Appreciating the Beauty of Costumes in the Tang Dynasty

Li Ming

PureInsight | June 10, 2002

In the long history of human dress, the ancient Chinese costume is the most resplendent. It is also evident that the dress of the Tang dynasty is the most beautiful when compared to the other characters in this costume kingdom. In 618 AD, the Tang dynasty ended China’s split status and civil war, which lasted hundreds of years, and became a very powerful dynasty in terms of politics, economics, and the military. At that time, the silk industry was developing very quickly. In addition, communications between people of different nationalities was very extensive. During the Tang dynasty, ancient Chinese civilization reached its heyday in the areas of fashion, literature, art, medical science, and technology.

Historically, China is different from other countries in the world. Its social structure took the form of dynasties. When dynasties changed, the style of dress immediately changed accordingly. “A dynasty's emperor has that dynasty’s courtiers, a dynasty’s sovereign being has that dynasty’s people, a dynasty’s culture, a dynasty’s dress...” (From “Teaching the Fa at the Washington, D.C. International Fa Conference” in Guiding the Voyage). Everything in human history was created for the Fa. It is true that the costume of the dynasty’s sovereign being of the Great Tang Dynasty had reached the summit of perfection and surpassed all other styles of dress in China’s history. The beauty of the Tang costume was loved by people of many generations. In fact, this costume was purposely given to human beings by God in order to create an instance of magnificence in human history and to set a shining example for future human beings. Today, amid various twisted fads and unhealthy influences, which reflect in the culture and style of dress, people still seek the answer to the question, “What is the future of human beings?” Things do turn around after reaching the extreme point. During the process of creation, maintenance, and decay, and as the immense force of Fa-rectification sweeps through the universe, the Great Law of the universe—“Falun Dafa”—is creating the most beautiful future for sentient beings. Humans will regain the standards in all aspects of life: culture, art, food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. Let us look at the style of custom worn in the Great Tang Dynasty:

A Gentleman’s Kerchief and Round-Collar Robe

The kerchief is a cloth wrapping for the hair and was usually made of paulownia leaves, kudzu silk, vine, and leather. It was used to maintain the hair in a fixed shape, like a wig. The two ends of the kerchief were ribbons that hung down naturally over the neck and shoulders. Different kinds of ribbons were used: some were soft, some hard; some rounded, and some square shaped. The style varied slightly from time to time depending on the fashion at the time. The round-collar robe, which is also called a “reunion collar,” was the costume worn by eunuchs during the Sui and Tang dynasties. It is also called the “daily costume” since it was the main article of clothing for males. Usually, the costume had the round collar and clasped on the right side. There was a border along the bottom of the robe. In everyday life, a round-collar robe shirt together with black leather boots was very popular. This style was not only free and easy, but also handsome and spirited. From ancient paintings such as “Walking and Riding,” “Riding a Horse,” “Evening Banquet in Han Xizai’s Mansion,” and “The Spring Outing of Her Lady of Guoguo,” we can see the style was popular with both men and women. The garb of many officials in the Tang dynasty was also in this style, and different colors were used to indicate their official ranks. The robes for the Emperor were yellow, a style that remained the tradition until the Qing dynasty. Generally speaking, the costumes for officials ranked as Level 3 and higher were purple, officials ranked as Level 5 wore red, officials ranked as Levels 6 and 7 wore green, and officials ranked as Levels 8 and 9 wore blue. Why was the costume style and color so important to the ancients? On the surface, ancient people used the positions of king, minister, the nobility, and the characteristic of humility to show the dignity of the different ranks in society. But in fact, in the corresponding dimension of heaven, beings of different colors have fundamental differences—different dimensions, levels, and particles. We can say that the various colors of the social ranks are the various manifesting forms of the different lives in our universe.


A Lady's Style of Apparel

For ladies, there was a short sleeve style with a short jacket and skirt; there was also a long sleeve style with a long skirt and shawl. There was also a variety of hairdos with names like “The Watching Fairy Hairdo,” “The Cloud Hairdo,” and “Twin Droop Hairdo.” The costume included the short skirt or shirt on the top, the long skirt on the bottom, with shawl wrapped around the body, flower hairpins, and shoes with silk or grass heels. When she went out, a lady could wear a bamboo hat. For example, the noble lady in the painting “Pounding White Silk” by Zhang Xuan is wearing a short skirt on top, with the waist of the skirt pulled up to the armpit; the collar was tied with different kinds of silk ribbons. After the high Tang period, sleeves got bigger and bigger. In the end, the long sleeve became popular. In the ancient painting titled “A Noble Lady with Flowers in Her Hair,” you can see the elegance and beauty as described in poems “The Long Skirt Floating Like the Xiang Jiang River” and “The Short Skirt Showing Part of the Breast.” Like the moving clouds, the running water, and the elegant gestures of God, the dress and the shawl draped around the body and fluttering along in the wind are the perfect imitation of God. This is not just imagination, for the legs of living beings in dimensions higher than ours are indeed vaguely hidden, and these beings need not comb their hair —they just live in that kind of state. In fact, the beautiful concept of “combining heaven and humans into one” is based on the respect for and the belief in God. Only when human beings have a compassionate heart will God reveal the truth to them. Human beings will thus achieve wisdom, a wonderful living environment, and a good life.

Military Costume

During the Tang dynasty, military armor was almost perfectly developed. In one example, there is the figure of a knight in armor carved on the stone doorframe of the Greater Goose Tower in Xi’an, Shanxi province. This knight looks like a soldier from heaven and his weapon also looks like an instrument of heaven. In his elaborate and colorful armor, this powerful figure seems to illustrate how military generals were conquering the world and safeguarding justice in the human world by following the instruction of God. Even the gold and silver embroidered figures inside the battle robe were mythical animals like unicorns, birds, and beasts from heaven. All the instruments in other dimensions are intelligent. This beautiful costume and the knight who wears it are evidently the manifestation of the consciousness and the willed action of God.

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