International Chinese Costume Festival: Beauty VS Identity

“What you wear reflects who you are.” The saying may also apply to a nation, especially to a country like China with such a long history and unique traditional costume culture. At the latest International Chinese Costume Festival, the young and the old, locals and expatriates, all in traditional Chinese costumes, brought a visual feast to Hong Kong and triggered reflection of the identity of being Chinese.

International Chinese Costume Festival serves as an annual large-scale promotion of Chinese cultural activity in Hong Kong, with the purpose of promoting the rich culture of traditional Chinese costume through a variety of arts and parade activities. April 7th and 8th witnessed the success of this festival at its 7th year.

This year, the festival added more youthful and international elements than before. The Youth Chinese Night was set up for the first time, foreign visitors were invited to try out Chinese costumes and there have been many interesting workshops to teach people traditional Chinese hand-crafts.

The highlight of the festival fell on the mass dance, which presents the beauty of traditional Chinese costumes. Hundreds of people wore traditional Chinese costumes and performed a traditional Chinese dance titled The Country of Manner.

“In the Chinese tradition, costume contains a lot of cultural connotations,” said Wu Yuwei, host of International Chinese Costume Festival, “Ancient Chinese regarded clothing as an expression of one’s manner and identity, and this is exactly what the mass dance aims to reflect.”

Leung Chun-Ying and the hosts (Miss Wu is the second one on the left). Photo by Wu Yuwei.

Miss Wu has participated in this festival for three times, once as a costume model and twice as the host. Coming from mainland China, Wu said there was actually a huge difference of the traditional costume culture between mainland China and Hong Kong.

“Let’s take the mass dance as an example. In Hong Kong, the mass dance can be of any form related to ethnic Chinese. Last year, we even performed the dance of Tibetan people,” said Wu, “however, people promoting ‘authentic’ traditional Chinese costume in mainland China may not welcome this idea.”

In the past decade, mainland China has seen a rise of traditional Chinese costume and increasingly more people are attracted by the elegance of the delicate dresses. However, separated by the different understanding of traditional Chinese costume, several small groups have been established and they criticized each other for wearing Chinese costume in a wrong way.

Hong Kong, however, with a mix of eastern and western culture, welcomes a broader definition of “Chinese” identity, and therefore, does not go harsh on the details of the traditional way of wearing Chinese costume.

During the opening ceremony of this year’s International Chinese Costume Festival, Leung Chun-Ying said, “Besides suits and ties, formal dressing also includes our traditional Chinese costume.” His words brought out the significance of the festival to Hong Kong: providing another clothing option for people immersed in a culture with a huge influence from the West. The Chinese costume may be one of the means, but not the end.

Editor: Christy Yeung
Reporter: Evelyn Ye
Copy editor: Skylar Lee
Content manager: Aegean Young

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *