Different with western wedding attire, China has her own special wedding attire. Generally speaking, Chinese wedding dress is basically around theme of good luck and happiness. Dragon, phoenix, red and golden colors are thought to bring good luck and happiness, hence they are indispensable elements in Chinese wedding dressing and decoration. Besides, other stuffs of Chinese wedding dress are with strong Chinese characteristics.
The main color of Chinese wedding dress & decoration settings is bright red, the traditional and sacred color. As you may know red is the most favored color by Chinese as it represents happiness, vigor, life and bright delighted mood in Chinese culture. To be used in Chinese weddings, red is also considered as a symbol of good fortune that drive evil spirits away. This is different than that in the west where the wedding color is dominated by pure white and black. The traditional Chinese wedding dress in northern Chinese usually is one piece frock named Qipao(旗袍), which is red mainly and embroidered with elaborate gold and silver design. Brides in Southern China prefer to wear two-piece dress named Qungua or QunKwa(裙褂), as they are otfen elaborately adorned with gold dragon and phoenix,so they are often called longfeng gua(龙凤褂) namely dragon phoenix coat in mordern China.
(chinese wedding dress qipao & longfeng gua)
Longfenggua (龙凤褂) is quite popular among Chinese couples these days. It’s an indispensible Chinese wedding dress in China. Patterned with dragon and phoenix, the Longfenggua is endowed with their auspicious meaning. Besides dragon and phoenix, five embroidered bats, with the meaning of five blessing arrival, also appear in Longfenggua. The longfenggua is more simplified than the above three Chinese wedding dresss, and it can show women’s curvaceous shape. In modern China, when Chinese new couples take Chinese style wedding pictures, they prefer fengguanxiapei, but when they drink a toast to guests, they prefer Longfenggua.
(Longfeng gua 龙凤褂)
(Chinese wedding color & decoration settings)
Covering veil of Chinese bride is a piece of square-shaped red color silk which is usually embroidered with designed peony or phoenix patterns. The meaning behind this tradition is that people believe a red covering veil can drive away the unauspicous things and also covers the nervious flushing face of the bride. During the traditional Chinese wedding ceremony, the bride is handed by her groom. Her head should be covered by a red veil which is falling down to her shoulder for whole ceremony. The covering veil is not taken off until all the relatives and friends have left. It is the groom's privilege to take off her covering veil. Traditionally, the groom should take off her veil using a small steelyard,this is meaning the groom could make his bride listen to his opniion willingly. Imagine the special and sweet moment when the groom takes the veil off and see a blush and excited face with the timid candlelight while they sit on the edge of new bed. The bride covering veil is connected with the special occasion the lovers are eager for their life.
(Chinese wedding covering veil)
Chinese Phoenix Coronet——凤冠 , namely means phoenix crown in Chinese, is the most honorable ornaments for ancient women. Phoenix coronets have been an important part of Chinese wedding attire since Ming dynasty. This wedding attire is considered as the most classic and representative one among all Chinese wedding dress. Though wearing western gown and black suits is popular in China today, many couples will choose to wear traditional Chinese wedding dresses as a second suit in completing the wedding ceremony on their wedding reception as well. Apart from being a tradition, the exquisite beauty of phoenix coronets is the main reason that attracts brides to wear it for the most beautiful and honorable moment in their lives.
Phoenix coronets were first started in Ming Dynasty in ancient China. At that time, phoenix coronet and robe of rank —— 凤冠霞帔 (Chinese pinyin: feng-guan-xia-pei) were the proper wedding dress for bride. At frist, phoenix coronet and robe of rank were designed especially for queens during Ming dynasty. Phoenix coronet was a crown for queen to wear in attending important occasions such as receiving nobility titles given by the royal family, meeting envoys or holding royal family receptions. And robes of ranks were together in the whole suit, showing queens status and power. Later the folks took this as a fashion tradition when brides got married during Ming and Qin Dynasties. But, unlike the queen's priceless crown which was made by highly-skilled masters using diamonds and pearls, the phoenix coronets for ordinary people were made of colorful decorations or jade if one was rich. Dragon and phoenix patterns were restrictively forbidden on folks phoenix coronets at that time. Today, brides can purchase all types of phoenix coronets on Taobao(sort of Chinese version of E-bay) at a price of 50 to more than 1000 CNY.
