Hanfu is not just a piece of clothing but it contains great knowledge from the past. It also brought along the elegant in Chinese etiquette and its beautiful culture that our ancestor wants us to know.
How well do you think Malaysians know about each other’s traditional costumes? Well, most may be able to point out the traditional Malay & Indian costumes. What about traditional costumes of the Chinese then? Chances are many will refer to the following as the Chinese traditional costume:
Many would say that the Chinese traditional costumes are Qi Pao (旗袍) & Ma Gua (马褂) but are you certain that they are?
Qi Pao (the so called cheongsam) & Ma Gua (the so called samfu) are actually of Manchu/ Manchurian (滿族) origin. The true traditional costume for Chinese or to be exact, the Han is Hanfu (漢服).
Hanfu (漢服) : Literally, "the clothes of the Han". Worn by Han Chinese for over 3700 years. One of the most precious treasures of Chinese cultural inheritance and representative image of the culture, it has been lost for over 360 years since 1645.
Hanfu, short for Han Chinese Traditional Clothing (not Han Dynasty Traditional Clothing), can also be called Huafu (Hua-clothing/華服). It is not to be confused with the Tangzhuang (唐裝)* or Kimono. Its origins can be traced back to the legendary Sage Kings (三皇五帝) until the Ming Dynasty, in a continuing tradition for 4,000 years, sharing all basic traits and features in its designs.
*Tangzhuang is actually a modified version of MaGua (samfu)
A field worthy of study in itself, with complete systems of classification, Hanfu as couture of a long tradition is an essential wealth of Chinese heritage, and is worthy of pride by every Chinese descendent. The resilient vitality of Hanfu has caused it to survive unto today, appearing in Han religions such as Taoism and Buddhism, as well as dress of peripheral mountain villages and closeby minor ethnicities, and retaining those similar traits.
In modern society, we can still see some traces of Hanfu in important social rites and sacrifices, remembrances, and civic holidays. The influence of Hanfu stretches far and wide, with most ethnicities in Asia such as the Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Mongolians, Bhutanese all retain or refer to elements in Hanfu design.
Below are some Hanfu pictures.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. So who are the Manchus/ Manchurian(滿族)?
China has 56 ethnicities (just like how Malaysia has Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Iban and etc) and Manchurian is 1 of the ethnicities in China. The Manchu people (满族) are a Tungusic people who originated from Manchuria (today’s Northeastern China). They are ethnic minorities in China. Qipao (cheongsam) and Magua (samfu) are the traditional clothing for the Manchurians.
2. So who are the Han (漢人)?
Han is the ethnic majority in China, forming 94% of the population of China and Han is the biggest ethnic on Earth (in term of population). In countries outside China, Hua yu (華語) and Hua ren (華人) are used instead, actually they are the same meaning with Han yu (漢語) and Han ren (漢人) in China. In short: Hua ren (華人) = Han ren (漢人)
3. Why Han (漢) are called HuaRen (華人)?
This name was derived from the name of our culture Huaxia(華夏)*. We are the people of Huaxia(華夏人), in short HuaRen (華人) . This name was used widely throughout China history and we can see this in the Ming Analect, The True Stories of The Outside World《明史·外国真腊传》which says: “People of Tang was called Huaren by the foreigners, it was widely known in the outside world.”(“唐人者，诸番呼華人之称也。凡海外诸国尽然。”.)
*refer to FAQ no.11
4. Isn’t Manchurian Chinese too? Isn’t Han also Chinese too?
Yes, they are Chinese but it is in the sense of nationality (both are citizen of China). Just think it this way, if you are Malaysian and in the same time you are non-Malay, when you tell people outside of Malaysia that you are Malaysian, do you want them to classify you as Malay? Same theory applies here, Chinese is a nationality while Han/Manchurian is the ethnicity (just like Malaysian is your nationality Chinese is your race).
5. How do I know I’m Han?
Very easy! The simplest way is by your surname. If your surname is one of the surnames in Hundred Family Surnames (百家姓) then you are Han. If you can’t find your surname inside, don’t fret. That doesn’t mean you aren’t Han. Certain surname such Xian/Sin (冼) was not found in the list but they are still consider Han because they had been sinicised(漢化) and was integrated into ethnic Han much later in the China history (around Tang Dynasty). If you really can’t find your name in the Hundred Family Surnames then you can check through your family genealogy (family register or 族譜) to know which ethnic you belong to.
Ps: People with the surname 冼 was use above because they were used to be the aborigine (俚人) for Guangdong and Guangxi area in the past.
