July 26, 2021

In China, a new very political craze for “hanfu”, the traditional costume

BEIJING LETTER

In Beijing, the district of Sanlitun is the Mecca of a golden youth who, often, has more consideration for the dogs that it walks than for the employees of Apple or Louis Vuitton who try to satisfy its slightest whims. In this temple of appearance, a strange little shop stands out in the middle of the “flagships” of Western brands. Since 2019, a photo studio offers its customers to rent a traditional Chinese costume, to have their makeup done and then to have their portrait taken in a supposedly historical setting.

Miracle: the same young girls who, in the street, do not know any more where to give of the electronic wallet seem here to have all their time. Less to set their sights on the dress – most of them have made their choice beforehand on the Internet – than to have their hair done and – at length – make up. In fact, between the young adult who entered the store in shorts, T-shirt and sneakers and the courtesan who gave herself up to the expert hands of the makeup artist, the contrast is striking.

Until recently, this type of store was confined to the outskirts of tourist places, such as the Forbidden City. Between the mini-market which sells traditional children’s costumes at low prices and the studio which offers a total service (costume rental, make-up, photo shoot in the Forbidden City) for around 250 euros, tourists are only spoiled for choice. choice. But the enthusiasm is such that the offer now extends to Sanlitun. In one year, according to a local economic magazine, the number of shops hanfu (literally “Han costume”) in the capital has grown from twenty to over a hundred. It is not uncommon to meet young people wearing a hanfu as far as District 798, the contemporary art gallery district in northeast Beijing. A bit as if we came across young girls dressed as Marquise de Pompadour in the aisles of the FIAC!

Countless historical soap operas

Under 30, Tang, a teacher at a nursing school in the south of the country, did not resist. The day before, only the heatwave of mid-June had dissuaded her from taking a photo shoot in the Forbidden City. Here, in the air-conditioned studio, she takes all her time. She chose a long and wise salmon and beige dress from the Tang Dynasty (618-907), which inspired her first name. “Because of the elegance of the women of that time”, she explains. A choice that is both aesthetic and historical. “I’m crazy about the history of China”, confides this young woman suddenly passionate while a hairdresser fixes a long ponytail. Is she proud of this story? ” Yes of course “, she replies.

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