Han Dynasty clothing refers to the hat and clothing system of the Han Dynasty. After the strict governance of the Qin Dynasty, Liu Bang, who rose to power from a common background, aimed to give the people a break and did not make significant changes to the general systems, including the clothing system, which largely followed the Qin Dynasty. It wasn't until the second year of Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty's Yongping era (59 AD) that a formal and comprehensive regulation was established.

Hanfu in Social Hierarchy 

The hierarchical status of clothing during the Han Dynasty was primarily reflected through hats and ceremonial sashes. Different official ranks had different hats. Therefore, the hat system was particularly complex, with as many as 16 types.

There were also strict regulations for shoes during the Han Dynasty. Ritual attire required wearing flat shoes (xu), court attire required wearing (lü) shoes, and outdoor attire required wearing sandals (ji). When women got married, they were supposed to wear wooden clogs, which were painted and tied with colorful ribbons.

Historical Evolution

During the early period of Emperor Gaozu of Han, Liu Bang himself had a limited understanding of the symbolic role of clothing. He once used the high hat of Confucian scholars as a chamber pot. Later, upon the persuasion of Shusun Tong, he asked Shusun Tong to establish ceremonial rites. The black ceremonial robes of the Qin Dynasty were adopted for sacrificial ceremonies, but there were no strict rules for general clothing.

After about 70 years of economic recovery, during the reign of Emperor Wen of Han, the national strength had become abundant. However, Emperor Wen only wore "弋绨yì tí、革舄gé xì、赤带crimson belt". The queen's skirt did not touch the ground, emphasizing frugality. During Emperor Wen's 23-year reign, the economy further prospered, leading to the "Wenjing" era. Due to economic development and prosperity, the clothing culture gradually shifted from frugality to luxury.

The continuous growth in textile production and the introduction of luxurious items such as pearls, ivory, amber, and tortoiseshell through silk exports stimulated an increase in the standard of dress and living. The attire of the wealthy in the capital surpassed the royal standards, with fabrics like brocade, embroidery, and other luxurious silks, originally reserved for the empresses, becoming common among wealthy merchants and guests. This was viewed as a blurring of social hierarchy by Confucian scholars. Therefore, Confucian scholar Jia Yi advised Emperor Wen to establish a clothing system based on Confucian traditional thoughts, but Emperor Wen did not implement it.

It was not until the seventh year of Emperor Wu of Han's Yuanfeng era (104 BC) that he decided to correct the lunar calendar and change the clothing colors to yellow to signify being appointed by heaven.

In the second year of Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty's Yongping era (59 AD), a decree was issued to adopt the "Zhou Guan," "Li Ji," and "Shang Shu·Gao Tao Pian" for ceremonial vehicles, with the court officials following the Xiahou clan's suggestions. This marked the beginning of the comprehensive implementation of Confucian clothing and ceremonial systems in China. The ceremonial attire system of Emperor Ming included hats, clothing, shoes, and sashes. 

Type of Clothing

The main types of clothing during the Han Dynasty included robes, straight single-layered garments (shenyi), short jackets (ru), and skirts. Due to the advanced textile and embroidery industries during the Han Dynasty, wealthy families could wear beautiful clothes made of silk and satin. Ordinary people wore short jackets and long trousers, while the poor wore coarse cloth short jackets. Han women wore both two-piece dresses and long robes, and there were various styles of skirts, with the most famous being the 留仙裙 (liú xiān qún).

Straight Hem or Curved Hem?

During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, clothing largely followed the Shang Dynasty's style but with slight modifications. The style was slightly looser than that of the Shang Dynasty. They were usually tied at the waist, with some adorned with jade ornaments. There were mainly two types of belts: one made of silk, called "da dai" or "shen dai"; the other made of leather, called "ge dai."

Curved hem robes appeared, distinguishing themselves from straight-hem clothing by having a continuous lapel. This changed the traditional method of having a slit at the hem, with the left lapel extended and wrapped around the back, secured with a belt. 

Clothing during the Han Dynasty could be divided into curved hems and straight hems. Curved hem, popular during the Warring States period, was still used in the early Western Han Dynasty but became less common during the Eastern Han.

Generally, men wore straight-hemmed clothing, which was not suitable as formal ceremonial attire. During the Qin and Han periods, curved hem clothing was not only worn by men but also the most common style for women.  Multiple layers of clothing were worn, with each layer's collar visible, sometimes reaching up to three layers.

March 29, 2024

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.