[Video] Redefining daily wear: China's hanfu and neo-Chinese fashion

With over 4,000 years of history, hanfu declined during the Qing dynasty amid Manchu rule and the rising influence of Western fashion trends. While hanfu regained some popularity among youths in the 2000s, it wasn't until the mid-2010s, with increased visibility on social media, in period dramas and through cultural heritage promotion programmes, that it truly thrived.
Ladies dressed in Neo-Chinese clothing in Xiamen, Fujian Province, China. (Screen grab from CCTV)
Ladies dressed in Neo-Chinese clothing in Xiamen, Fujian Province, China. (Screen grab from CCTV)

While hanfu (汉服, the traditional attire worn by Han Chinese people) is well loved for its beautiful design, it can be over the top and difficult to wear in daily life as well. To address these concerns, hanfu designers are infusing traditional elements with modern simplicity. This reinterpretation aligns with the neo-Chinese (新中式 xin zhongshi) fashion trend, which adapts the essence of Chinese culture to fit contemporary lifestyles and aesthetics. 

A growing interest in hanfu and neo-Chinese fashion is driven by many factors, including a return to history and heritage amid rapid modernisation, a desire to reconnect with cultural roots after years of embracing Western trends, and a longing for renewed sense of identity. There are criticisms as well, such as doubts about its lasting appeal as a fashion trend and concerns about Han-ethnocentrism. Nevertheless, hanfu and neo-Chinese clothing have become significant consumer markets, valued at 144.7 billion RMB and 1 billion RMB respectively in 2023.


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