China: General Information

The People’s Republic of China, in Asia, is the world’s most populous country, with a population of over 1.381 billion. China officially recognises 56 distinct ethnic groups, the largest of which are the Han Chinese, who constitute about 91.5% of the total population. The Han Chinese is the world’s largest single ethnic group. According to a 2010 census, ethnic minorities account for about 8.5% of the population of China. The main ethnic groups in China are Bai (1.9 million), Buyei (2.8 million), Dai (1.2 million) Dong (2.8 million), Hani (1.6 million), Hui (10.5 million), Kazakh (1.4 million), Korean (1.8 million), Li (1.4 million), Manchu (10.3 million), Miao (9.4 million), Mongol (5.9 million), Tibetan (6.2 million), Tujia (8.3 million), Uyghur (11.5 million), Yao (2.7 million), Yi (8.7 million), and Zhuang (16.9 million).

Due to this very diverse ethnic mix and China’s long history, I am certainly not able to give a comprehensive overview of the different types of clothing used traditionally in this vast country. Consequently, as I have only one Chinese doll, I will just give a very short description here with a couple of pictures to show the great variety within the Han Chinese traditions. If and when I get dolls from the other ethnicities or more Han Chinese dolls I will deal with each of them specifically.


1) Clothing of various dynasties
1) Clothing of various dynasties


China has a history which covers virtually 5,000 years, from the Bronze Age into the 20th century. Many different types of materials [e.g. silk (first made in China), hemp, or cotton] and superb technical skills [weaving, dyeing, embroidery, and other textile arts] have been developed and used. Traditional Chinese clothing is broadly referred to as hanfu. Depending on one’s status in society, each social class had a different sense of fashion.

2) Mao suits
2) Mao suits

The Chinese Revolution of 1911, not only changed Chinese society radically but new styles arose to replace the clothing traditions that were considered no longer appropriate or were even violently rejected. Early in the People’s Republic, Mao Zedong inspired Chinese fashion with his own variant of the Zhongshan suit, which would be known in the West as the Mao suit. Around the Destruction of the “Four Olds” period in 1964, almost anything seen as part of Traditional Chinese culture would lead to problems with the Communist Red Guards.

3) Cheongsam
3) Cheongsam

By the time of the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), the qipao (cheongsam) had been denounced as “feudal,” and the wearing of the blue Mao suit was nearly obligatory. In recent years, a renewed interest in traditional Chinese culture has led to a movement in China advocating for the revival of hanfu.


4) Retro is in - traditional men’s clothing
4) Retro is in – traditional men’s clothing




1) Clothing of various dynasties –

2) Mao suits –

3) Cheongsam –

4) Retro is in – traditional men’s clothing –





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