(Chinese phoneix coronet and robe of rank for queen in Ming dynasty)
During the wedding ceremony, the bride usually wears a special pair of wedding shoes. Traditionally, in Southern Fujian Province, the bride has to wear a pair of shoes embroidered with patterns of a turtle or a deer, which symbolizes blessing, happiness and longevity after marriage. In southern Zhejiang Province, the bride has to wear a pair of shoes named Shang Jiao Xie (shoes worn while stepping into the sedan chair) before getting into the sedan is for the sake of praying for auspiciousness. Either the bride or others can make the wedding shoes. These kinds of shoes are made with red and green cloth and usually with a soft sole. When a bride is going to step into the sedan chair, she is supposed to wear these shoes. In some places, relatives who make such shoes for bride can receive good fortune, while in other areas, they are made by the bride and another single girl in the morning of the wedding day.
(Chinese wedding shoes)
Along the thousands years of long history of ancient China, the style of Chinese wedding dress is different in different dynasties. There were three main Chinese wedding dresses in history China.
In Zhou dynasty, they were 爵弁玄端 (pinyin: jue bian xuan duan) for groom and 纯衣纁袡 (pinyin: chun yi xun ran) for bride;
In Tang dynasty, they were 梁冠礼服 (pinyin: liangguanlifu) for groom and 钗钿礼衣 (pinyin: chai dian li fu) for bride;
In Ming dynasty , they were 九品官服 (pinyin: jiu pin guan fu) for groom and 凤冠霞帔 (pinyin: feng-guan-xia-pei) or called Chinese phoenix coronets and robes of rank.
The characteristic of the Chinese wedding dress in Zhou dynasty is modesty and solemn. The color is different from that of later ages. Black and light red is the main color in Zhou dynasty, while that of later ages is bright red. The bridegroom wears juebian-the hat on the bridegroom’s head, and xuanduan-the dressing has two layers, white is for underwear, black and light red is for outwear. Bride wears xunran, which includes a light red underwear and a black outwear. Besides, the bride has to bound the hair up with a 50cm hair band and a 25cm hairpin.
(Chinese wedding dress in Zhou dynasty)
Chinese wedding dress in Tang dynasty combines solemnity of Zhou dynasty and the joy of later ages. The bridegroom wears red dress while the bride wears green dress. Based on long sleeve dressing with flower hairpin, the chaidianlifu is developed in late Tang dynasty. The characteristic of the attire is with many layers and long sleeves. Kimono in Japan is developed from this wedding attire. Wearing this wedding attire, the bride has to match with a hairpin made of metals and jewels. After Tang dynasty, the sophisticated chaidianlifu is simplified.
(Chinese wedding dress in Tang Dynasty)
As we all known, the more sophisticated thing is, the less aesthetic feeling people have. So how does the wedding attire combine so much sophisticated things to gorgeous art? What is classic about the wedding attire in Tang dynasty is its collar and long sleeves. Although matching with a set of hairpins and hair ornaments, the wedding attire in Tang dynasty has never ever brought cumbersome feeling. With time pass by, bride’s green dress has been updated to bright red dress.
From Ming dynasty to modern China, taking wife is a small civil examination for Chinese men, so the wedding attire for bridegroom is the ninth-rank officer’s costume ( 九品官服，Chinese pinyin: jiu pin guan fu), and phoenix coronet and robes of rank (凤冠霞帔， Chinese pinyin:feng guan xia pei) is for bride. Fengguan is the most honorable ornaments for ancient women. Fengguanxiapei has been wedding attire since Ming dynasty. Bride’s fengguanxiapei includes phoenix coronet, red veil, red gown, descendent bag, red dress, and red shoes and so on. This wedding attire is regarded as the most classic and representative one among all Chinese wedding dress. Most Chinese couple today will choose at least two styles when they take wedding pictures, one is western wedding attire, the other is Chinese wedding dress for its exquisite beauty.
(Chinese wedding dress in Ming Dynasty)
Phoenix Coronet for Empress Dowager Xiaojing, Ming Dynasty, Wanli Era(1573-1620). Unearthed from Dingling Mausoleum at Changping, Beijing, 1957. Empress Dowager was a favoered concubine of Wanli Emperor (r 1573-1620) and grandmother to the Tianqi Emperor (r 1620-1627).