Exploring the Cultural Significance of Hanfu, Hanbok, and Kimono

Traditional clothing has always been an important aspect of cultural identity and heritage. Many countries around the world have their unique clothing styles, and East Asia is no exception. Hanfu, Hanbok, and Kimono are three traditional clothing styles from China, Korea, and Japan, respectively. In this blog post, we will explore the similarities and differences between these clothing styles and appreciate the cultural significance behind them.


According to historical records, Hanfu has a rich history that dates back over 4,000 years. Legend has it that the consort of the Yellow Emperor, Leizu, was the first to make clothes using silk, which eventually became an integral part of Hanfu's design and construction. Hanfu consists of a top (ruyi) and a skirt (ruqun) for women, and a robe (changpao) for men. Additionally, a range of accessories, including headwear, footwear, belts, jewelry, yupei, and handheld fans, complement the ensemble. 

Hanfu is known for its loose, flowing lines and is often made from silk. Hanfu also has variations for different occasions and social statuses. Hanfu is a representation of the rich history, elegance, and wide-ranging temperament of the Chinese people. It embodies the cultural values of harmony with nature, while also showcasing the diverse creativity of Chinese culture. Furthermore, Hanfu reflects traditional Chinese customs, including respect for social order, and provides insight into the unique customs and traditions of China.


The hanbok is believed to have been created during the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 BCE-668 CE) and was worn in various materials and styles by everyone. It was initially designed to allow wearers to move freely. The hanbok has been an important part of Korean culture for centuries. The Korean Peninsula has been influenced by the Scythian culture, a nomadic group from the Scythia region of Eurasia since ancient times. This influence led to the hanbok being divided into two separate parts - the top and bottom. The basic structure of the hanbok has remained the same, but changes in culture, beauty standards, and historical periods have resulted in modifications in design and structure. The hanbok worn by Koreans today is most similar to the hanbok from the mid to late Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), with tight tops and looser bottoms.

Like other clothing styles in various cultures, the hanbok has undergone numerous alterations based on current trends. In the process, neighboring countries like China and Japan have influenced each other. During the Joseon Dynasty, studying abroad was highly valued, and royal and official garments incorporated elements from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), while the clothing's patterns and details reflected traditional Korean style and grace. 


Originally, the Japanese word "kimono" referred to clothing in general. However, in recent years, it has been used specifically to describe traditional Japanese clothing. The kimono we know today took shape during the Heian period, which lasted from 794 to 1185. Throughout ancient times and the Nara period, which spanned from 710 to 794, Japanese people commonly wore ensembles consisting of separate upper and lower garments, such as trousers or skirts, or one-piece garments.

Kimono consists of a T-shaped robe (kosode) and a wide belt (obi) tied around the waist. Kimono is known for its elaborate patterns and designs, and the fabric used is often silk or other high-quality materials. Kimono also has variations for different occasions, such as formal or casual wear. Kimono represents the refined and elegant aesthetic of Japanese culture and reflects the value placed on simplicity, harmony, and respect.

Similarities Between Hanfu, Hanbok, and Kimono:

Despite the differences, there are some similarities between these traditional clothing styles.

  • All three styles have a long history and cultural significance in their respective countries.
  • They are often made from high-quality materials such as silk and require a lot of time and effort to make.
  • Each style has variations for different occasions and social statuses, such as a wedding or other formal events.
  • Additionally, all three styles represent the unique culture and history of their respective countries.

Differences Between Hanfu, Hanbok, and Kimono: 

There are also some notable differences between these traditional clothing styles.

  • Construction: Hanfu and Hanbok are made up of separate top and bottom pieces, while Kimono is a one-piece garment.
  • Silhouette: Hanfu and Hanbok feature loose, flowing lines, while Kimono has a more structured silhouette.
  • Sleeves: Hanfu sleeves are wide and long, while Hanbok sleeves are typically shorter and fuller. Kimono sleeves are wide and can vary in length.
  • Patterns: Hanfu and Hanbok feature intricate embroidery and patterns, while Kimono features more simplistic patterns or designs.
  • Fastening: Hanfu is typically fastened with a waistband or sash, while hanbok has a long ribbon-like sash called an otgoreum, and kimono has a wide, contrasting sash called an obi.

