Love for hanfu binds people together-Xinhua

Love for hanfu binds people together

Source: China Daily

Editor: huaxia

2023-10-13 09:44:45

JongMay Urbonya takes a selfie at Beihai Park in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 19, 2022. (Xinhua/Ma Xiaodong)

Video bloggers help promote traditional Chinese attire to wider audiences

Hanfu, the traditional Chinese attire, has gained popularity as a symbol of Chinese culture, captivating enthusiasts from around the globe.

Rian Neves, a 29-year-old Brazilian, for instance, was fascinated by China's vibrant history and diverse culture, since his arrival in the country more than five years ago.

Growing up with his grandparents in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Rian joined the military after completing his education. However, he soon felt the need for a change in his life, prompting him to make a life-changing decision to move to China.

Supported by his family, Rian traveled thousands of kilometers to a foreign land, where he encountered a huge culture shock since he didn't know the Chinese language, as well as stark differences in culture, cuisine, environment, and way of life.

"At that time, my English was not good, and I could barely speak anything in Chinese. I felt very lonely as a new arrival," he said.

To overcome this disorientation, Rian engaged with Chinese friends who provided unwavering support and introduced him to various facets of Chinese culture. Through their companionship and frequent outings, his interest in Chinese culture gradually increased, and he began to feel more at ease.

In 2019, Rian and his friends stumbled upon a group of young Chinese individuals dressed in hanfu by the picturesque West Lake in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Impressed by the flamboyant hanfu styles, Rian developed a fascination for this traditional costume.

Subsequently, he moved to Xi'an, the starting point of the ancient Silk Road, where Rian discovered a multitude of people donning traditional costumes while exploring historical sites, taking pictures, and shooting short videos.

"My friends told me: 'Rian, just have a try. And what if we make a channel about you dressing up (in hanfu) and let's see where we can go.' So, I began to do the makeup and shot my first video," he recalled.

Encouraged by his friends, he decided to try this experiment and document his experiences. Rian embarked on his first video shoot in 2022, in which he applied makeup and presented himself in a hanfu ensemble on Chinese social media platforms, receiving words of encouragement from several Chinese viewers.

Currently, Rian has more than 15,000 followers on Xiaohongshu, a lifestyle platform popular among Generation Z in China.

"We now have a team of three partners for creating hanfu videos: a producer responsible for researching topics, a cameraman for shooting, and myself as the character," he said.

"Whenever we come across an intriguing subject, we devote several days to conduct research, find the appropriate hanfu style, and then spend three to four days on shooting and editing." Initially, he only had a broad understanding of China's extensive history and profound culture. Now, he has gained a more intricate understanding of Chinese culture.

"Throughout this journey, I have gradually enhanced my knowledge of hanfu and China," he said. "Now, I can distinguish between various hanfu styles from different dynasties, and I particularly adore the Tang Dynasty (618-907)."

Living in the city that was once the Tang Dynasty's capital, the Brazilian vlogger expressed his love for Xi'an.

"I'm obsessed with the city wall and different kinds of coffee shops in Xi'an," he said, adding the city has never failed to captivate him.

Positive feedback

Rian's hanfu videos have garnered numerous positive comments from Chinese viewers, which act as a source of inspiration for this hanfu enthusiast to continue his endeavors.

"One day, a Chinese follower messaged me, saying he and his friends have started watching Brazilian TV series because of me," he said.

In the future, this 29-year-old vlogger plans to explore various locations in China and delve into diverse local cultures, particularly those of ethnic groups.

"In addition to creating hanfu videos like before, I intend to showcase more Chinese cultural elements. For example, I want to reveal how traditional costumes are made by Chinese people, and share the historical significance behind the process," he said.

The same passion for hanfu has driven JongMay Urbonya, originally from the United States, to establish her own business with the aim of promoting Chinese dressing.

Born in China, JongMay spent her elementary to high school years in the US before returning to China to pursue a degree in Chinese dance. Since then, she has been living in Beijing for more than 10 years.

In April 2022, she founded a company focusing on promoting traditional Chinese culture through social media videos, inspired by her love for hanfu.

In one of her videos, JongMay gracefully explored the gardens of Beijing's Summer Palace, elegantly dressed in hanfu while indulging in traditional Chinese pastries. In another, she showcased her skills in classical Chinese dance accompanied by an ancient tune in the background.

Recalling her college days, Jong-May said wearing hanfu was seen as a "niche hobby", for which the garments had to be tailor-made. However, today she incorporates hanfu into her wardrobe and is able to conveniently purchase a variety of hanfu costumes online.

She is confident about the international appeal of traditional Chinese culture. "Many Westerners do not have much contact with the Chinese culture. When they do, they think it's gorgeous."

"Even Chinese in the West have said, 'I'm so happy that you are expressing yourself through our culture'," she told Xinhua News Agency.

"Given my love for traditional Chinese culture, it is coming from the bottom of my heart. It's just true love."

The allure of hanfu is not confined to China or the West. In Serbia, a Chinese cultural event held on Sept 23 in the city of Novi Sad garnered significant attention.

Organized by the Confucius Institute at the University of Novi Sad, the hanfu cultural event captivated locals who participated in traditional Chinese activities such as the tea ceremony and the ancient game of touhu, also known as pitch-pot, which requires players to throw arrows from a distance into a pot.

Building bridges

Through their ongoing endeavors, enthusiasts like Rian and JongMay are building bridges between cultures and fostering a deeper appreciation for the beauty and richness of traditional Chinese attire.

Such people-to-people cultural exchanges are important features of the Belt and Road Initiative as it consolidates on a spiritual and intellectual level the ties among peoples and civilizations, said Hussein Askary, vice-chairman of the Belt and Road Institute in Sweden.

He said the connections between people under the BRI have become diverse in terms of form and quality, highlighting that China has surpassed both the US and the United Kingdom, becoming a major foreign destination for African students in 2018.

According to China's Ministry of Education, 81,562 African students studied in China in 2018, a 770 percent increase compared with 1996, when the number of African students in China crossed the 1,000 mark for the first time.

"Nowadays, tension is escalating and antagonism between conflicting countries is turning into hatred for other cultures, racism, and xenophobia," Askary said. "Proposals like the BRI and the GCI (Global Civilization Initiative) are very crucial, helping bridge the gap that is created by geopolitical conflict."

The Swedish expert also visited Xi'an earlier this year when he saw people proudly dressed in hanfu costumes, celebrating the cultural heritage of the Tang Dynasty.

Xi'an, as an important capital city of the ancient Silk Road, has a special position in reviving the ties between China and other cultures in the West that go back 2,000 years.

Furthermore, he observed that the BRI has sparked the curiosity of Chinese people, prompting them to explore the nations along the ancient Silk Road, thereby facilitating communication between Chinese and foreign cultures.

"Culture can help us today to transcend the ephemeral political and ideological differences, to that which is eternal. This is the best and only true dialogue among cultures."

Xinhua contributed to this story.