Monday, August 24, 2015

Chinese dress Qipao / Cheongsam


Qipao, the classic dress for Chinese women, combines the elaborate elegance of Chinese tradition with unique elements of style. The high-necked, closed-collar Qipao / Cheongsam, with a loose chest, fitting waist, and the attractive slits, is one of the most versatile costumes in the world. It can be long or short, some with full, medium, short or even no sleeves at all - to suit different occasions, weather and individual tastes.

The Qipao / Cheongsam can display all women's modesty, softness and beauty. Like Chinese women's temperament, the Qipao / Cheongsam is elegant and gentle, its long-standing elegance and serenity makes wearers fascinating. Mature women in Qipao / Cheongsam can display their graceful refined manner. A Qipao / Cheongsam almost varies with a woman's figure.
What serves as a worthy testament to the beauty of the Qipao / Cheongsam is, however, it does not require the wearer to pep up the look with accessories like scarves and belts. Designed to show off the natural softness of the female form, this kind of Chinese fashion also creates the illusion of slender legs. The overall picture: practical, yet sexy.

Because of its particular charm Qipao / Cheongsam is like a wonderful flower in the colorful fashion scene. Another beauty of the Qipao / Cheongsam is that it is made of different materials and can be worn either on casual or formal occasions.

In either case, Chinese dresses Qipao / Cheongsam create an impression of simple and quiet charm, elegance and attraction. With distinctive Chinese features Qipao / Cheongsam enjoys a growing popularity in the international world of high fashion.

The name

In Northern China, e.g. Beijing, the term "Qipao" is popular - for the term's origin please have a look at the history of Qipao. In Southern regions the Qipao is also known as "Cheongsam". Cheongsam means "long dress", entered the English vocabulary from the dialect of China's Guangdong Province (Cantonese).

Friday, July 17, 2015

Tang Dynasty enchantress Yangin in cinemas in July

Fan Bingbing plays the Tang Dynasty concubine Yang Yuhuan in Lady of the Dynasty, a new movie. [Photo/China Daily]
Yang Yuhuan, a Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) concubine, famed for her good looks and the attention she received from Emperor Xuanzong, is now the subject of a big-screen project.

Earlier in the year, Chinese social media was abuzz with comments on the depiction of Tang-era clothes on the small screen and the amount of cleavage shown by actresses in a Hunan TV serial titled The Empress of China, in which Wu Zetian, the empress and grandmother of Xuanzong, was played by actress Fan Bingbing.

Fan also plays the role of Yang in the upcoming full-length feature.

Late last year, authorities had asked Hunan TV to regulate the visuals of Fan and other actresses in corsets in the show by using closeups of their faces and heads in shots that required them.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, the country's top media regulator, wanted the "unhealthy content" to be cut.

Now, with Lady of the Dynasty, based on Yang and the Tang era, the cleavage is back in focus, and seemingly without much ado.

In a trailer of the upcoming movie, released at the ongoing annual Shanghai International Film Festival, Fan is shown in typical Tang attire and without the restrictions previously placed on the TV show.

"Movies and TV series are different productions and they have different social influences. I don't think the movie needs such cuts," Shi Qing, a director of the movie, tells China Daily on the sidelines of the festival.

Other than Shi, the directors' team includes Zhang Yimou and Tian Zhuangzhuang, both top-notch moviemakers, who have earned international acclaim since the 1980s.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Fashion dynasty from Ancient China

A model shows off clothing and make-up worn during Wu Zetian's time as emperor of China (690-705). Photos: Courtesy of Zhuangshu and Yuewu
After period drama The Empress of China was re-edited because China's government watchdog deemed the clothing worn by the show's actresses was too revealing, a debate on about TV censorship of necklines spread across the Internet. With the show taking place during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), a cosmopolitan period of openness that made China one of the greatest cultural centers of the world at the time, many wondered why it would be seen as inappropriate in today's modern age to show a bit of cleavage as their ancestors did.

Many of the show's viewers have seen the re-editing as a huge blow to fans of fashion, as the solution to solving the cleavage problem has been to zoom in the faces of the actresses in any seen where the offending cleavage appears. This of course makes it extraordinarily difficult for fans to appreciate the period clothing used in this costume drama, something that is actually a pretty big highlight for shows such as these. According to media reports, Fan Bingbing ¬- the actress playing Wu Zetian, China's first and only female emperor - has 260 dresses, while the number of all the costumes for other characters in the TV drama is nearly 3,000.