Why is Cultural Appreciation Important?

Cultural appreciation is important for several reasons.

Firstly, it promotes diversity and understanding among different cultures, fostering mutual respect and tolerance. It allows us to learn about and appreciate the unique customs, traditions, and beliefs of others. This, in turn, can help to break down stereotypes and prejudices and promote social harmony.

Secondly, cultural appreciation can enrich our own lives by introducing us to new ideas, perspectives, and experiences. It can broaden our horizons and challenge our assumptions, helping us to become more open-minded and empathetic.

Lastly, cultural appreciation can help to preserve and protect cultural heritage. By recognizing the value and significance of cultural practices and artifacts, we can work to ensure that they are not lost or forgotten over time. This can help to promote cultural diversity and ensure that future generations have access to the richness and complexity of the world's cultures.

By appreciating and learning about these traditional clothing styles, we can better understand and appreciate the cultural heritage and identity of these countries. 

March 09, 2023 — Shi Ting Ang

The Real Mulan: The Fearless Princess Pingyang Who Helped Establish the Tang Dynasty

Meet Princess Pingyang, a fearless woman who lived during the tumultuous times of ancient China. Born in the 590s to Li Yuan, the founding emperor of the Tang Dynasty, she was destined for greatness. When her father planned to rebel against the tyrannical Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty, Pingyang fearlessly answered his call, defying all odds.

With her husband hesitant to join her, Pingyang made a bold decision and went alone, confident that her gender would offer her some protection. And boy, was she right! She quickly rallied hundreds of men, distributing her wealth among them and earning their unwavering loyalty. With her army of rebels growing, Pingyang led the charge, capturing cities left and right, and soon had a force of over 70,000 men!

Her father was impressed by her military genius and granted her the coveted title of General, and the nickname "Army of the Lady". The following year, they successfully overthrew the Sui Dynasty, and Li Yuan established the Tang Dynasty, crowning himself Emperor Gaozu, with Princess Pingyang by his side.

Sadly, Princess Pingyang died a few years later, but her father ensured that her contributions would never be forgotten. When the Ministry of Rites refused to grant her a grand military funeral, citing that it was not suitable for a woman, Emperor Gaozu vehemently disagreed. He reminded them of her valiant efforts in helping establish the Tang Dynasty and how she had played a critical role in their victory. "She was no ordinary woman," he said, and ordered her a grand military funeral fit for a hero.

Truly, Princess Pingyang was a force to be reckoned with, a brave and brilliant leader who defied expectations and paved the way for future generations of women.

March 08, 2023 — Shi Ting Ang

Discovering the Beauty and Virtues of Chinese Flower Goddesses: April - June

April Flower Peony

In traditional Chinese culture, each month is represented by a flower, and the Peony is the magnificent flower that represents the month of April. Known as the King of Flowers, the Peony is a symbol of wealth, prosperity, and honor.

First used as a valuable medicine in ancient times, the Peony was later cultivated in large scale by people in Northern and Southern Dynasties, and eventually introduced to royals in the Sui Dynasty. However, it was in the Tang Dynasty where the Peony truly flourished.

During the prosperous Tang Empire, Peony flowers were cultivated everywhere, from royal palaces to civilians' gardens. Its glossy, large, colorful, and fragrant blooms were widely praised and portrayed, becoming a representative of the flourishing Tang Dynasty.

Peony art, including poems, paintings, artworks, cosmetics, peony pattern jewelry, and decorations, all flourished during this period as well. It's no surprise that the Peony became one of the most popular flowers in China and is still highly regarded today.

The stunning beauty and rich history of the Peony have made it a prominent figure in Chinese culture, and the Flower Goddess of April. Its vibrant colors and elegant form have inspired art and literature for centuries, and it continues to symbolize glory, wealth, and prosperity in modern times.

