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Will a hanfu craze revive Chinese traditions?
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09:30, September 23, 2009

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Recently, Wang Meng, the honorary vice chairman of the Chinese Writers Association, commented at a culture forum in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province that traditional festivals in China should adapt to the times, and not remain the same as thousands of years ago. He also pointed out that it is over the top and unnecessary for some schools to require students to wear hanfu – traditional Chinese clothing – while reciting the Three Character Classic (san zi jing).

The hanfu craze began around 2003, when a man from Zhengzhou, Henan Province named Wang Letian wore hanfu in public, inspiring others to do the same.

As more and more people comment that traditions and ancient culture are disappearing in this ever-changing world, some scholars have suggested that bringing back traditional clothing might be a good way to link to the old culture.

But could a piece of clothing really bring us back to the ancient age and the culture and atmosphere that went with it?

To me and most of my friends, hanfu are not ordinary pieces of clothing we see everyday on the street. The only time we see them without it seeming odd or bizarre is in period dramas on TV.

Thousands of pupils wearing hanfu reciting the Three Character Classic seems somewhat foreign to me. The language has changed significantly, and without profound knowledge of Chinese history, it can be extremely difficult to understand the easy-to-recite Three Character Classic, no matter what clothing you're wearing. So how can we expect these 10-year-old pupils to revive tradition and culture through their recitation?

Undoubtedly, traditional Chinese clothing, like festivals or etiquette, is a carrier of culture and history. It not only represents the way Chinese people live their lives, but also reflects traditional values.

For instance, a piece of colorful hanfu, which was worn for millennia before the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), can always bring us memories of the grand ancient holidays and celebrations of the Moon Festival and the Spring Festival.

On the other hand, a train station full of thousands of anxious people waiting for a train ticket back to their hometown to visit their long-missed family could also be a reminder of our 5,000 year history. Our ancestors never saw a train, but the heritage lies in the heart, not on the surface.

Admittedly, hanfu are part of traditional Chinese culture, but compared to history and cultural heritage itself, it is only part of the surface, without deep resonance.

To pursue a deeper understanding of Chinese culture is far more important and meaningful than wearing a piece of hanfu to fly kites in the park. The essence of Chinese tradition lies in the culture itself, instead of colorful clothing.

In the age of high technology, a hanfu movement – or rather, a ceremony to commemorate traditional Chinese clothing – is probably no more than a display of a nominal return to the ancients.

Only by learning and appreciating ancient culture can we really understand it, and a piece of clothing will not be of much help in that respect.

Source: Global Times

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