Friday, November 19, 2010

About Samfu/Magua (馬褂)

We all know in the picture above is a piece of clothing called Magua or Samfu but how many people will know the actual story behind this piece of clothing?

A Magua (馬褂, literally "riding jacket") is a short-sleeved, loose outer garment of Manchu origin, designed for ease to put on and take off by wearers on horseback. This clothing was the standard military uniform for the Qing Dynasty Manchu's Eight Banners soldier.

Since this is a military uniform & due to the fact that Manchu's Eight Banners soldiers had played big roll in implementing Queue and Costume Order (剃髮易服), it is considered by many that this clothing was stained with the bloods of millions Chinese.

In 1645, just right after Manchu Qing regime (滿清)* was established in China, the Qing regime 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’s 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 regime wants to forcefully force Manchurian clothing and culture (head half bald and queue) on the Chinese.

In order to protect the Chinese culture & ethnic costume from being perverted & destroyed by the new law, Chinese in the whole of China started to resist the order fiercely by taking up arms & rebel against the Manchu Qing regime. In retaliation, the Qing regime struck back with deadly force, massacring all who refused to follow the new law 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 regime 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 regime an easy control of the Chinese so that the day to day governance will run smoothly.

A Manchu Qing Soldier wearing Magua

Besides of being a military uniform for the Eight Banners, Magua was also a clothing that act as a status symbol for the Manchu's noble in Manchu Qing society as this piece of clothing was exclusively for the Manchu's royalty & noble families only. Due to that, for the first 100 years of the Qing regime, Chinese was prohibited from donning Magua & this applies even to the Chinese (informers, court officials, armed personnel...) that has contributed tremendously in the implementation of Queue and Costume Order.

But things started to change during the time of Kangxi Emperor. As the Manchu Qing regime wants the allegiance of the Chinese officials, they started to confer Magua as reward (similar to military decoration that is given to military personnel or units for heroism in battle or distinguished service) to those Chinese that has achieved great feat in the enforcement & implementation of the Queue and Costume Order among the Chinese populace in China during the beginning of the dynasty.

Chinese that has been conferred with Magua will don this clothing in formal occasions & they are proud of it as this proved that the Manchu Qing regime has recognised their contribution. Besides, with having Magua conferred to them, they felt that they had joined the ranks of the Manchu nobility & they believed they had became 1 of them due to the fact that Magua was exclusively an apparel for the Manchu noble, and so, for these Chinese, it is something to be proud of. This is something similar to those Chinese that feels proud & glorious for being able to wear Japanese military uniform & contribute to the course of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

No matter what, is a fact that Magua is a military uniform which was donned by the soldiers in the Manchu's Eight Banners Army & since the Eight Banners had played a significant role in the enforcement & implementation of the Queue and Costume Order it has definitely stained with the bloods of millions Chinese that had resisted the law. So, isn't wearing such clothing to worship one ancestor or celebrate traditional Chinese festivals is kind of insult and disrespect to the Chinese culture & their ancestor? Imagine Chinese wearing Imperial Japanese Army military uniform or Jews wearing Wehrmacht (Nazi Germany Armed Forces) uniform to commemorate Nanjing massacre & the Holocaust, do you think is acceptable? For normal thinking person, all these are unacceptable, insulting & disrespectful towards those that had suffered or fallen in those events. So, if you are Chinese, after knowing all these will you still willing to wear Magua to worship your ancestor & celebrate Chinese traditional festivals with such clothing?

You might be interested in this too:

No comments: