Chinese Traditional Dress- Song and Yuan Dynasties

Elegant demeanour in Song and Yuan Dynasties

Song Dynasty

During the Song Dynasty, ethnic minorities were strong, and their trade exchanges were frequent, so the costumes of the Song Dynasty were mostly influenced by them. At the same time, the Song dynasty attached importance to the revival of Confucianism, and the “science” made Confucianism truly philosophical, gradually becoming the dominant ideology ruling the two Song dynasties. The “science” emphasized feudal ethics and rules, greatly fettering people’s thoughts and affecting aesthetics and ideology of the time: many art forms pursued subtle, natural and common prospect, which led clothes towards simplicity and plain.


Yuan Dynasty

The Mongolian invasion of the Central Plains made the Yuan the first dynasty in Chinese history to be ruled by an ethnic minority. Historians say that the Yuan Dynasty was an era of great ethnic integration in Chinese history, and the costumes of the Yuan Dynasty also fully reflected this feature, as the costume styles of many ethnic groups intermingled together to become the characteristics of Yuan Dynasty costumes. Because of the sharp ethnic conflicts, the Yuan Dynasty was in a state of war for a long time, and the textile industry and handicraft industry were greatly damaged, so at first they inherited the Song costume system, and it was not until the rule gradually stabilized that the Yuan Dynasty began to develop its own costume system.

Clothes in Song Dynasty


Pao has two forms: loose clothes with loose sleeves and tight clothes with tight sleeves. Officials wear brocade Pao, common people wear calico Pao.


Both Ru and Ao are short clothes. The length of Ru often droops down to waist. People often match Long Qun with it, tying it into Long Qun, so the folk adage “up Ru and down Qun” spread broadly.

Ao evolved from Ru, so they have similar forms. The distinction between them is that Ao will add mutton so that it can keep people warm.


Beizi is a kind of Chinese-style jacket with straight collars and buttons down the front. The front Jin often open without buttons tying. The sleeves are divided into loose and tight forms. The two sides will split until underarm. Usually the collars, sleeves and Jin will be decorated with some ornament.

Clothes in Yuan Dynasty

Zhisun Clothes

Zhisun Clothes: the upper tight garment integrates with the lower short one, often adding decoration on waist and big beads on back and shoulders. Han calls it “one color Clothes” or “Zhisun Clothes” as it inherits Han and blends Mongolian characteristics.


Bijia is a casual clothes without collars or sleeves. The front is short and the back is long, connected by Pan, often used for horsing and archery.

The cultural connotation behind clothes

The Song dynasty was the most literate dynasty in Chinese history, and its aesthetics were characterized by the exquisite processing of materials, soft tones, and overall lightness, softness, and elegance. On the one hand, it reflects that the Song people advocated the ethical principle of “keeping the heavenly principle and removing human desires”, and on the other hand, it reflects the simplicity and unpretentiousness of the Song people.

The most distinctive feature of the Yuan Dynasty was the integration of ethnic groups, which was fully reflected on its costumes. At the beginning, the costume system was mostly adopted from the Song Dynasty, but later it was gradually integrated into the costume characteristics of ethnic minorities and developed in the direction of “simplicity and ruggedness”, in line with the aesthetic requirements of “the nation on horseback”.


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