Culture And Clothing Of Ancient China

by Christopher Schwebius - Date: 2008-08-23 - Word Count: 561 Share This!

China, a fast developing nation of today has a history dating over 5000 years. These 5000 years can be found in ancient scriptures. In fact, Ancient China was one of the most cosmopolitan civilizations. This is evident from the various components that make up its culture. A rich culture was depicted in the ancient Chinese clothing and dresses.

As a nation, it is more of a conglomerate of varied tribes over many years.
According to history, China became unified under one large empire in 221 B C. The Chinese civilization was always an advanced one. Even in ancient times, the daily routine comprised of the livelihood tasks of pottery, baking and farming with silk making. In fact most of the ancient Chinese clothing for the elite was made of silk! Over the centuries these routine interests turned into the quest for science and philosophy.

Since the culture was quite rich, there was a distinctive language that developed. Though presently there are up to 12 regional groups of language, Chinese was the language that was spoken in ancient China right from the Han dynasty.
The people of ancient China believe in the mandate of heaven. They worshipped many different gods, including weather and sky gods along with a higher god who ruled all other gods known as Shang Ti. Chinese as a race, worship their ancestors believing that when these died, they became gods too.

Such was the prevailing situation in the ancient Chinese civilization. The effect was also seen on the ancient Chinese clothing of the common man. Correct attire was regarded as the ultimate expression of Chinese culture and identity, differentiating them from 'inferior' foreign neighbors while making social and gender distinctions within their society. The ancient Chinese clothing had specific cultural meaning, with properly attired bodies reflecting order and control and unadorned bodies and feet serving as visible signs of disorder and dangerous nonconformity with the individual risking association to barbarian outsiders.

During the Sui Dynasty in the 500 AD, the emperor declared that only the rich people could wear colors while the poor people had to be dressed in blue or black. Later on this changed completely but the rule of being properly attired to show stability in a personality prevailed. It was a true case of clothes maketh the man.

Apart from the type of robes in the ancient Chinese clothing , the symbols denoted on them is an equally important indicator of the wearer's social standing. Symbolism denotes social standing, moral messages, and also told historical and legendary stories.
The symbols on ancient Chinese robes indicate the status of the individual who had worn the garment. For example, the number of dragons on a robe indicates a higher or lower official of the imperial court.
There are some typical symbols that one will find on ancient Chinese clothing.
The Sun, the Moon, and the Constellation, The Rock or the Mountain, The Fu, The Dragon, The Axe-head, The Flowery Creature, The Water Plant, The Sacrificial Vessel, The Flames, The Grain, Crane, Geometric Patterns, Bats, Butterfly and Water Motif. All these twelve imperial motifs signify various things. Only an emperor could wear robes with all twelve symbols. A higher official could wear clothes with a maximum of eight symbols.
The work was so spectacular that it is a good thing that these restrictions are no longer in force in today's day and age.

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Christopher Schwebius is an entrepreneur who seeks out sharply defined, specifically focused topics to research. Upon finishing his research he provides relevant, un-biased information to his readers based on his discoveries and/or personal experiences. One of his latest ongoing projects can be viewed at

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