Festival Dressed in Tradition

As well as families and festivities playing major roles in the coming Chinese Lunar New Year, fashion is also a top priority - and tradition is ousting contemporary clothing this year.

An increasing number of modern Chinese are turning to Chinese silk jackets, as famously worn by the world leaders in the Shanghai summit in October.

The traditional attire, which originated at the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), is known as Tangzhuang, widely accepted among Chinese people.

With a great variety of styles, colours and material, a Tangzhuang Cultural Festival in the Henderson Centre in Beijing is attracting a lot of people interested in buying traditional clothing.

"This is the first time I have bought a traditional-style coat," said Cui Ming, a middle-aged woman shopping for clothes to wear during the cultural festival.

"Wearing traditional attire is in vogue in China since the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was held in Shanghai in October," Cui added.

All 20 participating leaders in the 2001 APEC economic leaders meeting in Shanghai wore traditional Chinese jackets in royal blue, scarlet or olive, embroidered with round patterns of peonies - China's national flower.

There are about 800 stores participating in the exhibiting and selling of traditional clothes, according to Wang Jingying, director of the Marketing Department of the festival.

"Sales income of some stores can reach 20,000 yuan (US$2,410) per day when business goes well, especially at weekend," Wang said.

Traditional Chinese attire attract not only Chinese customers but also foreigners.

"It's very beautiful and fits perfectly," said Mindy Lee Knowlton, a model from Colorado of the United States. "I want to have a dress made before leaving China."

Alice Partridge, from England, looking to buy along Xiushui Shopping Street near Jianguomen, said: "I think I can buy a traditional coat when taking part in parties with my friends. It is very different."

Being a very prosperous period in China's history, the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) has become a pronoun of China, referring to something with China's characteristics or tradition, such as "tangrenjie," or Chinatown.

For some small stores, business is booming too. Total sales income increased by 30 per cent in the two months ahead of the Spring Festival, compared with the same period last year, said Xu Shu, general manager and designer of Well Clothing Company in Beijing. This was echoed by Jing, who owns a traditional clothes stall along the open-air Xiushui Shopping Street. He declined to give his full name.

In fact, Tangzhuang has been creeping back into fashion for at least 5 years, and the Shanghai summit only served as a stimulus to enhance its popularity.

Other social factors which have pushed Tangzhuang into the centre of China's fashion include China's successful bid for the 2008 Olympic Games, entry into the World Trade Organization and the realized dream of making it through to the World Cup Finals in South Korea and Japan this year.

In addition, with the efforts of excellent designers from China and abroad, oriental attire has also become popular overseas, according to Wang Xiaolin, chief designer of Muzhenliao, a famous brand of traditional Chinese clothes.

"This popularization helps develop China's national fashion, as we can give Tangzhuang a fresh look without destroying its exotic flavour of mystery, grace and restraint," she added.

( China Daily Febrauary 8, 2002)

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