's conduct. The sash hangs very long, all the way to the ankles, representing integrity, while the lower hem is level with the ground, representing balance. It encompasses many Confucian thoughts. When people wear Hanfu, they naturally pay attention to their words and deeds. Therefore, Hanfu embodies considerable cultural connotations, influenced by philosophical thoughts such as Confucianism, Taoism, Legalism, and Mohism, as well as ethical morals, fully reflected in clothing. The pursuit of peace and harmony, detachment from worldly concerns, and a broad-minded and inclusive demeanor shape the style of "Hanfu." "Hanfu" also reflects the wearer's magnanimity, affability, and inclusive attitude towards the world.

At the same time, Hanfu has a close relationship with filial piety culture. For example, according to the "Record of Rites," when parents are alive, children's crowns and clothing edges should not be white. If the father passes away, after the mourning period, other children can wear clothes without special taboos, but the legitimate son still cannot wear colored clothes or use colored cloth edges. In addition, there are five types of mourning clothing: slashing garments, mourning garments, grand mourning, minor mourning, and coarse mourning.

Utilization in Rituals

Hanfu is an essential part of Chinese etiquette. China is also called "Huaxia," a name associated with Hanfu. The "Explanation of the Book of Documents" states: "Ceremonial attire and splendid adornments are called 'Hua,' and great nations are called 'Xia.'" The "Annotation to the Zuozhuan · Duke Ding Ten Years" states: "China has great rituals, so it is called 'Xia'; it has splendid attire, which is called 'Hua.'" China has long been known as the "country of attire and headwear, the country of etiquette," and "attire and headwear" have become synonymous with civilization and an integral part of Huaxia etiquette. The rituals in the Zhou ritual system are divided into five rites and eight norms. The five rites include auspicious rituals, inauspicious rituals, guest rituals, military rituals, and festive rituals; the eight norms include coronation rituals, marriage rituals, mourning rituals, sacrificial rituals, village rituals, archery rituals, court rituals, and engagement rituals. Coronation and marriage ceremonies are the core of festive rituals. The sacrificial ritual corresponds to the auspicious ritual. The "Primer for Children" says, "The study of children begins with clothing and headwear." Clothing and headwear mark the beginning of etiquette. Before the coronation ceremony, "clothes are not of silk and girdles are not of silk." Only after the age of twenty can one wear fur and silk.

The coronation ceremony is a coming-of-age ceremony for men, changing from the hairstyle of a boy to wearing a cap as an adult. Officials of the Zhou Dynasty performed the coronation ceremony at the age of twenty, while nobles and princes performed it at the age of fifteen. The "Record of Rites · Ceremonial Code" states: "To reach adulthood after the ceremony of coronation is the way of becoming an adult." The three dukes, princes, and crown princes, after being conferred three times, will receive another crown called the black crown.

The hairpin ceremony is a coming-of-age ceremony for women, where the hair is styled into a bun at the back of the head and decorated with hairpins. Zheng Xuan's annotation to the "Book of Rites · Rite of Coronation" says: "The hairpin ceremony for women is like the coronation ceremony for men, making the lady of the house and female guests observe the ceremony." Han women who are already engaged undergo the hairpin ceremony at the age of fifteen, while those who are not yet engaged undergo it at the age of twenty. According to the "History of the Song Dynasty · Record of Rituals," the hairpin ceremony for princesses of the Song Dynasty imitated the coronation ceremony of commoners and included three conferrals of crowns: initially, a coronation and hairpin; secondly, adding a coronet; and thirdly, a crown adorned with nine pheasant feathers.

The marriage ceremony is one of the festive rituals and can be divided into sacrificial dress weddings, court dress weddings, and public dress weddings. According to the Tang and Song systems, men of the fourth rank or above marry in coronation attire, those of the ninth rank or above marry in official attire, and commoners marry in crimson official attire. Women marry in ceremonial attire or connected skirts.

The sacrificial ritual is the ceremonial system for offering sacrifices to gods and ancestors, the highest etiquette of Huaxia. Sacrificial attire includes six crowns and ceremonial caps. Scholars assist in sacrifices with ceremonial caps, while heads of households wear dark ceremonial caps. The wives of scholars wear mourning attire to assist in sacrifices.