May Flower Pomegranate 

May Flower Pomegranate Blossom Flower of Commitment, Maturity, and Wealth

Pomegranate Blossom, the Flower of May, is an important cultural symbol in China, representing commitment, maturity, and wealth.

Believed to have been introduced to the Han Dynasty through the Silk Road, the Pomegranate flower was initially cultivated in the royal gardens. Its beauty and unique shape were soon noticed, and it became a symbol of feminine grace and beauty. The flower's red petals resemble a beautiful skirt, and it inspired the creation of a popular type of women's dress named Shiliu Qun.

As the Pomegranate flower gained popularity, it also became associated with traditional Chinese weddings. The flower's abundant seeds symbolize fertility and prosperity, making it a popular choice for wedding decorations.

With its rich cultural significance, the Pomegranate flower has become an essential element of Chinese art and literature. It is often featured in paintings, poems, and other forms of art, highlighting its importance in Chinese culture.

In summary, the Pomegranate Blossom is a unique and fascinating flower that embodies the values of commitment, maturity, and wealth. Its beauty and cultural significance have made it a beloved part of Chinese history and tradition.

June Flower Lotus

Lotus, the Flower of June, is a beloved and revered flower in Chinese culture. It symbolizes elegance, harmony, purity, and grace, and its name has a similar pronunciation as the Chinese word for "Harmony".

Lotus flowers grow from the mud and silt at the bottom of a pond or river, but they remain pure and beautiful, making them a powerful symbol of resilience and inner strength. They have been documented and cultivated in China since at least the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC — 256 BC), and have been widely used in traditional Chinese medicine, food, artworks, and cosmetics.

Lotus flowers are also deeply associated with Taoism and Buddhism, two of the major religions in China. In Taoism, the Lotus Crown was once a popular hair ornament during the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907). The flower's symbolism of purity and inner strength also resonates with Buddhist teachings, where it represents the path to enlightenment.

Whether admired for its beauty, spiritual significance, or practical uses, the lotus is a beloved and enduring symbol in Chinese culture.

March 01, 2023 — Shi Ting Ang

Exploring the Mythological Fairies of Ancient China: Five Famous Folklore Figures

There are several mythological fairies in ancient Chinese folklore, but here are four well-known ones:

  1. Zhinü: Also known as the "Weaving Maid" or "Vega," Zhinü is a fairy who falls in love with a mortal cowherd named Niulang. They marry and have children, but are separated by the goddess of heaven because their love is forbidden. However, they are allowed to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month when magpies form a bridge over the Milky Way for them to cross.

  2. Xiwangmu: Also known as the "Queen Mother of the West," Xiwangmu is a powerful fairy who rules over the mystical Kunlun Mountains in western China. She is associated with immortality, longevity, and healing, and is often depicted holding a peach of immortality.

  3. Nuwa: Nuwa is a goddess who is often depicted as a half-human, half-snake figure. She is credited with creating humans and repairing the sky after a great disaster. Nuwa is associated with fertility, creation, and the balance of yin and yang.

  4. Bai Mudan: Also known as the "White Peony Fairy," Bai Mudan is a beautiful fairy who is said to have the power to bring happiness and good fortune to those who see her. She is often depicted holding a white peony, which is a symbol of love and romance.

  5. Chang'e: Chang'e is a fairy who is associated with the moon. She is said to have drunk an elixir of immortality and floated up to the moon, where she lives with her pet rabbit. She is often depicted holding a moon-shaped object or standing on a crescent moon.

These fairy figures have played important roles in Chinese mythology and are still celebrated and honored today in various festivals and traditions.

Discovering the Beauty and Virtues of Chinese Flower Goddesses: January - March

January Flower Plum Blossom

The plum blossom, also known as the flower of January, holds a significant place in Chinese culture. It symbolizes strength, nobility, and modesty, making it one of the most revered flowers in Chinese art and literature.

The beauty of the plum blossom lies in the fact that it blooms in the harshest of winter conditions. Its resilience and perseverance have made it a symbol of courage and strength. The flower is also known as the flower of Five Blessings, as its five petals represent happiness, wealth, longevity, peace, and success.

