One Hundred Years of Qipao History: from Shanghai to EU

Ambassador Zhang Ming Chinese Mission to EU_

HE Ambassador of the Chinese Mission to EU, Mr Zhang Ming (The European Sting, 2018)

It was yesterday that the Chinese Mission to EU organised a beautiful journey to Chinese fashion and tradition at the China Cultural Center in Brussels. The exhibition “From Shanghai to Brussels: One hundred years of qipao History” featured a range of qipao gowns, old photographs, traditional illustrated calendars; that provided the visitors with a splendid visual tour through the traditional and glamorous qipao fashion. Particularly, the event’s programme consisted of an excellent qipao show by female diplomats from the Chinese Mission to EU.

HE Ambassador of the Chinese Mission to EU, Mr Zhang Ming, took the floor to welcome his honourable guests:

“Qipao was originally worn by the women of Manchu, a Chinese ethnic minority group and also by women from upper class in the Qing Dynasty some centuries ago.

The modern version of qipao was developed in Shanghai in 1920, almost 100 years ago. Then the city of shanghai became a commercial port and an advanced economy, social life and culture and the sense of beauty. Qipao has now become an economic dress for the Chinese women and has been vested as China’s intangible cultural heritage.

Tonight my women colleagues with the support of my gentlemen colleagues together with some European friends, good friends of course, will present an exciting exhibition show, bringing to you one of the best elements of the Chinese culture.

To understand China better, communication is a good way. I believe that tonight you will be able to get a better knowledge of China, about its history, its culture, its values and so on. With this knowledge I look forward to your continued contribution and cooperation between China and the EU.”

In the mid 19th century, alongside the opening up of Shanghai and its economic expansion, the city’s social life, idea of culture and its conception of beauty all underwent great changes. It is in that social climate that qipao was designed and became the iconic national garment of Chinese women during the 20th century.

The traditional wide Manchu robes were gradually replaced by modern urban dressed, named the qipao. The product life cycle curve of the style, its birth, the growth and decline of its popularity, as well as its revival, not only represent the changing fashion sense of Chinese women throughout the 20th century, but also reflect the collision and fusion of the fashion of the East with influences from the West.

In the 21st century, inspired by the “One Belt One Road Initiative”, the qipao dresses have been listed as China’s intangible cultural heritage and have been exhibited all around the world.

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