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Why Chinese Women Love to Dress Qipao?

Chinese Women Dress Qipao

In the early years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), long gowns featured collarless, narrow cuff in the shape of a horse's hoof, buttons down the left front, four slits and a fitting waist. Wearers usually coiled up their cuff, and put it down when hunting or battling to cover the back of hand. Another feature of Manchu cheongsam was that people generally wore it plus a waistcoat that was either with buttons down the front, a twisted front, or a front in the shape of lute, etc.

Those Qi people were nomads. They spent most of their time on horseback. They wore gowns, with slits below the hip to facilitate mounting and dismounting. The lower part of the gown was used to protect their legs from the cold weather of their native land, which is now the northeastern part of China. The Chinese equivalent of the English word gown is pao. Therefore, the gowns worn by the Qi people came to be called qipao. Later, however, as more and more Chinese people of the Han nationality began to wear this type of gown, the Qi was omitted by people of the Han nationality to express their close affinity to the Man nationality. The word qipao, then become a term denoting solely the woman's dress, particularly the Qiwoman's, because the successive emperors of the Qing Dynasty did not favor the idea that females of the Han nationality be dressed exactly like those of the Man nationality.

Chinese Women Dress Qipao

Men of the Han nationality, especially those who were eager to curry favor with the conquerors and to get positions in the Qing government, put on the new-type gowns with alacrity to show their loyalty but did not dare to use the modifier Qi for fear of giving offence to the conquerors.

Ironically, most men of the Han nationality who considered themselves to be literate and rich or well-to-do continued to wear this type of gown even after the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty had been driven out of the Forbidden City in Beijing in 1925. This custom was abolished after liberation of the country in 1949---of the free will of the people without compulsion by any authorities.


As for qipao, it was not worn by females of the Han nationality until many years after the downfall of the Qing Dynasty. This phenomenon has been attributed in part to the high cost of decoration in embroidery of the dress, which few people were rich enough to afford under the reign of the Qing emperors. But, as a matter of fact, the real cause was not pecuniary in nature. It was not money, nor the emperor's opinion, that hindered Chinese women outside the Imperial Palace from wearing qipao. What prevented them from doing so was a queer, vicious social custom that existed in China for almost a thousand years.

Chinese Women Dress Qipao

Girls at the age of six

Chinese Women Dress Qipao

years were forced to have their feet bound with long strips of cloth, which prevented their feet from growing and made them deformed. This cruel custom originated clearly from the sadism of the feudal ruling class of some previous dynasty. The Manchurian conquerors wanted at first to do away with this evil custom but took no action later. Therefore, girls and women of the Han nationality were unable to imitate those of the Man nationality, who wore shoes with high soles and looked erect and elegant in qipao. Thus, for three h


undred years the qipao belonged literally to the Qi girls and women.


With the freeing of Chinese girls from this evil social custom in the 20s of the last century, qipao gradually came into vogue. Girl students and female correspondents put on this type of dress and came to be looked upon as representatives of "the modern female sex". Audacious girls reformed this dress in the 30s and 40s of the 20th century. They shortened the sleeves and widened the slits in the lower part of the dress. They did away with the long trousers which females of the Man nationality had been obliged to wear. Thus their naked arms and legs were exposed to the eyes of males, who looked at them with wonder and admiration.

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