The use of plum blossoms in Chinese culture dates back more than 3,200 years. Initially, it was used for flavoring food and as a sacrificial offering. Later, it became an essential ingredient in cosmetics, herbal medicine, and as an ornamental flower.

During the Tang and Song dynasties, the beauty and virtues of the plum blossom gained the admiration of scholars and artists. They developed a whole ornamental theory around the flower, appreciating its place, time, shape, and activities.

Plum blossom, together with orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum, formed the “Four Gentlemen” or “Four Noble Ones” in Chinese art, with each flower representing different virtues and highly valued characteristics.

Today, the plum blossom continues to be highly revered in Chinese culture, with its beauty and significance reflected in poems and artwork. It is a popular decorative pattern in Chinese people's daily lives, serving as a reminder of the flower's virtues and resilience in the face of adversity.

February Flower Apricot Blossom

The apricot blossom, also known as the flower of February, holds a significant place in Chinese culture. In Chinese, the word for apricot blossom sounds similar to the word for "lucky," making it a symbol of good fortune and blessings.

The blooming of the apricot blossom signifies the arrival of spring, bringing with it a sense of hope and renewal. This delicate flower has been a part of Chinese culture for over 3000 years and has been used in a variety of ways, from being used as food to being used in sacrificial offerings, herbal medicine, and cosmetics.

The apricot blossom is a thing of beauty, with its light red or pink petals tinged in pure white, symbolizing purity, artsy, and beauty. This flower has captured the imagination of Chinese artists and poets for centuries, who have used it as a source of inspiration for their work.

In Chinese art, the apricot blossom is often depicted alongside other symbols of good fortune, such as the phoenix and dragon, signifying prosperity and success. The flower has also been incorporated into decorative patterns, adding a touch of elegance and grace to Chinese textiles and pottery.

Today, the apricot blossom continues to be highly regarded in Chinese culture, serving as a symbol of luck and fortune. It is a reminder of the beauty and fragility of life, and the hope and renewal that comes with the arrival of spring.

March Flower Peach Blossom

The Peach Blossom, also known as the Flower of March, is a beloved symbol in both mystical and secular worlds of Chinese culture. In ancient mythology, the goddess Xiwangmu was said to have peach tree forests around her palace on Mount Kunlun. Legend has it that when King Mu of Zhou and Emperor Wu of Han visited her, she awarded them peaches from these magic trees, which were said to grant immortality.

In Chinese culture, the peach tree is associated with longevity, as the fruit is believed to have health-giving properties. As such, the peach blossom has also become a symbol of long life, good health, and vitality.

Aside from its association with immortality and longevity, the peach blossom has also been associated with love and romance since the Zhou Dynasty. Peach trees are productive, and peach blossoms are stunningly beautiful, making them a fitting symbol for the joy and beauty of love.

In Chinese art and literature, the peach blossom is often used to represent romantic love and married bliss. It is frequently used as a decorative pattern in traditional Chinese paintings and textiles, adding a touch of elegance and grace to any piece.

Today, the peach blossom remains a cherished symbol in Chinese culture, representing longevity, love, and romance. Its beauty and vitality continue to inspire artists and poets, serving as a reminder of the joys and pleasures of life.

Why Some Chinese People Choose to Wear Hanfu: A Look at the Reasons Behind the Trend

The practice of wearing hanfu, traditional clothing that originated in ancient China, has gained popularity in recent years among some Chinese people. There are several reasons why people choose to wear hanfu:

  1. Cultural pride: Wearing hanfu can be a way for people to express their pride in Chinese culture and history. Hanfu is seen as a symbol of the country's rich cultural heritage, and wearing it can help connect people to their roots.

  2. Aesthetics: Many people find hanfu to be beautiful and elegant, and enjoy the way it looks and feels. Some people choose to wear hanfu for special occasions, such as weddings or festivals because it is seen as more formal and traditional than modern clothing.

  3. Sense of identity: Some wearers see hanfu as a way to distinguish themselves from others and assert their individuality. In a world where many people dress in similar styles, wearing hanfu can be a way to stand out and express oneself.

