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English>>China Society

Ancient outfit fits out public debate

(China Daily)    15:37, July 02, 2015

Shanghai-based stand-up comedian Zhou Libo, known for his "venomous tongue", has been widely criticized for “vilifying” traditional Chinese culture. The event in question was a TV show, during which Zhou, in a teasing tone, asked some young people wearing hanfu (traditional Chinese clothes worn by ethnic Han people in days of yore), after they had finished a group dance, whether the costumes were Korean in origin and which bathhouse they were coming from.

Once clips of the TV show hit the Internet, Zhou became the target of criticism with some netizens saying his use of language was an insult to the dancers. Some have argued that, Zhou, as a popular TV anchorperson, has exposed his ignorance of Chinese sartorial culture and his prejudice toward lovers and advocates of traditional Chinese culture.

Dugu Yi, a writer born after 1980, has said Zhou has committed "blasphemy" against traditional Chinese culture and lacks even the basic sense of propriety. According to the young writer, hanfu is not a simple garment, but an "incarnation" of traditional Chinese culture. And as a carrier of the Chinese nation's history and quintessence, it represents Chinese people’s spiritual and cultural pursuit. Dugu has suggested Zhou run naked inside the Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site seen as a symbol of China’s traditional culture, in a show of apology and to ease public anger.

Huang Jianxiang, another popular TV anchor, however, argues that Zhou’s unique style of humor is not approved of or understood by all.

Because of his casual style and unique way with words, Zhou has long been an entertaining but controversial TV show host, liked by some and disliked by some. Many would agree that Zhou should not have chosen hanfu as the object of his joke on a show open to wide audiences, because to many it could sound pejorative. But it is open to question whether hanfu is synonymous with traditional Chinese culture, as Dugu claims, or whether disliking the ancient attire is equal to disliking or belittling traditional Chinese culture.

Hanfu is only a style of clothing which Chinese people wore during a specific period in history; as attire it doesn't have much relevance to cultural and moral norms. Assuming our ancestors who designed and perfected hanfu preferred suits, would suits be considered equal to ancient Chinese culture?

Ancient Chinese people created a set of ethical and moral systems laying the philosophical foundation for relationships among different groups, including between monarch and subjects, husband and wife, and parents and children. Benevolence, amity, tolerance and loyalty advocated by our ancestors are important components of traditional Chinese culture and have propelled the Chinese nation through prosperity and adversity, and peace and war for centuries. These are the real cultural treasures our ancestors have passed on to us, and we should make unremitting efforts to pass them on to our offspring.

That more and more Chinese, especially youths, are showing excessive interest in the pursuit of modern technologies and lifestyles while ignoring traditional culture is a disturbing development. That's why so many people have welcomed the authorities' efforts to restore traditional Chinese culture as a subject in school curricula, and so many campaigns have been launched across the country for traditional culture studies.

However, some people simply understand the study into traditional culture as just wearing the same clothes, such as hanfu, that our ancestors did. Hanfu is a dress that suited the sartorial style of a specific period under specific economic and social conditions, and it would be wrong to endow it with too much cultural connotations. Later generations abandoned it because their sartorial preferences changed with the change in time and economic and social conditions.

Therefore, there is no reason to believe that Chinese people either dressed up or dressed down cannot study or advocate traditional Chinese culture.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Ma Xiaochun,Yao Chun)

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