TV show highlighting attire of the ages reveals the rich heritage and complexity of Chinese culture, report Xue Mengchen and Xu Fan.
When picturing a bride, the first thing that comes to mind is perhaps an elegant white wedding dress decorated with exquisite lace. Well, that’s if you follow Western folklore and fashion styles. Interestingly, Chinese brides once fancied much darker colors in which to tie the knot. For instance, there was a time when Chinese brides would wear black or red wedding dresses, depending on the dynasty.
To find out why, and uncover many other anecdotes related to fashion in Chinese history, many viewers are tuning in to watch Chic China, a 10-episode TV show that started on CCTV-3, a channel of China Central Television, in November. It has brought to life ancient fashion with a combined stage show and host voice-over, with each episode concluding with comments by Fan Di’an, director of the Central Academy of Fine Arts.
Spanning thousands of years, the show revisits the history of Chinese clothing, from ceremonial attire to the cheongsam and Dacron-made clothes that prevailed between 1970s and ’80s.
Li Sisi, producer and host of the show, says: “After almost two years of planning, the program is finally being shown to the public. We wish to present the beauty of Chinese clothing as well as the aesthetic behind it with originality and from multiple perspectives.”
Before the filming started, Li, a graduate from the School of Journalism and Communication at Peking University, and her crew, traveled to conduct research in Suzhou and Nanjing in Jiangsu province, along with Hangzhou in Zhejiang province－all areas known for their silk or brocade production throughout the centuries.
Inspired by the journey, Li says the production team realized that stage shows could showcase traditional attire in dramatic and innovative ways.
One of the most emotional scenes occurs in the second episode, which is themed around weddings. Jiang Ruoxi, a young princess, played by actress Yin Shuo, puts on layers of a wedding dress with the outermost gown in black, before she embarks on her marriage to the ruler of another country on behalf of her own nation during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC).
Two other shows in the episode respectively recount the stories of a young man from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) who recites poetry as a means to win the heart of a beautiful woman, and Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) artist Tang Yin’s ecstatic moment when he fell for his true love in a peach forest.