Hanfu Encyclopedia


Hanfu in the International Cultural Circle

Han Ethnic Identity and Hanfu

The identification of the Han people with Hanfu clothing is a part of their ethnic consciousness. During the chaos of the Five Barbarians in China, intellectuals and people from all walks of life in the Central Plains area fled to the south, preserving the essence of Central Plains civilization. They gradually developed the southern region into a prosperous area, a historical event known as the "Migration of Attire and Headwear to the South." During the Song Dynasty, Guo Jing refused to abandon Hanfu and chose to die instead.

Influence of Confucian Culture

Hanfu clothing has had a profound influence due to the dissemination of Confucian culture in Huaxia. Surrounding ethnic groups, including many other countries within the Confucian cultural circle (Han cultural circle), adopted certain features of Hanfu through emulation of the Huaxia ritual system, using them for auspicious, inauspicious, guest, military, and festive occasions. Additionally, the Huaxia etiquette system required foreign rulers to wear their own national costumes when visiting the Chinese emperor, known as the "national costume system." In the vassal system of the Han and Tang dynasties, the leaders of surrounding ethnic groups had to regularly visit the emperor, a system known as "court gatherings." Whether foreign monarchs and their envoys or subjects paid respects to the Chinese emperor, accepted official positions, offered tribute, or were invited by the Chinese emperor, they had to wear their national costumes as a sign of respect. This national costume system encouraged surrounding ethnic groups to develop their own national costumes. For example, after the Khitan Emperor Tai Zong's visit to the Jin Dynasty, he encountered the Central Plains attire system. Upon his return north, he referred to the Central Plains attire system and established his own national attire system based on Hanfu. Throughout the dynasties, there have been depictions of foreign envoys' attire in the "Illustrated Tributary Records."


Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei prohibited the wearing of Xianbei clothing and mandated the adoption of Hanfu attire. On January 13, 495 AD (12th day of the 12th month of the 18th year of the Taihe era), Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei vigorously implemented a series of sinicization policies, including:

  • Prohibition of wearing Xianbei clothing, with everyone required to wear Hanfu attire.
  • Prohibition of speaking the Xianbei language, with Chinese becoming the common language.
  • All Xianbei people moving to Luoyang would be considered natives of Luoyang, and upon death, they were to be buried in Luoyang, not allowed to be buried in Pingcheng.


In Japan, Hanfu is referred to as "Wafuku" or "Go-fuku," meaning clothing introduced from the Wu region of China (present-day Jiangsu and Zhejiang areas). During Japan's Nara period, which coincided with China's prosperous Tang Dynasty, Japan sent numerous missions to Tang China to study its culture, arts, and legal systems, including clothing systems. At that time, they also imitated Tang customs and issued "Clothing Regulations" and "Retirement Regulations" modeled after the Tang Dynasty's court attire system for ceremonies such as enthronement, coronation, and weddings. Emperor Kōtoku of Japan issued an edict to adopt the right-side dress.

As the power of the warrior class grew towards the end of the Heian period, they created ceremonial garments such as hunting attire and everyday wear, adopting styles similar to those of the nobility. Additionally, there were straight robes, shoulder robes, and jackets. In the middle to late Edo period, the Tokugawa shogunate promoted Confucianism and initiated a movement to revive traditional ceremonies and customs known as the "Revival of Court Dress and Ceremonial Customs," emphasizing the restoration of official duties. Scholars of ancient customs began to research attire, and the dyeing technique for the Emperor's yellow robe was revived. Tokugawa Ieyasu's "Prohibitions and Public Ordinances of the Inner Palace" stipulated the attire for the Emperor and officials, leading the revival of traditional ceremonies and customs. Tokugawa Tsunayoshi also issued "Mourning Attire Regulations," imitating China's mourning attire system. Meanwhile, Japan also adopted the Hanfu's method of scholarly examination, forming its own unique attire system through the study of Confucian classics and the inheritance of attire by traditional families. Emperor Kōkaku and Emperor Kōmei even revived the coronation attire for their enthronement ceremonies.

