An informal Talk on Ancient and Current Clothing and Culture

Amy Lee

PureInsight | December 24, 2001

Ancient Chinese culture was broad and profound, a shining exemplar in the history of human civilization. One facet, the glittering variety of ancient clothing styles, has become an inexhaustible research subject for historians and artists. From childhood, when I started to make Chinese-painting-style copies of pictures of fairies, to the time when I majored in fashion design and later pursued a career teaching about clothing history, my research could only focus on historical design patterns, fabric styles, and their aesthetic values. In this way I traced, very generally and only from an aesthetic perspective, the origin of clothing systems of various dynasties, and coined the description of the ancient clothing style as “(merging) heaven-(and-)human-(realms-)into-one.” But my knowledge matched an ancient saying perfectly - “knowing that something is so but not why something is so” (Chinese proverb). What can be observed from ancient/classic Chinese clothing, and in which pride can be taken, is the apparel’s effect of “making the appearance gorgeous and making the inner quality (shine through) magnificent(ly).” Yet, the reason behind its quality of “filial (respectfulness) -to-heaven and sacrificing-to-(the)earth” and more than worldly significance has remained a puzzle both in the past and at present.

After reading Teacher Li Hong-zhi’s works, what had puzzled me for my entire life was resolved. “Lunyu” at the very beginning of Zhuan Falun states, “The Buddha Fa is most profound; among all the theories in the world, it is the most intricate and extraordinary science. In order to explore this domain, humankind must fundamentally change its conventional thinking. Otherwise, the truth of the universe will forever remain a mystery to humankind, and everyday people will forever crawl within the boundary delimited by their ignorance.”

Human life and culture does not arise and die by itself. Movements in matters in the human dimension are subject to restrictions from movements in matters in other dimensions. Changes and evolution in human history have followed those of the celestial bodies. Gods determine the codes of behavior in human’s lives, as in the case of sending down a god to each dynasty to develop the costume/clothing system. Different emperors, officials, and civilians from different celestial bodies maintained their own cultures and costumes to reflect the shapes in their celestial paradises. From the strict clothing codes in ancient times, it can be observed that ancient man lived by the codes and moral standards for his system. The emperors, officials, and civilians all followed their categorical rules. As early as “Zhou”, the first dynasty of emperors in China, there was a designated official in charge of “clothing”, responsible for the implementation of the costume system. In Protocol Notes: Protocol Operation Episode, it was stated the clothing was intended to “nourish the living, bid farewell to the dead, and show respect to the heaven.” In Zhou Protocols: Spring Official, it was stated “the clothing official is responsible for deciding what the emperor should wear for the happy occasions as well as the sad occasions. Based on different occasions, the clothing official selects the appropriate clothes and accessories for the emperor.” The Lu Book: Beneficial Millet (translator’s note: millet, the god of grains, worshipped by ancient emperors) stated, “We carefully observe the cosmic changes of the past and the happenings in society today. We paint sun, moon, stars, mountains, dragons, and different animals. The tens of thousands of things around us, such as vessels of worship, aquatic plants, fire, rice, silk, and metal, are so colorful. We illustrate them in five different colors, paint them on articles of clothing, and make the clothing appear bright and vivid.” The ancient people’s cosmic approach is clearly noted here. They not only believed that gods provided all materials in the world but also applied their belief to the emperors’ costumes to express their wish to be respectful to heaven’s command and to be deferential to heaven while sacrificing to the earth. Why did the ancient costume system from West Zhou get inherited between generations within the dynasty, to evolve, live, and die with the dynasty when it retreated from the stage of history?

Teacher Li Hong-zhi reveals this heavenly secret in his “Lecture on the Fa at the Washington, D.C. International Conference,” when he says “Why have Chinese culture and civilization throughout history been so different from those of other places? The countries in all other regions have the concept of a country, and in all other regions their national leaders have taken the form of kings. Only in China's history was there no such thing as a country--it took the form of dynasties, instead. Historically speaking, China's emperors were very different from the kings in other countries. The truth is, while the foundations of those cultures were being laid, predestined relationships with the cosmos' beings were constantly being established. In every period of history, beings from different paradises have come to the land of China to establish their relationship, and they've each represented their own cosmic system. Dafa students are no exception. They've also come from different cosmic systems. Their reincarnations at different levels were their courses of life at those different levels. Ultimately, they come from remote cosmic bodies. You know, ‘a dynasty's emperor has that dynasty's courtiers’--that's what humans say. There are more sayings like this ‘a dynasty's emperor has that dynasty's courtiers,’ there are also, ‘a dynasty's sovereign being has that dynasty's people,’ ‘a dynasty's culture...,’ ‘a dynasty's dress...’ In the past, when the dynasty changed, the culture would immediately change, too, and the differences in dress were also substantial--all of this was brought by beings from different levels. That's why in China, the culture, or, its food, its dwellings, its clothing, its way of life... every aspect of the culture has been very different from that of other regions. This was caused by the accumulation of cultures brought to humankind by beings from many, many different systems. …”

Why has mankind’s science, as well as culture, including clothing styles, differed so much from that in ancient times since the Industrial Revolution? It’s because it has taken a path to the aliens, a demonstration that beings of various levels have departed from the Fa during this Dharma ending period. The old forces from the deviated levels have attempted to bring the aliens’ science, culture, food, shelter, clothing, and transport to man, encouraging him to become completely dependent on material things so as to change his concepts and, eventually, replace him. In today’s human world, some have come from different celestial bodies, and some others have been reincarnated from devils in Hell; never has the Three Realms been as complicated as it is today. In modern life, I’ve found, people with good thoughts can be traced by their clothing that reveals the good nature of their origin. These people tend not to take deviated things for granted. However, those without good thoughts are very easily subject to interference from other dimensions and tend to accept vulgar and deviated clothing and make-up. Even some famous fashion designers have presented models with messy outlandish hairstyles, a gloomy look, and a disorganized spreading out of a certain “style.” A style in which a human whose image is distorted and who improvises to demonic music, looks lifeless, cruel, and obscene. In fact, it’s a devil from Hell that’s using a human skin/skeleton to exert its “charm”.

This is such an immense universe with countless mysteries, diverse worlds, and numerous beings. The countless things and matters in the universe are the different living environments created by the Cosmic Fa (Buddha’s Fa). The universe has a principle of starting, maintaining, and decaying. When it is manifested in the human world, the world for the lowest life forms, the ways of clothing, food, shelter, transport, and all other aspects follow that principle. When we recall the culture of clothing (which concerns you, me, and everyone) from ancient times to today, we may be able only to “see the trees, not the forest” if we cannot proceed from an angle of being assimilated into the Cosmic Fa, or one may be, if restricted by his/her viewpoints, manipulated in the creation of a deviated social culture. When man’s thoughts (morality, aesthetics, and values) have deviated to a level where there is no virtuous thought, things go backward to the extreme. When Fa-rectification’s momentum arrives, all filth and deviations shall be swept away, to be replaced by the glories of true mankind.

Translated from:

Add new comment