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Hanfu craze takes off amid growing cultural confidence

Xinhua| Updated: July 17, 2023 L M S

At the Panjiayuan antique market in Beijing this weekend, several young ladies in flowing robes embellished with intricate embroidery became the center of attention. They invited passersby to recite ancient Chinese poems, and those who succeeded in the challenge received a lotus flower.

The ladies are hanfu enthusiasts from a club dedicated to promoting the culture of hanfu, a style of clothing traditionally worn by the Han people.

"We hope that more people will come to understand the beauty of hanfu and the culture behind it", said Fu Jiamei, one of the activity's organizers, adding that they took their cues from similar events held recently in cities including Hangzhou, Changsha and Kunming, the latest sign of a growing craze for hanfu among young Chinese people.

Drawn by the gorgeous attire, some passersby took on the challenge this weekend. Among them was a 10-year-old girl named Wang Ziyi, who owned three suits of costume in the style of the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

"I like hanfu because they look fairy-like, and have a distinctive Chinese style," she said.

The passion for traditional clothing has swept across the country in recent years, with bevies of youngsters dressed in hanfu becoming a common sight on the streets in many cities, especially ancient Chinese capitals like Xi'an and Luoyang.

"The growing popularity of hanfu among the young generation arises from their increasing appreciation for traditional Chinese culture and their yearning to wear something uniquely Chinese to assert their cultural identity," said Gao Wenjing, an expert in traditional Chinese garments at the Tsinghua University Art Museum.

Gao said that social media platforms have also served as a driving force to transform the niche hobby into a vast market that reaches the masses.

On the microblogging platform Weibo, the hashtag "Hanfu" had over 7.88 billion views as of Sunday, while on the video-sharing app Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, videos relating to hanfu had been viewed more than 93.4 billion times.

The hanfu market in China was estimated at 12.54 billion yuan (about $1.81 billion) in 2022 and will likely rise to 19.11 billion yuan in 2025, according to research firm iMedia Research.

For many young Chinese people, putting on hanfu serves as a reminder of their cultural heritage and history, and inspires them to delve deeper.

Yan Zimo, a devotee of traditional culture, has visited more than 40 museums in 20 cities, dressed in a different hanfu suit on each visit.

"Wearing hanfu carefully selected according to the themes of the exhibitions, I feel closely connected with the relics and history. It's fantastic," Yan said.

The other reason Yan enjoys wearing hanfu is because the outfits are usually loose and comfortable, allowing her freedom from certain constraints and burdens.

"Hanfu perfectly matches the free and inclusive mindset of today's youth," she added.

Gao believes that many young people come to love hanfu as a result of heightened cultural awareness, while the love for hanfu, in turn, spurs them to learn more about Chinese culture and history. "This is a virtuous cycle," she said.

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