Man wears ‘Han clothing’ more than 300 days a year – China’s latest society and culture news

Society & Culture

A summary of the top news in Chinese society and culture for October 12, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

“There are plenty of ways to revive Han culture that are more meaningful and effective than wearing Han clothing in public places. This person only causes inconvenience to himself and to others.”

“Why are some people so harsh on this guy? He is entitled to wear whatever he wants in public as long as it’s not against the law.”

These two comments indicate how public opinion varies (in Chinese) about Kang Wei 康伟, a college student profiled (in Chinese) by the Chengdu Business Daily because of his obsession with “Han clothing.”

According to the article, Kang wears the traditional-looking attire more than 300 days a year except for some “inconvenient occasions.” Characterized by large, wide sleeves, flowing robes, and belted waists, the clothing is a style of dress that purports to be the original outfit of the Han Chinese from thousands of years ago. Kang said that his love for Han clothing began in 2012 when he was in middle school and watched a music video filmed by a group of Han clothing enthusiasts. Kang started to read books about Han clothing, spend time on online platforms for Han clothing enthusiasts, and eventually wear such clothing in public.

For Kang, Han clothing is not just “a visual decoration,” but “a medium through which we can learn more about Chinese traditions that most people have forgotten about.” Even though most people around him, including some of Kang’s family members, don’t understand his affection for the outfit, Kang said, “They will get accustomed to it if I insist on wearing it every day.”

Kang identifies himself as part of the nationalist Han clothing movement, also known as the Hanfu movement (汉服运动 hànfúyùndòng). The movement, as Kevin Carrico explains in this Quartz article and his book The Great Han: Race, Nationalism, and Tradition in China Today, imagines the dominant Han ethnic group as “the target of oppression by both China’s minorities and ‘the West,’ in need of revitalization to save China.”

However, the movement’s goal to re-create an authentic Chinese culture doesn’t resonate with most ordinary Chinese, nor does the public wearing of the outfit. Kang says that once when wearing Han clothing in public, he was asked whether he was doing cosplay or performing opera. Deeply offended by the questioner’s ignorance, Kang replied, “Even if I am a cosplayer, I am cosplaying your ancestor!” (我要是cosplay,那也是cos你的祖宗!)