However, while viewers were sighing over these stunning dresses before the re-editing tookplace, historians who study the period pointed out many of the details that the show's clothing designers got wrong. According to them, while women during the Tang weren't shy about showing a bit of skin, it was nothing like the way the TV show portrays.

Teasing not squeezing

During the early days when Wu Zetian was still just one of Emperor Tang Taizong's concubines, women's dresses were still very similar to the previous Sui Dynasty (581-618): conservative with high necklines. One type of hat, called mili, had a very long veil that covered a woman's face and body, allowing the wearer to see the world while staying hidden and was once very popular among women, according to Zhang Guogang, a history professor from Tsinghua University and former director of The Tang Dynasty Institute of China.

However, things eventually changed as the atmosphere of the whole society became more open. Some outgoing women chose to no longer wear the mili as they didn't mind if strangers saw their faces and were even confident enough to wear clothing that was a bit more revealing.

Liu Shuai from Zhuangshu and Yuewu, a folk art team that has dedicated itself to recreating ancient arts such as clothing, told the Global Times that some people's ideas about the Tang Dynasty are not that accurate, such as the dynasties supposed aesthetic preference for full-bodied women."They didn't started off preferring voluptuous figures at the beginning of the Tang Dynasty. This preference only started to spread after Wu Zetian's rule and became especially prevalent during Emperor Tang Xuanzong's rule."

"We can see from wall paintings that their hair buns were tall and they displayed their necks and wore low neckline dresses, but they did not wear things that squeezed their breasts [to make them look bigger]," explained Zhang, pointing out the difference between history and the show.

Feminist time

Zhang told the Global Times that the dresses of Tang Dynasty actually incorporated a lot of elements from the ethnic Hu style, which did not focus on revealing skin but was more similar to a modern jacket. "Some fashionable girls in Tang Dynasty even wore men's clothing. The dresses in some TV dramas are designed in an exaggerated way."

When Wu Zetian reigned as emperor, ideas about female empowerment spread throughout the country and reached a peak. "There was a trend that made women feel confident enough that they decided to wear whatever they liked and reveal their skin whenever they wanted," said Liu.

Liu prefers to think of the fashion during this time as similar to a modern office lady's simplistic style as women didn't wear as much jewelry in their hair as is depicted on TV.

"It was possible that for women under Wu's rule, their destiny was no longer only decided with a dress. They started to see a promising rising social stature. The simplicity of this fashion is actually a time of feminism with strong self-respect among women."

Zhang also explained that relationships were freer during the Tang Dynasty. Women could easily remarry and society lacked the virgin complex that cropped up during later periods, and so sex before marriage was acceptable for many people. 

Looking to history

One good thing the controversy about the TV drama is that it has put real history back into center stage. Zhuangshu and Yuewu was first established in 2007. Looking to recover traditional arts, they began making clothing using traditional styles and materials while also studying the make-up used in the past. As the team's clothing designer, Liu produces clothes that he tries to make as close to the originals as possible.

Some of the photos of the team's work have shocked many people online as the depicted clothing and make-up are very different than that seen on TV.

Though many people's knowledge of ancient history and fashion comes from period dramas, Liu insisted that no TV dramas have yet to successfully depict historically accurate clothing and so urges people to turn instead to the many studies on traditional clothing written by scholars that can be found in bookstores if people truly want to know what was fashionable several centuries ago.

