Shanghai, 6 June (ZXS) -- Question: What kind of oriental style does the "Shanghai style cheongsam" bring to the world costume stage?

——Interview with Miao Hui, curator of Shanghai University Museum

China News Agency reporter Xu Jing

The cheongsam is the most distinctive modern Chinese costume in the hearts of foreigners, one of the representatives of Chinese national costume culture, and is also loved by foreign people. At the beginning of the 20th century, under the influence of "eclectic and inclusive" Shanghai culture and Western clothing, the style, style and fabric of the cheongsam changed, and the Haipai qipao style that blended tradition and modernity was finally formed.

What kind of traditional Chinese cultural value orientation does the Shanghai cheongsam carry? How does it promote Sino-foreign exchanges on the world costume stage? China News Service's "East-West Question" recently interviewed Miao Huihui, a librarian of Shanghai University Museum.

The following is a summary of the interview:

China News Agency: What kind of development process has the Shanghai cheongsam experienced? Shanghai University Museum (Shanghai Culture Museum) has a collection of cheongsam from the Rong family, what is special about this batch of cheongsam?

Miao Hui: The word "qipao" is often interpreted as "the robe of the banner man", because the early qipao was very similar in shape to the robe worn by the banner women of the Qing Dynasty. In fact, the form of robe clothing appeared very early in China, and the robes of the Han Dynasty still retained the collar style; In the Tang Dynasty, the round neck robe became a clothing worn by both men and women; In the Ming Dynasty, there were robes with standing collars; In the late Qing Dynasty, more and more styles of stand-up collared robes appeared in women's clothing, and the waist and sleeves were more suitable than in the front dynasty. Therefore, the popular "cheongsam" in modern times is developed on the basis of successive generations of robes, integrating Chinese and Western elements in the process, and also has the characteristics of the times, among which "Shanghai school qipao" is the most representative.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the cheongsam gradually improved and matured, and the upper and lower integrated styles and standing collars and slits were the main features. Cheongsam in the early stages of development was generally looser and had broad sleeves. In Shanghai in the twenties of the twentieth century, this kind of clothing and Western clothing elements were continuously integrated and improved, the style was gradually slimmed, the fabric was in line with international standards, and convenient accessories such as zippers were gradually added, forming a unique "Shanghai cheongsam". Due to its fashionable shape and simple dress, Shanghai in the thirties and forties of the twentieth century ushered in the golden age of Shanghai qipao, from movie stars and pictorial girls to campus students and family women, female figures wearing cheongsam were everywhere in Shanghai at that time. As the center of qipao fashion, Shanghai has cultivated a large number of Shanghai qipao makers, some of whom later moved to Hong Kong and brought this technique to the local area, making Hong Kong the successor of the Shanghai school qipao. It was also their inheritance that promoted the prosperity of the cheongsam in the sixties of the twentieth century. The qipao of this period inherited and deepened the essence of the integration of Chinese and Western qipao of the Shanghai school, and maintained a long-term influence on the world stage.

The Rongshi cheongsam in the collection of Shanghai University Museum (Shanghai Culture Museum) is a re-presentation of the fine cheongsam of Shanghai school. This batch of cheongsam can be described as the masterpiece of the Shanghai school cheongsam, with distinctive styles and craftsmanship. In terms of style, knee-length short cheongsam, floor-length cheongsam, cheongsam set, etc. are all collected, among which the cheongsam set is the most distinctive. This way of unified design of cheongsam and coat is a reference to Western suit fashion, and it is also a redevelopment of traditional cheongsam culture. In terms of decoration technology, there are not only Su embroidery and seed embroidery commonly used in traditional cheongsam, but also bead embroidery technology that is common in modern times. The bead embroidery materials are mainly bright beads and glitter, and with the superb skills of Chinese embroiderers, the cheongsam presents an excellent visual effect.

The collection of the Shanghai University Museum is a cheongsam. Photo courtesy of Shanghai University Museum

The identities of the owners of these cheongsam are clear and verifiable. At present, the collection of cheongsam at home and abroad pays less attention to the information collection of the wearer, especially the specific person wearing some heirloom cheongsam and when it is mostly unknown. The cheongsam of the Shanghai University Museum is collected by the Rong family, and each cheongsam has a clear identity of the owner, and the life of each owner is recorded. This has laid a thicker historical foundation for the display and research of the Shanghai school cheongsam, and while displaying the art of the Shanghai school qipao, it also retains the historical context of the Rong family.

A combination of family history and cheongsam display. Photo courtesy of Shanghai University Museum

China News Agency: What kind of value orientation does the development and changes of the Shanghai school cheongsam reflect in traditional Chinese culture?

Miao Hui: The development of the Shanghai school qipao has accompanied China's modern history, and its history of change also reflects a variety of traditional Chinese cultural value orientations, among which there are three obvious aspects: "seeking change", "moderation" and "Chinese integration".

Since its inception, the Shanghai cheongsam has the characteristics of Chinese and Western integration, which is also the embodiment of "seeking change" in traditional Chinese culture. At the specific stage of development of Chinese society, the Shanghai cheongsam took the lead in thinking about poverty and change, "changing with the times", and changing the inherent clothing system to meet the new social needs; "Make it as you go", with an open mind to accept the aesthetics and techniques of different cultures. In the end, it was able to "change the rules, and the general rules were long-term" and developed into China's most representative fashion "national uniform".