  4. Historical reenactment: For some, wearing hanfu is a way to participate in historical reenactments or cosplay events. These individuals may be interested in the history and culture of ancient China and want to immerse themselves in that world.

Overall, the decision to wear hanfu is a personal one that is influenced by a variety of factors, including cultural identity, aesthetic preferences, and personal interests.

8 Ways the Tang Dynasty Mirrors the Modern World

Here are 8 interesting facts about the Tang Dynasty and how they compare to the modern world:

  1. The Tang Dynasty was one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse periods in Chinese history, with a multicultural society that included people from Central Asia, Korea, Japan, and the Middle East. This diversity is reminiscent of the modern world's global interconnectedness and cultural exchange.

  2. The Tang Dynasty was a golden age of poetry and literature, with famous writers such as Li Bai and Du Fu. Poetry and literature continue to be celebrated and cherished in the modern world.

  3. Women in the Tang Dynasty had more freedom and rights than in many other periods of Chinese history. They were allowed to own property and businesses, and some even became influential politicians and leaders. This is reminiscent of the modern world's ongoing fight for women's rights and gender equality.

  4. The Tang Dynasty was known for its thriving economy and international trade, with merchants and goods traveling along the famous Silk Road. Today's global economy and trade continue to connect people and cultures across the world.

  5. The Tang Dynasty was famous for its elaborate court rituals and ceremonies, which were attended by dignitaries and ambassadors from around the world. This is similar to the modern world's diplomatic protocols and ceremonies.

  6. The Tang Dynasty was known for its fashion and beauty, with women wearing elaborate hairstyles and makeup. The fashion and beauty industry continues to be a significant part of the modern world.

  7. The Tang Dynasty was home to one of the world's largest cities at the time, Chang'an (modern-day Xi'an). Today, cities around the world continue to grow and urbanize at a rapid pace.

  8. The Tang Dynasty was known for its patronage of the arts and culture, with emperors and wealthy patrons commissioning and supporting artists and performers. This is similar to the modern world's continued support of the arts and cultural institutions through government funding and private donations.

In conclusion, the Tang Dynasty was a vibrant and diverse period in Chinese history that left a lasting impact on the world. In many ways, the Tang Dynasty foreshadowed the globalized, diverse, and rapidly changing world that we live in today. While there are certainly differences between the Tang Dynasty and the modern world, there are also many similarities that highlight the shared human experiences and values that have persisted throughout history.
February 25, 2023 — Shi Ting Ang

Exploring the Similarities and Differences Between Ming Dynasty Hanfu and French Fashion of the 16th Century

The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in China and 16th-century France were two distinct periods in fashion history, with unique styles and cultural influences. While there may be some similarities in terms of general fashion trends, there were also significant differences in terms of materials, silhouettes, and cultural significance.


  1. Emphasis on voluminous sleeves: Both Ming Dynasty Hanfu and French fashion in the 16th century placed a great emphasis on voluminous sleeves. In Ming Dynasty Hanfu, wide sleeves were popular among both men and women and were often decorated with intricate embroidery or other embellishments. Similarly, French fashion of the time featured sleeves with exaggerated proportions, such as the famous "puff" sleeves popularized during the reign of King Henry IV.

  2. Use of rich fabrics: Both Ming Dynasty Hanfu and French fashion of the 16th century used rich, luxurious fabrics to create elaborate garments. In China, silk was the primary fabric used for clothing, while in France, silk, velvet, and brocade were popular choices.

  3. Importance of color: Both Ming Dynasty Hanfu and French fashion of the 16th century placed a great emphasis on color. Bright, bold hues were favored, and garments often featured intricate patterns and designs.


  1. Silhouettes: The silhouettes of Ming Dynasty Hanfu and French fashion of the 16th century were quite different. In China, Hanfu featured loose, flowing garments that emphasized the natural shape of the body. In contrast, French fashion of the time emphasized a more structured silhouette, with tightly fitted bodices and voluminous skirts.