Xiong Yuqing Source:Global Times Published

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Venice of China

The Venice of China
PHOTO: Tongli, one of six ancient water towns, features boat rides through local waterways. (All photos courtesy of Travel Suzhou)
The nickname doesn’t really do this city justice since it tells only part of the story. Coined the “Venice of China,” Suzhou has more than its fair share of narrow streets and waterways, dotted with gondola-like boats navigating centuries-old stone bridges.
You’ll also find shops cooking up local seafood favorites, including plates of squirrel-shaped Mandarin Fish — a fried, orange-colored dish with a sweet-and-sour sauce. Located in the southeastern part of the country near Shanghai, Suzhou’s claim to fame is certainly rooted in the waterways that traverse its streets.
Just a short drive away, however, there’s a much different kind of city emerging in Suzhou Industrial Park. Glass skyscrapers dominate the skyline as five-star luxury hotels set up shop. European-style restaurants tempt locals and tourists, as do rides on one of the largest Ferris wheels in the world. Indeed, part of the appeal of Suzhou is that it blends different elements of China, both old and new.
Setting the Stage: At the heart of Suzhou (pronounced Sue-Joe) is the old town district, the layout of which has remained untouched for more than 2,500 years. Here visitors can enjoy pagodas, temples, waterways and teahouses in one of the oldest cities in the Yangtze Basin.
Situated about 70 miles west of Shanghai in Jiangsu Province, Suzhou has been an important trade market for centuries, boosted in large part by the silk industry. The city is also known for its gardens, many of which are designated as UNESCO World Heritages Sites. There’s also a significant portion of the Grand Canal to explore, the longest manmade waterway in the world.
Suzhou is accessible via nonstop flights from North America to Shanghai airports that offer access to Suzhou. Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport has bullet train service to the city, about a 50-mile, 30-minute trip; Pudong International Airport, an hour-and-a-half by car (not including the traffic); and Sunan Shuofang International Airport, a 30-minute trip.
What’s Hot: The summer and fall months are prime times to visit the city’s gardens, with lotus flowers and lilies coming into bloom. The Humble Administrator’s Garden (No. 178, Northeast Street) is the largest classical garden in the city, and one of Suzhou’s UNESCO sites. Considered by many to be the city’s best garden, it covers some 550,000 square feet, dating back to the Ming dynasty. The garden is popular among locals and tourists, and weekday afternoons are typically the best time to visit to avoid large crowds.
Altogether, 48 different buildings, 40 monuments and numerous winding streams are scattered throughout three sections: eastern, central and western. The central part of the garden, considered the “essential area,” is covered by ponds, flowers, pavilions and courtyards. Tickets cost about $11 to $14 depending on the season. There’s also an option for groups to enjoy a traditional tea tasting overlooking the garden with help from a “tea artist,” who makes different brews, including a certain green tea found only in Suzhou.
The Lingering Garden is also popular. It’s about half the size of Humble Administrator’s Garden, making for a more manageable visit that can either take an afternoon or morning. Lingering Garden (No. 338, Liuyuan Road,) is famous for its maze of halls and buildings, giving visitors different perspectives from which to take in flowers and animal-shaped rock formations found throughout the garden. Admission is about $8, and guests can pay an additional fee for a floral arrangement class.
Must See: From a distance, you can hardly tell anything is astray, but look closely and the Tiger Hill Pagoda tells a different story: the 150-foot structure is leaning. A foundation problem is to blame at the “Leaning Tower of China,” which is also the subject of several local legends.
PHOTO: The Tiger Hill Pagoda is one of the must-see attractions in Suzhou.
The name is said to have originated when a king buried his father there. Three days later, a white tiger arrived and crouched at the top of the hill as if he was guarding the tomb. Nowadays visitors can make the trek to the top while taking in a Bonsai garden, which features hundreds of small trees showcasing a shaping technique involving wire. The cost to visit Tiger Hill (No. 8, Huqiu Hill), in northwest Suzhou, ranges from $10 to $12, depending on the season. Enjoying tea at the top of the hill is a recommended activity.
Just outside the city, visitors can check out Tongli (No. 1, South Zhongshan Road, Tongli Town), one of six famous ancient water towns. Roughly 11 miles from Suzhou, the town is known for its brooks and small foot-bridges, which are regarded as sacred by locals. There are also hundreds of gardens, temples, mansions and former homes of dignitaries built during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Visitors can take a daytrip on a bus to town and then walk around the neighborhood, where shops sell souvenirs and desserts, and streets are lined with lanterns. While in town, they can visit the Wormwood Institute, which offers a traditional Chinese medicine featuring the burning of wood inches from the skin. There’s no standard charge for the treatment and the cost depends on the condition of each patient.
Back in the city, the No. 1 Silk Factory offers an inside look at the history of the silk-making process, a craft that dates back millennia. Free of charge, the factory shows visitors how silk is harvested, from worms to cocoons. The best time to check out the process is during the summer months through October. Then you might actually see some real silk worms. But if they’re not in season, visitors can still watch workers use silk to make quilts and clothes. The tour concludes near a shop selling scarves, pillows, duvets and other reasonably priced souvenirs.
For a taste of the new China, head over to Suzhou Industrial Park. At its core is Jinji Lake, which is surrounded by hundreds of high-rises and a massive Ferris wheel that seats up to 360 riders. While the roughly 30-minute ride isn’t particularly exciting and the amusement park doesn’t have anything that’s remarkable, the wheel does give visitors a sense of Suzhou’s size and growth. Nearby there’s also a cultural convention and exhibition center, luxury shopping and several five-star hotels.
Where to Stay: From budget to luxury, there are a variety of hotels to choose from in Suzhou. With 100 properties scattered throughout the city, visitors can pick from a combination of local and international brands, such as Crowne Plaza, Hyatt, Marriott, Shangri-La and InterContinental. New properties are also opening up in the next four years, including W Suzhou, the Westin Suzhou Xiangcheng and Fairmont Suzhou.
Pan Pacific Suzhou is noteworthy because it offers special access to a city gate and pagoda, buildings that guests see when they wake up every morning as locals do Tai Chi. The hotel features classic local architecture, high-speed Internet access (though some American websites are blocked) and close to 500 rooms and suites. Basic rooms start at roughly $80 per night.
Visitors looking for a more boutique experience can sample the Tonino Lamborghini Boutique Hotel Suzhou overlooking Jinji Lake in the more modern part of town. The hotel features Chinese gardens along with some quirks, including Beatles lyrics inscribed on the floor. There’s also Danny’s Kitchen, which serves up French and Italian Mediterranean cuisine, providing a nice break from local fare. Rooms start at around $200 per night.
Where to Dine: Those looking for a real taste of Suzhou cuisine should head to the historical district and Shantang Street. There they’ll find Song He Lou, where diners munch on tiny fresh water shrimp, tofu with crabmeat, Chinese-style pickles and green rice cakes filled with red bean paste for dessert.
The restaurant, which overlooks a bridge and waterway, is an ideal stopping point for travelers looking to explore the neighborhood or try some Mandarin fish. For lunch, you can expect to spend around $20 to $25 per person. Afterward, visitors can stop at the Qian Sheng Yuan candy shop, which sells different preserved plums and pastries, and then take a ride on a local version of a gondola.
Getting Around: Suzhou has two metro lines in service along with another two under construction. One runs east-west, the other north-south. Ticket prices are less than $1 but can vary depending on distance. Taxis are available, and start at about $1.50 using metered rates. A convenient bus system costs about the same as the subway. Bicycling is also a popular way of getting around, with rentals costing about $4 per day.
What Tours to Book: Tour operators that offer programs to Suzhou include Alexander and Roberts, Asian Vistas (formerly Orient Flexi-Pax Tours), China Advocates, and Wild China.
For more information on Suzhou, call 646-465-9770 or visit

