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Outside of cosplay: Hanfugirl explores historical Chinese heritage by way of vogue


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SINGAPORE: In Could 2015, Gong Pan Pan and her husband flew to Beijing for their marriage photoshoot. For one particular of the periods, they went to a studio to dress up in costumes from unique intervals in Chinese heritage – and she was immediately hooked.

“It was the to start with time I experienced taken a correct photoshoot and I believed it was so great. So I investigated a bit extra and located out there was this entire new entire world of hanfu in China, exactly where folks would argue about irrespective of whether they have been authentic plenty of. And I realised it was not just about wanting fairly,” she explained.


For the 31-yr-previous Singaporean, that transient cosplay moment was the commence of an ongoing really like affair with hanfu, the classic apparel of the Han Chinese, and the heritage woven into these.

Gong Pan Pan, aka Hanfugirl, does her very own make-up, dresses and hairstyle to produce unique seems to be. From remaining: One that is impressed by classic Chinese opera taken in an previous property in China a brief snapshot during an overseas holiday excursion and one particular taken at the Simatai portion of the Terrific Wall. (Photographs: Hanfugirl)

Eager to locate out extra about these extravagant clothing from the past, she began shopping for textbooks on the heritage of Chinese vogue.

She started buying, too. Right now, she has all over 50 sets of apparel, all purchased from online buying internet site Taobao. Her selection ranges from styles that date again to the Han Dynasty to as modern as China in the nineteen twenties and 1930s.

Below the moniker Hanfugirl, she has been creating pictures of her and her pals dressed up in these clothing, which she posts on Facebook and Instagram.

From remaining: A male robe from the Yuan and Ming dynasties, and vogue from the Han and Qing dynasties. The latter was the last imperial dynasty in China, dominated by the Manchurians and the Manchurian one particular-piece robe is what the cheongsam was modelled immediately after. (Photo: Hanfugirl)

And she is now getting her individual passion to the following degree. Gong, who is a community servant performing in a museum, is presenting a vogue display on Saturday afternoon (Sep 30) at the Esplanade Concourse, underneath the arts centre’s Moonfest celebration.

Titled Prior to Cheongsam: 2,000 Many years of Chinese Style, it characteristics 20 parts from her selection, which will be worn by pals. A small adjacent exhibition, which runs right until Oct four, will also function 5 other parts and photographic will work.

For the artist and Han tradition fanatic, vogue has been a good way of breaking by way of the normally confusing jumble of names, dates and trivia.

From remaining: Style from the Track and late Tang dynasties. The previous featured minimum make-up and hairstyles, whilst the latter featured a good deal of decoration and elaborate hairdos. (Photographs: Hanfugirl)

“I never examined Chinese heritage before and my track record was extra of good arts and English literature, so it truly served to open up this entire world to me,” explained Gong, who was born in China but moved to Singapore at the age of seven.

She additional: “That’s why I try out to make my photographs fairly. When folks see the images, hopefully they’ll go: ‘Oh, they search fairly I want to know extra about this.’ Which is how I started to find out about Chinese heritage – mainly because I saw a fairly dress.”

A One-Girl Demonstrate

Barring the occasional outdoor shoots at Chinese Back garden or outings to China, most of her photos are produced at household.

Hundreds of styles flourished during the Ming dynasty, when Han Chinese rulers sought to restore classic Han Chinese dressing from past dynasties before the Mongolian rule. Metallic buttons and superior collars have been also to start with launched. (Photo: Hanfugirl)

The shoots are done in one particular corner of her rental, and make-up and dressing up are done in one particular space. Her dresses – for which she has spent “at minimum S$ten,000” – are stored in one more space.

Most of the time, it is a one particular-lady task. “I do the make-up, the hairstyling and the publish-creation. I would get my pals to take the images or I would established up my digital camera and get a friend to snap it for me. Then I would edit the images,” she explained, incorporating that the procedure could take one particular to two hours.

Originally the images have been all typically of her, but she afterwards invited pals and do the job colleagues to dress up as a kind of bonding session.

Contemporary China in the nineteen twenties and 1930s, exactly where guys reduce their pigtails and girls started putting on cheongsams. Two-piece blouses with a straight-reduce skirt have been also well-known between female college students. (Photographs: Hanfugirl)

As for her moniker, Hanfugirl, it was a pleasant retort at her husband, a physician, who would tease that that what she was doing was practically nothing when compared to Gossip Lady, the Tv display.

“So I acquired fed up and explained I was heading to get in touch with myself Hanfugirl just to spite him,” she explained, with a laugh.

Her vogue exploits are not minimal to just photoshoots for social media – she sometimes dresses up for formal events this kind of as weddings and even goes to do the job in hanfu, minus the elaborate makeup and hairstyle, of program.

Gong Pan Pan sometimes brings together past and current in her photos, this kind of as a mid-Tang dynasty girl spraying perfume from an early 20th-century bottle, or re-imagining the main character from Tsui Hark’s 1993 movie Environmentally friendly Snake. (Photographs: Hanfugirl)

Gong additional that she and her pals, who also dress in hanfu, have once in a while been mistaken for getting possibly Korean or Japanese. She reckons it can be very likely mainly because folks are only common with the cheongsam – or qipao – and earlier classic Chinese attire are unfamiliar to most.


But Gong pointed out that the extra common Chinese dress is only the idea of the iceberg when it will come to a vogue heritage that stretches again millennia and attracts from a lot of unique influences.

“While hanfu commonly suggests that it is anything at all that belongs to the Han Chinese, it is not so distinct-reduce. The expression Chinese is not insular and not a monolith. China has generally been related with its neighbours,” she explained.

For the duration of the mid-Tang dynasty, women wore contemporary bouquets and small combs on their head. The regular search of a attractiveness was that of a moreover-sized lady. (Photo: Hanfugirl)

She pointed out how foldable followers, trousers and even belt buckles – which appeared through different Chinese dynasties – have been all influences from Japan, nomadic tribes and Persia, respectively.

And just as other cultures have created their mark on hanfu vogue in the past, the latter has also been making its mark on up to date tradition without the need of us understanding it.

“Actually, Queen Amidala from Star Wars seems really a great deal motivated by the Chinese variety of makeup – the two red dots (on her cheekbone) can be from the Han dynasty. And then you have acquired all those sorts of makeup on the vogue runways of superior-stop brand names,” she explained.

One of the earlier will work by Hanfugirl, when she began her undertaking of working with classic Chinese dresses, which was done in collaboration with her friend, Enoch Tang. (Photo: Hanfugirl)

Significant vogue and house opera motion picture characters, while, are really unique from each day dress in – but Gong believes it is a make a difference of time.

She cited a rising hanfu movement in China, with cities holding their very own hanfu festivals and even a well known pop new music figure – Jay Chou’s lyricist Vincent Fang – getting an energetic winner of the vogue.

In Singapore, while, she admits it is continue to really area of interest. “Even Singaporean Chinese would not truly know or aren’t that intrigued in classic Chinese tradition these days. But hopefully, by way of aesthetics, extra folks will realise it is truly interesting to find out about it.”

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