The Tale Of A Qipao 旗袍 (Chi-Pao) – The Introduction

The Tale Of A Qipao ( Chi-Pao ) - The Introduction

Happy Year of the Horse everyone!!
In another four days, the Year of the Snake will come to an end, following up the turn of the Year of the Horse.
While we are celebrating Chinese New Year, I want to dedicate these three blog posts about Chinese lady’s fashion culture since the 17th century’s Qing Dynasty (清朝) – qipao (旗袍) – to our favourite and the most important festival of the year – Spring Festival (春節).

As a child, I grew up watching my beloved grandmother went to work wearing qipao. She was a teacher at a local primary school in Yilan, Taiwan. Watching her dressed in qipao and saw her walked so straight and perkily in them had made quite an impact on me.

Qipao, the one piece, body hugging Chinese dress, also wildly known in the western world as ‘Cheongsam’… This Mandarin gown was actually from Manchurian who ruled China during Qing Dynasty.
The Manchurian – who also known as Banner People – forced Han Chinese (the majority of Chinese are Han) to adopt the way they dressed or they could face death penalty. So, after 1636, the Han Chinese, both men and women, under the ‘Banner system’, were giving up their traditional Han clothing and changed into Manchurian clothing.
In another word, this ‘Chinese traditional dress’ was in fact, forced into our Han lady’s fashion culture.
Ironically, today, this Banner (Qi 旗) – Gown (Pao 袍) has become THE spokesperson representing Chinese’s traditional woman’s wear.

The Qing Dynasty qipao was made loose; wide and often A-lined (see image below).
I remember watching countless TV series of period dramas of Qing Dynasty in Taiwan during my childhood and in my teenage days with my family.., seeing how those one piece long gown used to covering up most of a woman’s body.
Unlike qipao’s modernized self, which was developed in Shanghai in the 1920s, it was reinvented into a figure hugging; high slit cut and much more revealing version…
I’ll leave this part to my next blog article.

Main photo credit: Chris Balven



  1. Some people think good body figure is the most important for wearing qi pao. But I think how to show the decent temperament when you wearing qi pao is more important. 🙂
    I like this article.

    • Well, good point Lingy. I’d say my grandmother wore them with her decent temperament… And that’s how the beauty of a Qipao shines from within her. It’d be great if the wearer has the right figure too though…
      And, thank you for once suggested me to blog an article about Qipao! This is the first of my ‘Qipao trilogy’!!! Stay tuned… ^.^

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