From tradition to trendsetter, the charm of mamianqun

A file photo shows tourists wearing mamianqun in Luoyang, Henan Province. /CFP

A file photo shows tourists wearing mamianqun in Luoyang, Henan Province. /CFP

The mamianqun, colloquially known as the “horse-face skirt,” stands as a quintessential style within hanfu, the traditional attire of China’s ethnic-majority Han people. These time-honored yet graceful garments have experienced a resurgence in recent years, particularly among the younger generation, leading the emergence of a new Chinese aesthetic.

Having evolved over centuries, transitioning from the “xuanqun” in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) to more distinctive styles during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, and adapting to contemporary designs, the mamianqun has undergone numerous transformations.

A photo taken on February 4, 2024 shows a girl wearing a mamianqun at a flower market in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. /CFP

A photo taken on February 4, 2024 shows a girl wearing a mamianqun at a flower market in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. /CFP

During the Ming Dynasty, women from all walks of life in the capital city embraced the mamianqun, while it evolved into everyday wear for women during the Qing Dynasty. Even in the early 20th century, the mamianqun retained the loose style and intricate craftsmanship of the Qing Dynasty, but with a gradual simplification in its aesthetic.

The 2024 Spring Festival witnessed a resurgence in the popularity of mamianqun. In Caoxian County, Shandong Province, a key hub for hanfu production boasting an annual sales figure exceeding 7 billion yuan ($974 million), mamianqun sales for the Year of the Dragon surpassed 300 million yuan, igniting discussions across social media platforms.

A photo taken on March 4, 2024 shows a customer trying on a mamianqun at a shop in Caoxian County, Shandong Province. /CFP

A photo taken on March 4, 2024 shows a customer trying on a mamianqun at a shop in Caoxian County, Shandong Province. /CFP

The trend has been further fueled by the adoption of mamianqun by celebrities and influencers, not only in China but also on the international stage, with enthusiastic posts on various social media platforms. The mamianqun garments not only complement modern clothing for everyday wear but also embody a rich heritage and practicality, symbolizing the resurgence of China’s cultural heritage and driving retail spending in the process.