Between traditions and modernism : 100 years of Qipao History

Chinese fashion holds in its treasures the iconic Qipao dress, which was recently listed as China’s intangible cultural heritage. Rooted in an entire century of history, this traditional Chinese female garment has been the subject of numerous exhibitions worldwide. The China Cultural Center in Brussels is delighted to host one of these exhibitions on its premises from April 27th 2018 until May 18th 2018. To inaugurate this special occasion, a Qipao fashion show was held on the evening of April 26th 2018 at the China Cultural Center in Brussels in the presence of prominent guests.

Opening ceremony of the exhibition “From Shanghai to Brussels: One Hundred Years of Qipao History”

During the evening of April 26th, the China Cultural Center in Brussels glowed with the colors of the beautiful Qipao dresses displayed on the occasion of the exhibition “From Shanghai to Brussels: One Hundred Years of Qipao History”. On the initiative of the Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union, a unique Qipao fashion show was organized to put the spotlight on the traditional garment that symbolizes Chinese taste for elegance and aesthetic, gathering 150 guests.

H.E. ZHANG Ming, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union, opened the ceremony with a welcoming speech and introduced the Qipao fashion to the guests: “The modern version of Qipao was born in Shanghai in 1920. The Qipao has now become an iconic dress for the Chinese women and has been listed as China’s intangible cultural heritage. Together with my female friends, I am glad to present this Qipao show and I hope you will get a better idea of Chinese fashion culture”. The Ambassador concluded his speech by wishing “further exchanges and cooperation between China and the EU”.

Mr. Jean-Christophe Belliard, Deputy Secretary-General of the EEAS, “We talk a lot about Asia and China, about commerce and business, but not enough about culture. It is important that Europe rediscovers China and its culture. Today we are honored to enjoy a beautiful fashion show with the female diplomats. Thank you for the organization of such an event”, he said.

Mr. TAN Shu, Director of the China Cultural Center in Brussels, warmly welcomed the guests and extended his sincerest gratitude to the Chinese Mission to the European Union and the Chinese Embassy to the Kingdom of Belgium for their important support. He carried on by explaining why these types of happenings are so important: “In a greater sense, this Exhibition joins the framework and initiative of the 2018 China-EU Tourism Year, promoting the people-to-people exchanges between China and Europe. We wish, through this Exhibition, to nourish mutual curiosities and understanding between China and Europe, to bring the hearts of the two peoples closer to each other and to add a few more colourful touches to this 2018 China-EU Tourism Year’s momentum.”

Mr. GAO Chunming, President of and researcher at the Shanghai Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Association, took the floor to present the key moments of Qipao history to the audience, highlighting the importance of that garment for the Chinese people. “With its style blending the East and the West, fine and detailed decoration, beautiful curves, noble and elegant flavor, the Qipao of Shanghai school rated its charm in the gorgeous history of Chinese costume”, he said. “Those Qipao worn by Shanghai women broke through the durance of feudal thoughts, inspired by European and American fashion elements in clothes, Qipao revealed the exquisite body line of oriental women for the first time. This combination of Eastern and Western styles not only preserves the traditional verve of Chinese gentleness and elegance, but also adds a touch a modern charm. It gradually became the national dress for Chinese women and has eventually shaken over and over again the pulse of world fashion trend”, he added.

Before the actual show started, a short video about the Qipao and its history was played to give the public a glimpse of the journey and evolution of Qipao dresses. As this garment reflects the collision and fusion between Eastern and Western cultures, they also symbolize the great and continuous link between the two sides of the world. Moreover, the Qipao has a great signification because it reflects the diverse needs of modern Chinese women through the great diversity of fabrics that can be used.

After the short visual explanation, it was with great honor that the female diplomats from the Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union opened the first part of the fashion show wearing traditional and improved Qipao dresses. The prestigious models were delighted to parade in one of the most popular clothing of the Chinese women in the 20th century, which accentuated their elegance and their culture. They were then followed by European students wearing the Qipao dresses as well and thereby showing how Western and Eastern cultures can perfectly merge. Because fashion has no age limit, teenagers and children from the Sunshine School were invited to walk in Chinese-style clothing and mesmerized the public with their cuteness.

The second part of the fashion show focused on Hanfu, the traditional Han Chinese clothing, and allowed the guests to travel through time with these pieces of clothing carrying 3000 years of history. As the Hanfu have shaped the styles of traditional costumes of many other Asian countries significantly throughout the centuries, the female diplomats also wanted to highlight that part of their beloved Chinese fashion. The Belgian Huafeng Hanfu Association was delighted to take part in this fashion show along with the Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union. Chinese and European members of the association proudly wore the garments on the catwalk before a Hanfu Dance by the Dance Team of the Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union concluded the show.

To end this festive evening with a nice touch, the guests were invited to enjoy a cocktail reception with Chinese food and drinks. The unique exhibition of the Qipao dresses turned the Center into a colorful and vivid place, letting the guests admire the beauty and authenticity of Chinese fashion.


Lectures: “The History of the Qipao” and “The Contemporary Aesthetic Appreciation of Traditional Qipao” at the China Cultural Center in Brussels

The next day, the China Cultural Center in Brussels was delighted to host further -more academical- activities about Qipao fashion. Two lectures were given on the afternoon of Friday April 27th, giving the public the opportunity to learn more about the history of the Qipao and its aesthetic appreciation.

Mr. GAO Chunming came back to the Center to discuss the history of the Qipao over the past century and explained to the numerous participants how the traditional dress from the Manchu palace became a mainstream style worn by the Han Chinese women all over China. Starting by explaining the origin of the Qipao, Mr. GAO Chunming traced the evolution of the garment through the last century, highlighting the great diversities in styles.

Mr. ZHOU Zhuguang, Vice President of the Shanghai International Fashion Federation, Vice President of the Shanghai Clothing Association and Vice President of the Shanghai Qipao Cultural Promotion, followed Mr. GAO Chunming with a lecture about the aesthetic aspects of the Qipao in China. He presented the different styles and shapes of the Qipao throughout the last century, showing the important place of this garment in the everyday life of the Chinese people.

Through this happening, not only Chinese fashion culture was put in the light, but also Chinese history and its major events, which allows the public to enjoy the beauty and its story at the same time. At the end of the lectures, the participants were delighted to have learned more about Qipao and its rich background and wondered around the exhibition, understanding it in a greater way than before.