On the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, 23-year-old Deng Jie from Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan Province, paid a New Year's visit to her grandma's home in a vermilion dress embroidered with auspicious clouds and a bright yellow woolen robe.
Hanfu is the traditional clothing of the Han ethnic group and was formed in the main residential areas of the Han ethnic group in ancient times. Deng's outfit is in the style of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
It is a traditional Chinese custom to give New Year's greetings to the elders in the family. For Deng Jie, wearing a hanfu could add some classical flavor to the custom.
Nowadays, an increasing number of young Chinese who adopt hanfu as part of their everyday and public wardrobes say that they wear it to show appreciation for their heritage and to feel a connection to their roots. They even want to promote the acceptance of hanfu as mainstream fashion.
PASSION FOR HANFU
"Every time I wear hanfu, I feel quite myself," Deng said. She has been obsessed with the traditional garments for nearly 10 years and wears hanfu every day.
"The first time I saw hanfu was in a TV series," said Deng, who would try to copy the looks of different Han costumes she would see on TV using a bedsheet.
In recent years, as a number of costume dramas have gained popularity among audiences and some Internet celebrities wearing hanfu in their videos, hanfu is attracting more admirers.
In 2018, the number of hanfu fans reached 2.04 million, up 72.9 percent year on year, according to a report on China's hanfu industry released by iMedia, a consulting company in China. From the perspective of purchasing motivation, 47.2 percent of consumers are motivated by their passion for hanfu culture, accounting for the highest proportion.
"When talking about traditional Chinese costumes, most people would think about qipao rather than hanfu," Deng said.
After graduation from university in 2018 with a major in fashion design, Deng opened a hanfu store. She integrated elements of Xiang embroidery, an intangible cultural heritage in Hunan Province, into hanfu in her store.
"It's time for our traditional clothes to make a comeback," Deng said.
Much like Deng, 26-year-old Ren Chuang from northern China's Shanxi province is also a hanfu hobbyist. Fond of history, he feels sad for the decline of hanfu and decided to popularize hanfu in his daily life.
In the summer of 2017, Ren, then an IT worker, bought his first hanfu to wear at work.
"To my surprise, instead of weird looks, my colleagues just asked if I was wearing hanfu," Ren said, adding that the friendly attitude of his colleagues gave him the confidence to wear hanfu every day. He started to find more hanfu fans, including his girlfriend Li Siting -- president of the Hunan Hanfu Culture Promotion Association.
"I have developed a strong interest in Chinese studies since I was a college student," said Li, who has been wearing hanfu to class every day since her sophomore year. "When I was walking in the street, people always asked if I was an actress."
In December 2019, a survey conducted by the social survey center of the China Youth Newspaper and wenjuan.com showed that 65 percent of respondents felt that there were more people wearing hanfu around them over the past two years.
As for the practice of wearing hanfu in daily life, 53.1 percent of respondents believe it is done to promote fine traditional culture, while 43.5 percent believe that everyone has the freedom to choose what they would like to wear.
Apart from wearing hanfu, traditional culture lovers also appreciate the culture behind traditional garments. In April 2019, Li Siting's application for the establishment of Hanfu Culture Promotion Association was officially approved by the Hunan Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism.
During traditional festivals such as Dragon Boat Festival and Chinese Valentine's Day, Li organizes activities related to traditional culture, in which participants dressed in hanfu and enjoy folk music and dance performance.
"I find that our members are enthusiastic about learning all kinds of Chinese culture and traditional arts." Li began to look for professional talents among the association members and set up interest groups.
Now, every weekend, the association organizes group training on traditional dance, tea art, calligraphy and folk music. The classes are taught by university professors, professional musicians, dancers and so on.
Wu Wei, a professor at the school of literature and media of Guizhou University, said by displaying their clothes, hanfu hobbyists publicize Chinese culture to the world, which is also a conscious act of inheriting and protecting traditional Chinese culture.
As the main organizer of the association, Li often communicates with her counterparts from different places. Last November, she attended the 7th Chinese ritual and music conference in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, which was the first time she met overseas Chinese culture lovers from Japan, France, Argentina and other places.
"In 2020, I believe hanfu can enter more communities and schools and be widely known by people," Li said.