The Edo-period document "Essentials of Attire" acknowledges the restoration of the twelve-layered robe system. The Tokugawa shogunate widely spread the etiquette of the Ogasawara family through clan schools. In 1632, the "Ogasawara Family Ritual Book" was published. The attire and etiquette of the Tokugawa shogunate adopted the warrior-style Ogasawara family etiquette influenced by the Zhu Xi family ritual, forming the basis of modern Japanese etiquette and traditional Wafuku clothing. The Qing dynasty also recognized Japanese clothing as similar to Han clothing. In 1938-1939, the "Complete Collection of Etiquette and Ceremonies" was published in nine volumes, and in 1941, the Japanese Ministry of Education formulated the "Essentials of Etiquette and Ceremonies," popularizing the Ogasawara etiquette, including clothing, etiquette (coronation, marriage, funeral, and sacrifice). Chapter nine of the "Essentials of Etiquette and Ceremonies" specifies the winter attire for common men, such as patterned woolen trousers, summer yukata, and women's ceremonial and visiting attire.


During the Tang Dynasty, Silla requested Emperor Taizong of Tang to grant them Han clothing and abolished Silla clothing, aligning with China. After the mid-Goryeo period, Korean court attire absorbed Ming Dynasty clothing styles, strictly following Chinese norms. Especially for women's attire, the high-waisted jeogori skirt developed, and court officials, court attire, and important palace ceremonial attire always adhered to the Hanfu system, changing along with the changes in Hanfu. For example, the headgear worn by officials in the Tang Dynasty had a hanging band style, which was also adopted by Silla officials, but after the Ming Dynasty, it was changed to a standing corner style, which was also adopted by the Joseon Dynasty. The attire for the queen of the Joseon Dynasty has always been based on the style of the Chinese Empress's formal attire. The main difference between modern Korean court attire and Hanfu: Hanfu generally has a crossed collar and right lapel, or a V-neck, while Korean clothing has a less prominent cross collar, resembling a small V-neck. Women's skirts in Korean attire are tied very high, with extremely wide and fluffy lower hemlines.


Vietnam, known as Jiaozhi (referred to as Annam in China), was established as an independent feudal dynasty by Đinh Bộ Lĩnh (Đinh Hoàn) in 968, two years later (970), he declared himself emperor. In terms of clothing, especially court ceremonial attire, the court attire of the emperor and ministers in Vietnam is almost identical to that of the Han Chinese dynasty's court ceremonial attire, a replica of the emperor's and minister's court attire. For example, looking at the headdress and ceremonial robes worn by the last emperor of Vietnam, Bảo Đại, they are almost identical to those worn by Ming Dynasty emperors. However, compared to the emperor of the Ming Dynasty, the styling appears slightly smaller. Taking the official ceremonial attire of Han Chinese emperors as an example, the Ming Dynasty emperor's ceremonial attire had twelve ribbons, while Vietnam's had six ribbons. For over two hundred years during the Qing Dynasty, Vietnam, which was connected to China's southern border, retained intact Ming-style attire. Many valuable photographs and historical materials left by French colonialists in Vietnam at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries clearly reflect this. For example, the photograph of a dragon robe worn by a French consul stationed in Yunnan (today's Kunming) in 1898, which many people mistakenly believe to be an ancient emperor's dragon robe or a costume from Chinese opera, is actually the court attire of a Vietnamese emperor. From the perspective of style, it is no different from the court attire of Ming Dynasty emperors or ministers.

Eastern Spread of Hanfu

China once enjoyed the reputation of being the "leading country in attire and headwear." One of the most important reasons was the fabric of Hanfu, namely silk. After the opening of the Silk Road, Chinese silk products continuously flowed to the West, making silk a coveted fabric in Asia and Europe. In the early stages of dissemination, the Byzantine Empire played an extremely important role in bridging the East and the West. The clothing styles and patterns during the Byzantine Empire period had a significant influence on various Western countries, serving as a blend of Eastern and Western clothing art.

In 748 AD, King Su Shilizhi of the Khazar Khaganate arrived in Chang'an, where he was granted a purple gold robe and a gold belt. By 780 AD, there were already more than two thousand people living in Chang'an who wore Tang Dynasty attire and mixed with the Han people. These people brought back Tang Dynasty attire to their countries, directly spreading the Tang Dynasty attire system and clothing styles dominated by Hanfu, showcasing the charm of Chinese culture. Meanwhile, Hanfu, as the main form of Chinese attire, also absorbed many elements from the attire of other countries.


Do you know the cutting method for Hanfu Ruqun

2024-3-26 6:01:37


Do you know the cutting method for Hanfu Ruqun

2024-3-26 6:01:37

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