Elegant Clothing of Ethnic Koreans in China

2020-11-03 15:51:00 Source:China Today Author:GUO ZHIDONG
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A traditional wedding of the Korean minority.

Ethnic Koreans is a minority group in northeast China, whose culture is profoundly associated with the history of the Korean Peninsula. Their colorful traditional outfits embody the spiritual outlook of the ethnic group, and enrich the treasure trove of Chinese clothing art.

ETHNIC Koreans in China date their history back to the late Ming and early Qing period, or around the early 1600s. People from the Korean Peninsula settled in China’s northeastern region and gradually formed an ethnic group that retained many parts of the Korean culture.

At present, ethnic Chinese Koreans live in compact communities along the Tumen River, Yalu River, Mudan River, Songhua River, Liaohe River, and Hunhe River. White is the favorite color of ethnic Koreans, who regard the color as a symbol of purity, kindness, nobility, and holiness. The white color also demonstrates the distinctive character of ethnic Koreans who favor tranquility and simplicity.

Ethnic Korean clothing, after a long history of progress, has developed its own characteristics. In the late third century, Korean men of aristocratic blood developed a liking for short jackets and baggy pants, while noble women were fond of wearing hip-length tops and long skirts.

Later, under the influence of Mongolian clothing culture, women’s blouses became shorter and skirts were raised to the waist. In the 15th century, the waistline became even higher, basically evolving into what it looks like today.

Ethnic Koreans in China have mainly kept the folk clothing style of the Joseon Dynasty, the last unified feudal kingdom that ruled the Korean Peninsula from 1392 to 1910. They have everyday clothes, ceremonial dresses, and special outfits for dance performances. On the whole, their ethnic clothes feature a side opening, and buttonless tops that are fastened with cloth strings. The appeal is showcased through the combination of straight lines and curves in various parts of the clothing.

Korean men’s traditional outfits usually consist of short plain-colored jackets called jeogori. The cropped tops have left lapels with an oblique opening, and loose-fitting sleeves, and are fastened with ribbons on both sides of the front. The edges of the opening are covered with white cloth that can be removed when washed. People wear waistcoats with buttons. The surface is made of satin, and the lining usually made of fur or cloth. The waistcoat has three pockets and five buttons.

The jackets are usually worn with baggy trousers, mostly in white. When wearing such pants, people find it comfortable sitting cross-legged on cushions or mats on the floor. There are also strings on the bottom of trouser legs, enabling wearers to roll trouser legs up when ploughing paddy fields.

When Korean men go out, they wear formal hats and a long robe-like overcoat. This kind of ceremonial overcoat displays male maturity and masculinity. Nowadays, young people rarely wear the traditional robes, while senior people still preserve the tradition of wearing traditional clothes on ceremonial occasions.

Compared with men’s wear, women’s clothing is more colorful. Traditional everyday outfits for women are made up of tops and long skirts. Women usually tie a cloth bow under their right shoulder.

Traditional Korean clothing, to the present day, exhibits the aesthetic taste of Korean women, mirroring their moral excellence of kindheartedness, industrious spirit, and honesty.

Women’s jackets cover the arms and the upper body to the chest and are fastened by strings on the right chest. Tops for young ladies are rimmed with silk edges at the neckline, cuffs, and lapels. The colors are principally soft and light, including yellow, white, and pink.

An ethnic Korean folk dance performance.

Women’s skirts are also called chima in Korean. Differing in length, some extend all the way from the chest to the ankles, and some to the knees. Chima is usually made of silk in bold colors. The loose skirt has ruffles at the waist and goes into A-line.

Bright pleated skirts and skirts reaching the knee, paired with colorful ribbons, are favorites of young females. Middle-aged and elderly women wear long skirts and wrap-round skirts. The wrap-round skirts look like a fan in shape and have waistbands and skirt belts. The upper ends of the skirts are narrower with many ruffles. The hemline extends to the ankle. When wearing the skirts, women should wear underskirts inside.

In the choice of color and style, female clothing differs by age and occasion. Before marriage, women mostly wear yellow jackets with multi-colored stripes on the sleeves, and a bright scarlet skirt. They change to green tops and red skirt after marriage.

Children wear colorful clothes said to be inspired by rainbows. A rainbow, in the eyes of ethnic Korean people, serves as the emblem of light and beauty, and evokes a child’s innocent dreams.

Chinese ethnic Koreans usually match their traditional clothing with unique rubber shoes, which look like modern-day pump shoes with low heels. Made of artificial leather or rubber, the shoes feature turn-up toe caps. They are soft and comfortable to wear. Men’s shoes are generally black, while women’s are mostly white, sky blue or green.

Accessories going with the clothing are also exquisite, mainly consisting of headdresses and waist ornaments. Headwear includes hairbands and hairpins, while waist accessories include belts and purses, many of which are delicate handicrafts. In traditional clothing, ethnic Koreans like to wear a tassel under the bow on the chest. The decorations on the tassel are mostly carved piece of jade or an ornamental silver sword.

The simple and elegant ethnic Korean clothing presents the image of the ethnic group to the world, and diversifies the treasure trove of Chinese clothing art.  

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