  2. Cultural significance: Ming Dynasty Hanfu was deeply rooted in Chinese culture and tradition, and garments often reflected social status and hierarchy. French fashion of the 16th century, on the other hand, was more closely tied to European courtly culture and was often used as a means of displaying wealth and status.

  3. Accessories: Accessories played a significant role in the French fashion of the 16th century, with items such as hats, gloves, and jewelry being used to complete a look. Ming Dynasty Hanfu, on the other hand, placed less emphasis on accessories and instead focused on the beauty of the garment itself.

  4. Embellishments: While both Ming Dynasty Hanfu and French fashion of the 16th century featured elaborate embellishments, the types of embellishments used differed significantly. Ming Dynasty Hanfu often featured intricate embroidery and other forms of needlework, while French fashion of the time favored ornate beading, lace, and other decorative elements.

In conclusion, while there may be some similarities between Ming Dynasty Hanfu and French fashion of the 16th century, the two styles were ultimately quite different in terms of cultural influences, materials, and silhouettes.

Image taken from: Jean Bourdichon (French, 1457-1521). The Wealthy Man, 1500-10. Paris: École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Source: Wikipedia

February 24, 2023 — Shi Ting Ang

Wedding Dresses of Different Dynasties

Zhou Dynasty
In Zhou Dynasty, black was called onyx which represented the color of heaven. Therefore, black wedding dresses are considered very noble at that time. An excerpt found in the "Book of Rites, Suburban Special Sacrifice" stated that Zhou Dynasty weddings were low-key and held in a private manner. No gongs, no drums, or music were heard and the wedding was typically held in the evenings.
Wei-Jin Dynasties
White wedding dresses can be backtracked to as early as the Wei-Jin Dynasties. During this period, ancient Chinese believed that white is pure, simple, and unpretentious. White corresponded to gold out of the five elements of gold, wood, water, fire, and earth, which happens to align with Jin Dynasty implementation of the Jinde system. Therefore, the emperors of the Jin Dynasty wore white gauze hats. The princes also wore white silk dresses when they got married. More information can be found on the "Book of Jin". Another reason is that during the Wei, Jin, Southern, and Northern Dynasties, wars were rampant, and people generally despaired of reality, began to focus on carpe diem in time, or pursue the illusory Taoist metaphysics. Metaphysics is prevalent, and what people are pursuing is "taking nothing as the foundation", returning to the basics, and the flawless white is the best embodiment of this artistic conception.
Sui, Tang, and Song Dynasties
As China gradually stabilized, illusory metaphysics and white wedding dresses gradually withdrew from the stage of history. Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty abolished the nine-rank Zhongzheng system and switched to the imperial examination to select court officials. Thus, men have a clearer goal, and the color red, which represents status and success was popular. Girls in the Tang Dynasty do not wear red when they got married. Their wedding dress was a long turquoise dress. During this period, green clothes and black eyebrows were often used to set standards for a women's gracefulness and beauty. The groom wears a crimson robe. The bride dons a turquoise gown. The boldly contrasting colors add liveliness and festive spirits to the luxurious atmosphere of the Tang Dynasty. Unlike Zhou Dynasty, people living in this period prefer merrier wedding ceremonies. These marriage customs continued into the Song Dynasty. The difference lies in the red sedans, the "ten miles of dowry" for the bride, and the bride using round fans to cover the face instead of the usual red veil.
Ming Dynasty
Reversing the colors found in the previous dynasties, the bride dons a red gown while the groom wears green. People in the Ming Dynasty are very interesting. They believed that a man's marriage to a wife was also an important achievement in life, commonly known as "Little Dengke". Therefore, on the wedding day, even if a man is a commoner, he can make an exception and wear a ninth-rank official uniform, which is in turquoise color. Also in the Ming Dynasty, women can wear phoenix coronets and Xia Pei when they get married. This is the honor of a noble lady, but on the wedding day, even a commoner woman can enjoy it.
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty began to wear red wedding dresses. Moreover, it has the characteristics of traditional Manchu costumes. This combination of Han and Manchu wedding dresses can be relatable to modern Qun Kua.