6. Isn’t Hanfu (漢服) no longer relevant and because of that it has been replace by Qipao (cheongsam) and Magua (samfu)?
That is not true. The demise of Hanfu is not natural. It was forcefully being replaced instead of gradual acceptance. (refer FAQ no.8)
7. Every dynasty has its own pattern, isn’t Qipao(cheongsam) and Magua (samfu) one of the pattern?
Yes, it is true that each dynasty has its own design and pattern but the basic design remains the same (refer to the Hanfu picture above) for 4700 years. It was only during Qing Dynasty that things change dramatically and unnaturally. (refer FAQ no.8)
8. How did Han end up with Manchu costume?
Good question! The story behind Han wearing Manchu costume is a very tragic one. The story begin in 1645, just right after Qing Dynasty (清朝)* was established in China, the Qing government enacted a law which is called the Queue and Costume Order (剃髮易服).
The law on queue imposes only on Chinese and not other ethnics in China and in this law, the government required all Chinese male to cut their hair half bald and the rest of the hair should be turned into a queue (pigtail) in the same time, all Chinese along with other ethnics should change their clothing into Manchurian clothing. Anyone that defies the law will have to face death sentence through beheading. Basically, the Qing government wants to forcefully force Manchurian clothing and culture (head half bald and queue) on the Chinese.
Try to imagine if your government forcefully wants you to be another ethnic either forcing that ethnic culture, language or clothing other than your own, what will you do? Obviously, for any right thinking people that take pride on their culture, the action will be resisting in all means. The same applies at that time, where the Chinese people resisted the order fiercely and started to rebel.
In retaliation, the Qing government struck back with deadly force, massacring all who refused to shave their hair all around the country. This has caused lots of tragedies (plundering, kidnapping beautiful looking girl as an offer to the imperial court and rape) and genocides, one of the famous massacre is the Jiading Three Massacres with estimated death tolls in the tens (or even hundreds) of thousands.
The imposition of this order was not uniform; it took up to 10 years of martial enforcement for all of China to be brought into compliance with a death toll estimating 30millions(mostly Chinese). The purpose of the law is to let the Qing government detects any Ming Dynasty (明朝) loyalist (considered rebel) and in the same time destroyed the pride of the Chinese in order to let the Qing government an easy control of the Han so that the day to day governance will run smoothly.
*Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) was established by the Manchurian and it is also the last dynasty for China
9. Isn’t it hot to wear Hanfu in Malaysia? I think it is only suitable in China as the weather there is much cooler.
No, that is not true. China is a country with 4 seasons and the summer there can be much hotter than Malaysia and if it is like what you had said, is it then the people in China in the past don’t wear any clothes during summer?
It is not the matter of hot or not hot, it is the matter whether you are proud enough of your culture or not. If you are proud you will wear it and show it to others in any circumstances, just like how the Japanese in Malaysia proudly wear their traditional costume during their traditional festival (eg. Bon Odori).
10. Why you all are doing this Hanfu thing so hard?
Is our Han culture; to spread and let people know about our culture is our job as a Chinese. Besides, since there are lots of misunderstanding and ill-knowledge towards the Chinese culture even among Chinese, it will be good to enlighten them. After all, isn’t it shameful that you take other people traditional clothing and say it is yours?
11. What is the objective that you all trying to achieve?
Our current objective is to let everyone especially the Chinese to know about their true traditional clothing and also let them get closer to Chinese culture and also be proud of it but at the end of the day, our ultimate objective is to be able to revive HuaXia.
Huaxia is the foundation for all Chinese culture. As we all know, Chinese culture is usually called ZhongHuaWenHua (中華文化) but it has another name which is called HuaXiaWenHua(華夏文化). Why Chinese culture is call HuaXia (華夏)? This is based on Year Ten of Duke Ding《定公十年》. In this book HuaXia (華夏) is annotated as: “The Central Nation has the grandeur of Rites and Rituals, hence is called Xia. It has the beauty of symbols and robes, hence called Hua.(中国有礼仪之大，故称夏；有章服之美，谓之華。)”. In another book called The Proper Definition of the Book of Documents《尚书正义》by Kong Yingda annotates Huaxia “華夏” as: “Coronals and robes, as well as glamorous symbols is called Hua. A large nation is called Xia. (冕服華章曰華，大国曰夏。)
In short, Hua(華) means the beauty of Hanfu(漢服) and Xia(夏) means the grandeur of Rites and Rituals (moral and etiquette) of China or it can also refer as another name for China. Thus, Ch culture must consist of these 2 elements which are Hanfu and moral and etiquette. If any of the 2 elements is missing then our culture will not be complete and we are not fit to call ourself as HuaRen(華人). Bringing back Hanfu = Bringing back etiquette.
Through our effort, we hope that one day we will be able to see each Chinese wear Hanfu and observe rites, rituals, ceremonies and etiquette for every important festival. This is what we wish to achieve at the end.
Malaysia Hanfu Movement
Hanfu Movement (International)
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