CONTRAST OF COSTUME
CULTURE BETWEEN CHINA
AND THE WEST
Costume culture, carried by costume, is a respect of our physical and spiritual life and a mixture of our psychological activities like consciousness, emotion, idea and ideal The rapid development of advanced technology makes multiculturalism stand out and conflicts between China and the west increase. In that case, it becomes more and more important to recognize the similarities and differences of costume culture between China and the west,
Logically, China and the west are different——the former is a country while the latter
is a direction. Then, why put so different two concepts together contrasting? The reason is that “the west”is a concept closely related to the costume culture I will share with you in the following context. Western costume culture refers to one that based on the Mediterranean Civilization and one that in the midst of Christian cultural circle having developed since the Middle Age. My aim is to compare this costume culture with that in the Chinese costume culture based on the Yellow River Civilization.
Nowdays, the whole world is, to some extent, dominated by the western costume culture, which has wound its way into the daily life of the whole world , together with technology, life style and values from the west. Quite popular in China, it’
s nominally called “internationalization”or “globalization”. In recent years,
the costume industry of China has developed swiftly. The“international”costume,
featured by the western costume culture, has become a pretty important part of our daily life.
However, as our economy takes off, international status rises and living standard improves, a wave of national costume culture resurgence is in the making. Moreover, people from the west pay more and more attention to the giant dragon in the east——China.
Western costume designers constantly introduce Chinese costume cultural elements to their latest designs. Those phenomena arouse a series of thoughts: what distinguishes Chinese costume culture from the western one? Are there any similarities between them? What kind of costume culture will we Chinese hold as the mainstream in the future, the so-called “international”western one, the Chinese one or the fusion of the two? To obtain the answers to these questions, we are supposed to study and contrast carefully the characteristics and developing processes of them, and then draw some regularities.
To contrast the costume culture between China and the west, above all, we must have a good knowledge of the characteristics of them.
China is known as “Xia”as it’s a land of propriety, and it’s also known
as “Hua”with the beauty of its costume.〔《左传》p83〕Our national costume is Hanfu.
It originated in the Yanhuang era, formed in the Spring and Autumn Period and officially took form in Han Dynasty. That’s the reason why it’s called “Hanfu”.
Since then, in spite of historical evolutions of all ages, their basic
characteristics have never changed. Hanfu, on the whole, can be divided into four developing stages: Zhou Han Hanfu, Wei Jin Hanfu, Sui Tang Hanfu and Song Ming Hanfu.
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Zhou Han Hanfu was featured by dignity and simplicity, while Wei Jin Hanfu by chic and elegance, Sui Tang Hanfu by dignified, graceful, elegant and poised style. Hanfu in Song and Ming Dynasties epitomizes the characteristics of the past---simple, dignified, elegant, etc. in Qing Dynasty, Hanfu was forbidden by the government and disappeared from the land of China.
The main features of Chinese clothing are paying the right collar overlapping part of the Chinese gown, the band deducted hidden, big sleeves, no buttons and using string binding, giving the impression of free and easy flowing. These characteristics are obviously different from those of other ethnic costumes. Hanfu is divided into uniform and common clothing. With strict standards, uniform is dressed on formal occasions while the common clothing, without long sleeves, is very convenient to people’s daily life. What’s more, China is always known as
a nation of clothing and a land of propriety.
A suit, also known as a business suit, comprises a collection of matching
a waistcoatclothing consisting of: a coat；commonly known as a jacket~,
；optional~；USA vest~for men, a pair of trousers；USA pants~, or for women,
a shirt or trousers. A suit is generally accompanied by forment,a shirt and tie or for women, a blouse.
Geographically, developed in a relatively fixed environment, Chinese culture is comparatively unitary and has a distinct individual character. While the western culture, extending across Asia, Africa and Europe, is developed in a broader region. Mutually mixed by many kinds of civilizations and followed by nationalities’
migration, the western culture has a mixing character.
