Hanfu-led “China-chic” Trend Builds on Cultural Confidence

Women present Hanfu, a type of traditional Chinese style garment, in Ciqikou ancient town, southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, Oct. 2, 2022. (Xinhua/Tang Yi)

BEIJING, Feb. 27 (by Xinhua writer Hong Zehua) — Dressed in long robes, a crowd of young people wanders around pavilions and royal gardens, with their flowing sleeves and heavily embroidered skirts gently swaying in the breeze. They are not actors nor actresses in a movie set, but Hanfu enthusiasts in a themed event held in Beijing.

“Over a decade ago, Hanfu fashion was an obscure subculture, but relevant activities nowadays often draw thousands of participants,” said Liu Xiang, an organizer of the event.

Hanfu enthusiast Liu Xiang wearing a full attire Hanfu at the Beijing World Flower Wonderland Park in Beijing, the capital of China. (Provided to Xinhua)

Benefiting from the growing popularity of social media and a craze for traditional culture, Hanfu, a traditional style of clothing worn by the Han people, was brought back to the forefront by a new wave of young Chinese devotees, including Liu.

The 1980s-born rocket scientist Liu is also a co-founder of a Hanfu community in Beijing called “Hua Yan Hui.”

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The community was founded in 2011 following a Hanfu revival movement that emerged from the desire to express national identity and growing cultural confidence. Since then, Liu has been volunteering to support the group.

A volunteer wearing Hanfu, participates in a parade launched at the Piazza San Marco during the Venice Carnival in Venice, Italy, Feb. 17, 2023. (Confucius Institute at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice/Handout via Xinhua)

“My passion for Hanfu came from two of my friends who are fans of traditional Chinese clothing,” Liu said. Her interest grew as she learned more about the culture behind it and acquired her first Hanfu costume.

At first, people dressed in Hanfu in public were occasionally greeted with derision, while more passersby asked about their clothing style, said Liu.

But, more young people wear adapted Hanfu as they believe the best way to preserve tradition is to adapt it to modern life.

Yang Kunning was born in the 1990s and works in the public relations sector. She is fond of sharing her love for Hanfu online. She opened an account on the video-sharing platform Bilibili and posted videos featuring herself wearing Hanfu attire.

Thousands of comments and likes pour in on her channel as viewers find her videos attractive and creative — blending traditional culture with modern dance movements.

“Social media has made Hanfu culture popular in China and abroad,” said Liu. “Traditional culture has no national or ethnic boundaries,” she added.

Fans of Hanfu pose for photos at Xiliuhu Park in Zhengzhou, central China’s Henan Province, Aug. 3, 2022. (Xinhua/Li Jianan)

Savvy companies and factories also smell the massive potential in Hanfu-related industries.

Caoxian County, Heze City, east China’s Shandong Province, is one of the major Hanfu manufacturing centers, gathering over 2,000 upstream and downstream enterprises and creating jobs for nearly 100,000 people. Over 600 clothing processing companies have their own designs with intellectual property rights.

In addition to domestic clients, a bevy of companies in Caoxian reported a surge in foreign orders this year.

Yang has a collection of around 30 sets of Hanfu attire for different seasons and occasions. She said customers now have many choices when selecting Hanfu, ranging from economical to high-end collections.

The Hanfu market in China was estimated to reach 12.54 billion yuan (about 1.81 billion U.S. dollars) in 2022 and will likely rise to 19.11 billion yuan in 2025, according to research firm iMedia Research.

Hanfu enthusiast Yang Kunning wearing a full attire of Hanfu at Beihai Park in Beijing, capital of China. (Xinhua)

Yang’s cousin Lu Siqing, who works in a consulting agency, said: “my work requires me to keep up with the newest changes in the market, and my experiences with Hanfu culture and related business help me better understand the consumers’ mindset.”

As China further optimized its COVID prevention and control measures, the recovery of the cultural and tourism industry has seen a quick rebound. Yang said she looked forward to participating in more offline Hanfu-themed events this year in Beijing.

“It will be a rewarding experience for Hanfu lovers like me to hold events in the Forbidden City and other historical palaces in the capital city,” said Yang.