ming dynasty dress

Chinese traditional dress — Ming and Qing Dynasties

Costume in Ming Dynasty——restoration of the etiquette of Han nationality

After Zhu Yuanzhang became the emperor of Ming Dynasty, in order to restore the etiquette of the Han nationality, he formulated a new dress system based on the principles of Zhou, Han, Tang and Song Dynasties and banned clothing style of the ethnic minorities, restoring the Han clothing custom which takes the robe as the main dress. Moreover, the clothing of officials also followed the tradition to be divided into court clothing, sacrificial clothing, public clothing, and ordinary clothing and the robe with embroidered dragon was made for the emperor’s special use.

In the Ming Dynasty, the surname of the emperor was Zhu, which represents the red color. Therefor, red was regarded as the most nobel color. Since there is a saying that ” Purple is hated for taking away the luster and status of red ” in the Analects of Confucius, purple was abolished from official clothing usage. Officials used Bufu as the ordinary clothing, wearing the black gauze cap.

ming dynasty dress

As for Bufu, it refers to a kind of official clothes with a piece of embroidery pattern on both the front chest and back. Civil officials used fowls for their patterns, while military officials used beasts and all the animals were divided into nine ranks, together with the different clothing color, to distinguish the official grades.

The most common dress for men in the Ming Dynasty is “Dao pao”, also known as pleated, and Qinghai, which is a robe with a large front, wide sleeves and length over the knee, especially popular in the middle and late Ming Dynasty. The collar of the Dao pao is usually decorated with a white collar, which can keep the collar clean and was easy to change. For daily wear, the Dao pao can be used either as a coat or as a robe. Since yellow and purple are forbidden to wear except the emperor, blue and black are mainly used, while the working people are only allowed to wear brown.

The main costume for women in the Ming Dynasty is still similar to the previous dynasties. The basic style of clothes is mostly imitated from the Tang and Song dynasties, and generally The left front is pressed against the right front, restoring the custom of the Han nationality.

In the Ming Dynasty, due to the prevalence of foot binding among women and the pursuit of “walking without showing feet”, noblewomen wore long skirts to hide the small feet which was called golden lotus. And there was often a ribbon tied around the waist called “Gong tao” to suppress the skirt so as to prevent them from spreading and affecting the beauty. The role of the ribbon is similar to that of the jade ring in the Song Dynasty.

Qing Dynasty clothing system based on Manchu clothing

The Qing Dynasty is the last feudal dynasty in China, and also an era with the biggest changes in clothing. The Qing Dynasty clothing is the junction of ancient Chinese clothing and modern Chinese clothing, whose existence is the premise of the development of modern men’s robes and jackets, and women’s cheongsam.

qing dynasty cloth

In the early Qing Dynasty, the Manchu rulers used violent means to enforce the law of shaving hair and changing clothes. According to the Manchu custom, they forced the Han men to change their hairstyle, shaving the hair on the forehead and braiding the hair at the back of the head. The traditional dress of Han nationality was greatly affected and was replaced by Manchu dress eventually.

In the later period of the Qing Dynasty, the Manchu people became more and more popular in imitating the Han people. It is even recorded in the history that most of the Manchu people changed their ethical dress into Han dress and cut their palace robes into shorter clothes. However, since the Manchu rulers insisted on the dress system with Manchu national characteristics, regarding it as the foundation of the country, for hundreds of years in the Qing Dynasty, traditional Manchu clothing was always the basic model, forming a clothing system with Manchu clothing as the main body.

Official clothing in Qing Dynasty was mainly robes and mandarin jacket, and the pattern of the Buzi and hierarchical order were similar with the Ming Dynasty. While civilian men wore long robes and mandarin jackets too, which were different in style from official uniforms. The mandarin jacket was a short jacket with a length only to the waist. The short jacket and short sleeves were convenient for riding horses, so it was also called “Horse Clothe”.


The typical decoration of Manchu women is the cheongsam. The cheongsam of the Manchu nationality in the Qing Dynasty is very different from that of the later generations, but the later cheongsam was developed on the basis of this kind of robe. The length of the lower hem covers the feet, only showing the sole of the shoe. Because the dressing tradition of Han nationality was deeply rooted, the Qing government allowed the Han women to follow the clothing of the Ming Dynasty. That’s why the changes of the Han women’s clothing in the Qing Dynasty were less than that of the men, mainly cape, jacket and skirt. The cloak is a woman’s coat in the Qing Dynasty, whose function is similar to that of the male coat, and the most noble color was red.


In the late Qing Dynasty, pantsuits became popular among ordinary women. At the same time, cheongsam was also imitated by noblewomen in the Han nationality. The distinction between Manchu and Han clothing was blurred.


On the whole, although the Qing Dynasty costumes abandoned many traditional basic shapes and systems in the appearance form, their inner nature did not change. Their spiritual essence was in line with the Chinese costume culture, which not only reflected the custom characteristics of the nation, but also retained the hierarchical content left over from thousands of years.

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