powered by FreeFind

Related Articles


Sponsor Ad

Chinese Culture >> Chinese Society Traditions >> China Traditional Dress

Chinese Traditional Dress Through the Ages

By: Ryan Tan

Each dynasty in China had its own memorable culture. The many facets of color and design that emerged during a dynasty's reign were marvelous and made every aspect of Chinese culture, including their wearing apparel, which were highly acclaimed works of art.

The costumes of ancient China were emblems of Chinese tradition, as well as an essential element in the history and culture of each dynasty. The costumes maintained an important place in Chinese culture for more than three thousand years. The culture of China is ancient and well established, brilliant and resplendent. The costumes are likewise magnificent and colorful. There were many dynasties throughout China's history, each having its own unique style of dress. And each style would change or disappear as its dynasty changed, declined, or was replaced.

With the advent of each new dynasty and the progression of time, costumes were revolutionized. The style was classical and conservative in the Qin and Han dynasties, luxurious and glamorous in the Tang dynasty, delicate and exquisite in the Song dynasty, graceful and magnificent in the Ming dynasty, and very intricate in the Qing dynasty.

Qin and Han Dynasties

During the Qin and Han dynasties, changes in the style of dress were dramatic. The Emperor Qin, who was influenced by the concept of Yin and Yang as well as the theory of the Five Elements, believed that the Qin dynasty would subdue the Zhou dynasty like water extinguishes fire. Therefore, because the Zhou dynasty was "fire superior to gold, its color being red," the favorite color of the Qin dynasty was black, since the color black was associated with water. Thus, in the Qin dynasty, black was the superior color to symbolize the power of water, so clothing and adornments were all of the color black.

Tang Dynasty

Tang Dynasty was the most thriving, prosperous, splendid, and glorious period of ancient Chinese culture and art. The style of women's clothing during the Tang dynasty is the most outstanding in China's history. Tang dynasty attire had many different styles, and was ever changing, which enabled the look of the Tang dynasty style to remain elegant, noble and poised, and forever unique and amazing. The costumes of the Tang dynasty are like exotic flowers in Chinese history. The quality of the material was particularly fine and delicate, and the decorations lustrous.

Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty clothing can be divided into three categories of style. One was designed for the empress, the noble concubines, and females of all levels of "government uses"; another style called "formal clothes" was for ordinary people; and one style was casual for daily use.

Yuan Dynasty
In the Yuan dynasty, "Zhi Sun dresses" were popular. All government officials wore them to attend feasts inside the palace. Musicians and bodyguards also wore them. This kind of clothing was worn by all classes of people, and could be made from materials of varying weight and quality.

Ming Dynasty

The Ming Dynasty female upper clothes were three collars with narrow sleeves. The body height was over three feet, revealing the skirt only two to three inches, the so-called "Flower hat, skirt clothes with big sleeves and round collars". The skirt installs often used light colored fabrics in early Ming Dynasty. Pleated skirts were extremely popular. The Ming dynasty also had one special kind of cape. Because of its beautiful shape, it was called "pink cloud cape."

Qing Dynasty

Manchurian-style clothing with short narrow sleeves was the popular mode of dress in the Qing dynasty. The style was slender and rectangular in form. The saddle-shaped collar was large enough to cover a person's cheeks and protect the face. The entire garment, which was not lined, was cut straight from top to bottom and did not have a waist. The box-like look of Qing dynasty clothing presented a solemn, slightly arrogant image that commanded respect. It was quite unique.


As an important part of ancient Chinese culture, ancient attire embodied the harmonious relationship between people and nature. In fact, ancient people's way of thinking--that man is an integral part of nature--was based on their faith in God and their adherence to high moral standards. And it was exactly because of their kindness and gracious morality that God bestowed wisdom and magnificence on them, enabling them to develop a glorious life style and living environment.

The costumes of the different dynasties all had their own distinctive features and appeared to have no close connection to each other. They represented the culture of the different dynasties and the wisdom that humans were endowed with during the different time periods. The attire of each dynasty vividly reflected and represented the life style, social status, ideology, and mentality of that time. This could be a result of the different characteristics that each dynasty possessed, as people of different dynasties came from different heavenly kingdoms.

While pondering these beautiful, fascinating wardrobes of the ancients, one feels a part of their past, and it is easy to realize the broad and profound inner nature of Chinese people.

About the Author:

Ryan Tang writes on Chinese culture. For a vivid experience on Chinese culture, watch for NTD TV's shows Chinese New Year Spectacular ( and ) coming to your region in January through March 2007