Chinese costume culture is different from the western one in material. Chinese clothing prefers silk, cotton, linen and ko-hemp while the western one tends to use flax, wool, cotton and velvet. The silk is one of the contributions China has made to the world.“We westerners have received too much from the Chinese.”；法
国服装设计师伊夫?圣?洛朗， 中国美术馆举办作品回顾展时的前言， 1985年5月~The
former adopts basting, hand needle and patch while the latter pays more attention to adapting to clothing’s function in sewing craft.
Chinese clothing differs from the western one in design. The Chinese style is decided by the unique Chinese culture and the Oriental body feature. As the curve of we yellow race’s body is not so obvious, and we Chinese are fastidious about self-respect, implicity and the doctrine of the mean, our clothing is a straight overall with wide coat and fat sleeves, which emphasizes plane design. Men’s wear
is a one-piece robe while women’s wear is a short Chinese-style jacket and a long
skirt. The western style is determined by the western aesthetic thought of
and nationalism and the white race’s body structure. Their body curve pragmatism
is pretty sharp. Stressing scientific nature, the western clothing is in keeping with the law of motion. It’s semi-stereoscopic designed with muffs, puckers, etc. Besides; it advocates individuality and physical beauty. Various kinds of designs sharply revealed the body line. Men wear a suit of coat and trousers while women wear a one-piece dress. In a word, Chinese costume culture is a “covering”one
while the western one is a “revealing”one.
Chinese costume is distinguished from the western one in color. Chinese costume has a preference for red, blue, black, white and yellow, which suits our skin color perfectly. While the western one likes light blue, white, black, green, brown and cream. Those strong colors are quite suitable for the white race.
Chinese costume and the western one are different in patterns and ornaments. The former emphasizes color matching, pattern design, the effect of embroidery and the change of the clothing’s front piece, collar, sleeves, buckles and so on.
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Representing the Chinese writers’ ideal spirits, plam blossom, orchid,
ohrysanthemum and pine tree can be commonly seen on Chinese clothing. Among all ornaments, the jade is the most popular one. However, the latter pays more attention to the lace and embroidery of the neck, chest and sleeves. The patterns are mostly regular pomegranate grains and water chestnut lines. Its layout is symmetrical, modeling full and colors gorgeous. The female attire is usually decorated with jewelry like pearls and diamonds. Besides, the hat and gloves are indispensable ornaments. For men, a hat and a walking stick are enough.
They are also different in function. The world will become stable and peaceful immediately Huangdi, Yao and Shun are dressed.；《易经?系辞下》~ From that point,
e Chinese people are we can see the social ethical function of Chinese costume. W
concerned more about its social function of helping to rule a country well than that of keeping warm or decorating. It has a lot to do with ruling a country to regulate the dressing way of the common people. Nevertheless, the westerners pay
more attention to its wealth value and esthetic function.
While there are differences between them, there are also similarities between the Chinese costume culture and the western one.
They have something similar in social function. Primarily clothing is used for keeping warm and decoration. What’s more, clothing has the function of identity. We can recognize from people’s dressing their social classes, occupations, cultural degree, etc. For example, only Roman citizens can wear“Toga”in Rome while “Longpao”can only be dressed
by the emperor in China.
They have something in common in esthetic function. People, especially the female, are dressed to please the persons they love. Besides, during the Middle Ages, the western costume culture were apt to be a“covering”one just like ours, as the Christianity eradicated individuality. Moreover, they both lay emphasis on pragmatism, such as war
costume---they both apply helmet and armor. What’s more, they both have experienced
a changing process from simple to complex and complex to simple.
In conclusion, it’s inevitable to have differences between the Chinese
costume culture and the western one, as they had been developed in a situation almost cutting off from each other before twentieth century. However, they have something in common as well, since they are components of the human culture.
Nowdays, economic globalization, political multi-polarization and cultural diversity co-exist. We are supposed to assimilate the advanced technology and culture. At the same time, we should treasure our own civilization of five thousand years instead of belittling ourselves. It’s of great significance to promote and
develop our unique costume culture. Let’s be confident and make contributions to
realizing the rejuvenation of our Chinese nation and enriching the culture of the whole world.
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