Monday, April 13, 2015

Scroll revives cheongsam beauty in New York

The representatives who participated in the "Guohua-Global Chinese Cheongsam Image Giant Scroll" project show the beauty of cheongsam at the Cheongsam Culture Salon at the City University of New York on March 6. Hong Xiao / China Daily
In fine make-up and vintage high heels, 11 ladies dressed in cheongsams walk before the audience, demure yet sexy. At the "Cheongsam Culture Salon" held at the City University of New York on March 6, the cheongsam - the quintessential ladies' dress of China popularizedinthe 1920 -seems ready to re-blossom in New York City after almost a century.
Scroll revives cheongsam beauty in New York
Organizers of the fashion show, presented by the Chinese University Alumni Alliance and the Tianjin Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, were invited to gather and share the history of the classic garb.
Liu Bing, creator of the "Guohua-Global Chinese Cheongsam Image Giant Scroll", and Meng Qinggang, heir to a time-honored cheongsam name brand, were on hand along with some of the women depicted on the scroll.
The scroll is an ongoing project, initiated by Liu Bing, a cheongsam enthusiast and local TV host from Tianjin, that invites women to dress in cheongsams and pose for photos that will be added to a giant printed scroll in the manner of the classic Chinese painting Scene at the Upper River during Qingming Festival.
Liu said his interest in the cheongsam was inspired at a young age by old photos of women wearing cheongsams in the movie magazines founded by his grandfather, a former newspaper editor.
So far, his camera crews have captured photos of more than 7,000 women in cheongsams, women from many walks of life, including both celebrities and retired workers, ranging in age from 4 to 80.