What Is A Chinese Hanfu? (Beautiful Clothes)

Many young people in China have embraced this traditional outfit as a form of cultural expression. The hanfu is a fashion trend gaining popularity in China and surrounding countries.

China is famous for preserving its traditions over the years and is proud of its culture. Reports reveal that more than 20 million people purchase hanfu in a year. If you would like to try out this clothing, you should first understand more regarding it. Here is more!

What is hanfu clothing?

hanfu male and female

Different Chinese groups have their styles of dressing. The Han Chinese have been wearing hanfu since the 17th Century. This is the Chinese ethnic group located in East Asia. It is the largest group in China since it makes up more than 90 percent of the Chinese population.

This clothing is made up of different types of garments. The Chinese wear a jacket as the upper garment of hanfu and a skirt on the lower body. Hanfu is not complete without a robe. The Chinese also wear some accessories with hanfu to boost its appearance. Some of the common accessories that go well with this traditional outfit include footwear, jewelry, and headwear. The ornaments that people use to decorate this garment are referred to as peo.

Due to the popularity of hanfu, neighboring countries such as Korea, Japan, and Vietnam have also embraced it. This type of clothing has evolved. Neighboring cultural clothing also influenced some of the elements of the Hanfu. Nowadays, most people wear this type of clothing during special occasions while others wear it daily. Feel free to wear it while attending a wedding or festival.

Hanfu meaning

We mentioned that hanfu is a type of clothing that the Han Chinese initially wore. This is a crucial type of clothing that reflects China’s traditional aesthetics. Though this form of clothing disappeared for a while, Young Chinese are nowadays putting on hanfu to promote their traditional culture.

This trend is not only popular on the internet, but it has also become one of the major cultural themes in China. There is even a hanfu festival that is held every year and attended by over a hundred thousand people.

Hanfu history

The Han Chinese started wearing hanfu over three thousand years ago. The Yellow Emperor, a king of ancient China, was among the first people to wear hanfu. During those times, every dynasty had its own unique style of dressing.

The Han Chinese wrapped the upper hanfu garment over the front during ancient times. The left side covered the right, and this upper garment would extend to a wearer’s waist. This style was referred to as jiaoling youren. Some of the minority groups in the country used Zuoren. This was a style that was used to dress people who passed on. The deceased was dressed in a hanfu so that the right side of the upper garment crossed the left.

Shang Dynasty

The hanfu first appeared in the time of this dynasty from 1600 BC to 1000 BC. During this period, the hanfu was made up of a chang which was an ankle-length skirt, a yu which was a tunic.

A sash also formed part of this clothing, and it was used to tie the tunic. In the Shang Dynasty, people used to wear hanfu with a bixi that reached the knees. The Chinese used silk material to make hanfu, and this type of clothing was unisex. The main colors that were used to make hanfu during the Shang Dynasty included green and red.

Zhou Dynasty

Hanfu was also common during the Zhou Dynasty, which was between 1045 BC and 771 BC. During this period, the Chinese used hanfu clothing to show the distinction between different classes in society. During this period, highly ranked people such as senior officials and emperors wore hanfu with more decorations than the rest.

The hanfu was also made from different materials and painted in different colors.

Unlike in the Shang Dynasty, hanfu clothing in the Zhou Dynasty featured wider sleeves. The tunic was also designed with jade decorations. Just like in the Shang Dynasty, people used to tie a sash around the waist after putting on hanfu. They also put different ornaments on this clothing. People with higher social stature wore more decorations. While the men used to wear hats with the hanfu, the ladies wore headpieces.

Qing Dynasty

During the start of the Qing Dynasty, hanfu disappeared. This happened because the people who founded the dynasty were not the Han Chinese that used to wear hanfu. A semi-nomadic ethnic group called Manchus founded the Qin Dynasty. Though this group introduced the Manchu dress, it disappeared as soon as the dynasty fell. After this, the western style of dressing was introduced, and most people embraced it.

21st Century

Since China established a Hanfu movement in the 21st century to promote its culture, the hanfu became a fashion trend. In November 2003, Wang Letian put on a shenyi in public, and his story got published in a newspaper. This soon gained public attention, and many people started imitating him. Reports reveal that by 2019, there were more than 1000 hanfu stores on Taobao and Tmall.

Types of hanfu

The hanfu is divided into three main styles. You can either wear a one-piece dress hanfu, jacket with trousers or a jacket with a skirt. Most women prefer the jacket with skirt style.

Traditional hanfu

The traditional hanfu is made up of a yi, a knee-length tunic that features a narrow cuff. A stash is used to tie the yi. This hanfu also consists of chang, which is a skirt that reaches the ankle. The chang is often worn with a bixi which is a fabric that is designed to reach the knees.

  • Hanfu men/male

The hanfu is a unisex garment that looks good on women and men. One of the styles of hanfu that is common among men is shenyi. Men can wear this long belted robe that comes with wide sleeves. Men started wearing this style of hanfu from the Zhou dynasty. Other countries such as Vietnam and Japan have even come up with their versions of this style of hanfu.

The Han Chinese considered footwear as part of accessories. Shoes were referred to as iu during the Han Dynasty and ju during the Qin Dynasty. The men accompany their hanfu garments with cloth or leather shoes. In the past, Han Chinese males used to wear this clothing with shoes that had thick soles or wooden clogs.

  • Hanfu dress

The traditional hanfu dress that Han Chinese ladies wore was referred to as Ruqun. It is a form of attire that consists of a longer outer skirt and an upper garment that is often a short jacket. These two pieces of garments were believed to bear the heaven and earth symbolism based on Chinese culture.

Modern hanfu male

After going out of fashion for hundreds of years, the hanfu is back. This type of clothing has evolved in that modern designs are more gender-neutral. Modern hanfu male consist of multiple pieces. Men nowadays wear pants as part of the hanfu instead of the long belted robe that was common in ancient times.

Modern hanfu dress

Nowadays, hanfu dresses come in elegant and stylish designs. This is why many young ladies today enjoy taking photos wearing the modern hanfu dress. Modern hanfu dresses also accentuate the natural curves in women since they are fitting. Ladies nowadays wear the hanfu dress as fashion pieces.

Hanfu vs. Qipao

One can confuse the two since they both originated from China, and are considered traditional types of clothing in this country. They, however, differ in that hanfu is the main style of clothing associated with the Han Chinese while Qipao is the style of clothing for the Manchu.

A group called Manchu introduced a style of dressing called Qipao in China during the Qin dynasty. Though Qipao is popular in contemporary China, it is not similar to Hanfu since it is not derived from the Han culture.

While some find the Qipao more convenient to wear, others prefer hanfu. Many people believe that hanfu better represents the country’s history than Qipao since it existed for many years and even came back in the 21st century.

Apart from their origins, these two traditional Chinese costumes also differ in style and characteristics. Hanfu is much richer compared to Qipao. Qipao comes with flat and straight lines. The body of this type of clothing is often loose. Hanfu, on the other hand, comes with an upper and lower garment that may be sewn together or are separated.


The hanfu is among the oldest traditional types of clothing in China. This type of clothing is a symbol of Chinese culture. Though wearing hanfu was common in the past, the trend is back, and many people are nowadays wearing this garment in unique styles. You can consider wearing this garment the next time you attend a traditional Chinese festival.

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