3 mins read

The Ultimate Hanfu Guide: Everything you need to know about traditional Chinese clothing

By LingoAce Team |US |July 5, 2023

Chinese Culture

Chinese hanfu, the traditional attire of the Han Chinese people, is an exquisite and graceful form of clothing that holds a significant place in Chinese history and culture. The hanfu dress is typically characterized by loose, flowing robes, wide sleeves, and a focus on natural fabrics such as silk and linen. The word hanfu or hán fú (汉服) literally means “Han ethnicity clothing.” The Han ethnicity is one of more than 50 different ethnic groups in China and is the largest, making up approximately 92% of the population. Han culture is often associated interchangeably with Chinese culture outside of China.

What is Chinese hanfu?

With roots tracing back to the Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE), hanfu embodies the essence of traditional Chinese aesthetics, featuring intricate designs, vibrant colors, and a deep connection to ancient traditions. For centuries, it was the dominant clothing style in China for both men and women, evolving with different dynasties and embodying fashion and cultural shifts over time.

Traditional hanfu for men typically consists of a cross-collar robe (known as zhishen or beizi) worn over an inner garment and paired with wide-legged pants. The style and cut of the robe may vary based on historical periods and regional influences.

Traditional hanfu for women typically includes a long, flowing robe (known as ruqun) with a loose upper garment and a long skirt. The design and decorative elements of women's hanfu often reflect femininity and elegance, with variations across different historical periods and regional styles.

Where can you buy hanfu clothing?

Finding Chinese hanfu to purchase can be challenging to find outside of China, but not impossible. Just make sure to consider factors such as quality, authenticity, and proper sizing when selecting a vendor. Also, pay attention to customer reviews, materials used, and return policies if shopping online.

There are numerous online retailers that specialize in hanfu, slike Hanfu Story, New Moon Dance and New Hanfu. Some popular online marketplaces include Temu, AliExpress, Etsy, and even Amazon feature hanfu sellers. However, it's important to research and choose reputable sellers with positive reviews to ensurequality and authenticity.

Hanfu festivals and fashion shows are also increasing in popularity. They often feature vendors and stalls selling hanfu dresses. These events provide an opportunity to explore a wide selection of hanfu designs and interact with hanfu enthusiasts and experts. The website features a regularly updated calendar of events around the world.

Modern-day hanfu

Until recently, Chinese hanfu was rarely seen outside of historical movies and TV shows. But thanks to a revival movement, hanfu has found a place in modern society. This was largely driven by Chinese youth and enthusiasts worldwide who would share their outfits on social media, attendievents, and participatein cultural activities. Today, hanfu is embraced for weddings, festivals, cultural events, and even everyday fashion.

With its rich history and symbolic significance, Chinese hanfu continues to captivate individuals worldwide by representing a harmonious blend of elegance, tradition, and cultural identity. The current resurgence of hanfu not only brings attention to the timeless beauty of this traditional attire but also serves as a testament to the enduring appeal of Chinese culture. As hanfu gains popularity and becomes a part of people's everyday lives, its legacy is preserved, celebrated for its profound beauty and representation of a rich cultural heritage.


Can people who aren’t Chinese wear hanfu?

The appreciation and acceptance of Chinese hanfu have expanded beyond cultural boundaries in recent years, as people from diverse backgrounds recognize and embrace its beauty and cultural significance. But as always, it is important to approach wearing hanfu with respect and cultural sensitivity. To avoid cultural appropriation, it's important to respect the cultural significance of hanfu and refrain from using it as a mere costume or trend. It's crucial to consider the appropriateness of the occasion.

Why do Chinese people wear hanfu?

The motivation for wearing hanfu ultimately comes down to a personal choice. This traditional Chinese clothing style has experienced a revival in recent year, but it should be noted that not all Chinese people wear it. That said, some common reasons for wearing hanfu include:

  1. Cultural identity: Wearing hanfu can be a way for individuals to connect with and express pride in Chinese culture and heritage. It is seen as a symbol of traditional Chinese identity and can help preserve and promote traditional Chinese values and aesthetics.

  2. Historical interest: Some people wear hanfu out of a fascination with history and a desire to experience and recreate the clothing styles of ancient China. Hanfu is inspired by the garments worn during the Qin, Han, Sui, Tong, Song, Tang, and Ming dynasties when the Han ethnic group ruled and wearing it can provide a connection to the past.

  3. Fashion and aesthetics: For some individuals, wearing hanfu is simply a matter of personal fashion preference. They appreciate the beauty and elegance of the clothing and find it visually appealing. Hanfu has a distinctive style characterized by flowing robes, wide sleeves, and intricate patterns, which can be seen as a fashionable choice for certain occasions.

  4. Community and social connections: Wearing hanfu can also be a way for individuals to connect with like-minded people and participate in hanfu-related communities. There are social groups, events, and online communities where people who appreciate hanfu come together to share their interests, exchange knowledge, and celebrate Chinese culture.

What is the difference between hanfu and qipao?

Before the hanfu revival, the more common traditional Chinese clothing worn for special occasions was the qipao. Also known as cheongsam, this iconic form-fitting dress originated in the 1920s and gained popularity in 1930s Shanghai. It’s characterized by its high collar, straight cut, and side slits, which allow for ease of movement. The qipao fits beautifully on the body, showcasing elegance and grace. Originally it was influenced by Manchu clothing styles, but has since evolved into an icon of Chinese fashion. Today, qipao continues to be worn for formal occasions, cultural events, and weddings, symbolizing femininity and cultural pride.

The qipao should not be confused with a qun gua, which is a traditional wedding attire worn by brides in Southern China, particularly in the Guangdong and Guangxi provinces. Gun gua isa two-piece ensemble consisting of a loose-fitting, high-necked jacket and a long, flared skirt. It’s typically made from richly embroidered silk and adorned with intricate designs and significant Chinese motifs like dragons, phoenixes, and peonies. The vibrant colors and lavish embroidery symbolize joy, good fortune, and fertility. Qun Gua is often passed down through generations as a cherished family heirloom, carrying the blessings and well wishes of previous brides.

While both hanfu and qipao hold significant cultural and historical importance, the qipao is considered a contemporary interpretation of the more traditional hanfu dress. Today, designers continue to infuse modern elements into the traditional styles, experimenting with different fabrics, cuts, and embellishments. These modern variations cater to diverse tastes and offer a fusion of traditional and contemporary aesthetics. This has allowed for a broader appreciation and acceptance of the qipao beyond its original cultural context:

Is Chinese hanfu gender-neutral?

Traditionally, Chinese hanfu clothing were designed with gender-specific styles. A man’s hanfu would typically feature a cross-collar robe (Zhishen or Beizi) worn over an inner garment and paired with wide-legged pants. Meanwhile, a hanfu dress for women includes a long, flowing robe (Ruqun) with a loose upper garment and a long skirt. The design and decorative elements of women's hanfu often reflect femininity and elegance, with variations across different historical periods and regional styles.

However, gender-neutral or unisex hanfu is emerging in modern reinterpretations. These modern adaptations often incorporate elements from traditional hanfudesigns but allow for more flexibility and inclusiveness in terms of how individuals choose to wear them.

LingoAce makes it possible to learn from the best. Co-founded by a parent and a teacher, our award-winning online learning platform makes learning Chinese, English, math, and music fun and effective. Founded in 2017, LingoAce has a roster of more than 4,000 professionally certified teachers and has taught more than 10 million classes to PreK-12 students in more than 100 countries.

Read More