The design of the Shanghai school cheongsam reflects the traditional Chinese "golden mean": women's curves are highlighted by the fit, but the skin is mostly wrapped in fabric and is not easily exposed; Tailoring and fabrics use a variety of Western craftsmanship, but traditional elements such as stand collars, diagonal plackets and slits must be preserved. For example, a cheongsam from the Grand Museum above is shaped with a stand collar with long sleeves, a thin sheer lace embroidered with a curly embroidery, and a tonal lining below the chest on the inside. So when you wear it, your shoulders and arms leak out of your skin like a bandeau dress, but the lace cover makes them visible.

Sheer cheongsam design. Photo courtesy of Shanghai University Museum

In the use of qipao, it profoundly reflects our national concept of "Chinese unity". Since the popularity of the Shanghai school qipao in the first half of the twentieth century, Shanghai has become the fashion center in the eyes of the East Asian world, and the qipao is also the fashion first choice of Chinese everywhere, including Singapore, until the second half of the twentieth century, regardless of nationality and place of residence, Chinese people around the world will use the qipao as formal clothing for special occasions to show their national attributes, which fully demonstrates the profound influence of China's concept of "Chinese unity".

China News Agency: What is the difference between Eastern and Western clothing? What is the influence of the Shanghai cheongsam on contemporary Chinese fashion?

In the early days of clothing development, the East and the West were based on the principle of maximizing the retention of the fabric and reducing the cutting of clothing, which was called "cutting into a mat into a vessel" in China, and "You must cut your coat according to your cloth" in the West. However, due to the regional differences between China and the West, the Eastern clothing represented by China and the Western clothing represented by Europe have been differentiated in two different ways of thinking in the long historical process.

Some researchers have distinguished Chinese and Western civilizations by clothing fabrics, namely China's "silk civilization" and Europe's "wool civilization". Because of the different fabric materials, the West has developed a more complex and three-dimensional clothing structure, while Chinese clothing retains a holistic and flat structural orientation.

The Shanghai school cheongsam can be regarded as the starting point and enlightenment of the transformation of modern Chinese clothing. The initial popularity of the cheongsam was partly influenced by the straight-fit dress of the Western contemporary. The silhouette, which resembles a Western dress, was initially presented in the cheongsam with a traditional flat cut, and then gradually became three-dimensional. However, in terms of design, elements such as stand collars, plackets and slits inherited from traditional Chinese robes have always been deliberately retained.

This combination of Chinese and Western style of Shanghai cheongsam has made an important demonstration of contemporary Chinese fashion. The inheritance of traditional clothing is not a complete restoration and use in contemporary life, but an innovative expression of refined and optimized traditional elements in a society that keeps pace with the times.

Cheongsam set. Photo courtesy of Shanghai University Museum

China News Agency: There are qipao figures in many Chinese and foreign movies, what kind of oriental style does the Shanghai cheongsam provide for the world costume stage?

Miao Huihui: There are a large number of qipao images in Chinese and foreign films, and in these movies, most of the Chinese female characters will wear the qipao, but the different periods and roles will also make the qipao present different images. In "Life and Death Love" released in 1955, the heroine of mixed Chinese and European descent is an independent and learned figure, her cheongsam is elegant and well-crafted, and won the 28th Academy Award for Best Costume Design. The design and matching can see the shadow of Western haute couture, which has both Chinese and Western aesthetics.

In "Su Sihuang's World" released in 1960, the heroine always wears a tight, short skirt, high slit sexy cheongsam, which does not exist on ordinary Chinese women, and some scholars believe that this is a mixture of Westerners' miniskirt fashion and cheongsam at the same time. By 2000, Chinese his own "In the Mood for Love" once again brought the cheongsam back into the public eye, which is also a tool for the creation of love and desire, but China's local design language chose a mysterious and ambiguous way, which is completely different from the Western "Susi Yellow".

A still from "Susie Yellow's World"

In general, as an eclectic clothing representative, the style of the Haipai cheongsam is not static. The oriental style that Chinese identifies with is a restrained expression of beauty, showing beauty with rational scrutiny, pursuing restraint and subtlety, and its way is more precise and subtle. However, for this oriental style to be seen and understood by more people on the world stage, perhaps more explicit emphasis and display are needed.

China News Agency: As one of the Chinese symbols in consumer culture, how can the soft narrative of clothing promote interactive exchanges between China and foreign countries?

Collection: Clothing is a very convenient communication tool between different cultures. Languages may vary around the world, but the aesthetic of vision transcends regions and cultures. Because of this, foreign audiences can also appreciate and express their love for a Chinese costume, even if they do not have any understanding of Chinese culture, they will also be infected by the beauty of traditional Chinese clothing. And this is one of the great advantages of clothing as a cultural symbol.

Exquisite decorative craftsmanship. Photo courtesy of Shanghai University Museum

As a symbol, clothing has an extremely high density of cultural attributes. From fabrics and tailoring to decoration and matching, each step shows the craftsmanship of the culture to which it belongs, witnesses the social structure of the time, and further demonstrates the cultural ideas of the same period. These elements are intentionally or unintentionally deconstructed and encoded during design and production, and are received and interpreted in the appreciation and use of clothing. A coding and interpretation of clothing completes an interactive exchange across civilizations.

Respondent Profile:

Photo courtesy of interviewee

Miao Huihui, Librarian of Shanghai University Museum (Shanghai Culture Museum), Ph.D. of Donghua University, Exchange Scholar of the Royal Academy of Art. Mainly engaged in the history of clothing dyeing and weaving, Shanghai school qipao culture, Chinese and foreign clothing cultural exchanges and other related research.