A History of Shoes, China Culture12 days Shanghai - Beijing - Xian - Guilin - Hongkong tour

Colorful Tibetan Clothes, Chinese Culture

2008年5月5日 21:46:53 sz12 Culture

Years ago, a friend of mine went to the roof of the world -- Tibet. Her initial physiological reaction to the high altitude made her feel depressed, until she saw the local men and women working and dancing in the thinnest air in the world. She was deeply affected by the splendor of their beautiful clothes, and by the good humor and confidence radiating from them. She felt that the optimism of the local people and their colorful clothes symbolized the charm and dignity of their life in this secluded outpost.

Indeed, clothes have unusual connotations on this snow-covered plateau. They reflect the history, culture, beliefs, character and wealth of the local people.

Long sleeved, broad robes worn loosely with a diagonal slant, and women's aprons welted with colorful stripes, might be the general idea people have about Tibetan dress. There are, however, marked variances in the clothing of different localities, influenced by the different strands of their religion. Tibet's isolated environment has allowed Tibetan clothing to evolve into a variety of distinctive and characteristic styles.

Tibetan clothing consists mainly of a Tibetan robe and shirt. The Tibetan robe is broad, and appears longer on the left than on the right, as it is often fastened under the right armpit. Robes are also secured with two cloth belts in red, blue, or green.

The weather in northern Tibet, where herdsmen lead a nomadic life in natural mountain pastures, is bitterly cold. As there is a huge disparity between day and night time temperatures, local herdsmen wear a furred robe all year round, which doubles as a quilt at night. In daytime, people wear their left sleeve only, or sometimes wear neither, and tying the two sleeves at the waist. Today, the fashion of wearing only the left sleeve, while exposing the right shoulder, is immediately recognizable as Tibetan dress style.

The Tibetan furred robe is very bulky and said to have enough room to accommodate a five or six-year old child in winter. It has no pockets, but being fastened at the waist there is plenty of room around the ribcage to carry daily necessities.

Clothes worn by herdsmen in pasture areas are distinctive for their decorative welts. They are also hemmed in black velveteen, corduroy, or woolen cloth at the front and lower edges, and cuffs, and the women wear aprons decorated with colorful cloth stripes. The vista of herdsmen, roaming about under the blue sky, white clouds, green grass, snowy mountains, among their sheep and cattle, is a sight more beautiful than any landscape painting.

Tibetan farmers, who live in the warm and damp climate of southern Tibet, make their clothes from tweed, a kind of hand-woven woolen cloth. Both men and women wear their clothes buttoned to the right. Men's clothes are hemmed in colorful cloth or with silk at the collar, cuffs, front, and lower edges. Other than during the cold winter, women's outerwear is sleeveless. The length of a Tibetan robe generally exceeds the wearer's height, and when worn, the waist is lifted and fastened with a belt.

The weather in Lhasa and Shannan Prefecture is warmer and damper still. Here the men mainly wear double-layered robes, and women dress in close-fitting robes and long-sleeved shirts, with brightly decorated aprons at the waist.

The apron is one of the favorite items of clothing for Tibetan women. According to Tibetan custom, they are the privileged garments for married women only; single girls do not generally wear them. Gonggar County in the Jiedexiu area of Shannan Prefecture is synonymous with aprons, having produced them for 500 or 600 years.

Festivals are the best opportunity to observe and enjoy Tibetan clothes. Nagqu Town in northern Tibet holds a horse race every year, and Tibetans gather at this fair dressed in their best. Riders usually wear robes of azure, dark blue or pale green, with red knickerbockers, or blue or black sports trousers, and boots. Male spectators wear long furred robes in black, blue, or yellow, hung with finely decorated Tibetan knives, flints, snuff bottles, and silver coins at the waist. Women wear hats hemmed in colors that match the hemming on all their other garments, right down to the boots. They wear gold, silver, and copper adornments on their long braids, large earrings and necklaces, and strings of metal coins decorating their waists that jingle musically in the breeze.

Tibetan people like to be richly bejeweled, and regard dress and adornment as the symbol of wealth and beauty. No matter how poor a family might be, they buy jewelry to bolster their confidence before others. Today, the personal adornments worn by a wealthy Tibetan may be worth tens of thousands to over a million yuan.

Tibetan people are devout Buddhists. In the 7th Century, Songstan Gampo, the national hero of Tibet, married princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty, and a Nepalese princess, each of whom brought a statue of Sakyamuni, one from the east and the other from west. From that time onwards, Buddhism spread throughout Tibet and gradually evolved into the unique Tibetan Buddhism that has been practiced for centuries.

Tibetan Buddhism not only affects people's ideas and behavior but also influences their taste in dress and personal adornment. In Buddhist culture, white symbolizes holiness, and in their daily life Tibetans adore this shade, regarding it as emblematic of purity and auspiciousness. Consequently, they like to wear white shirts or hem their skirts with white fabric. Tibetan people make lavish use of the colors red, yellow, orange, blue, and dark green for articles of personal adornment, which also reflects the Buddhist influence, as Sakyamuni wears a yellow kasaya, Guru Rinpoche wears a red hat, and Master Tsongkhapa wears a yellow hat. The beads and ga'u (amulet) worn at the chest by young men and women are also related to Buddhism. The ga'u is believed to bring its wearer safety and wealth.

With the improvements in transportation between Tibet and the hinterland, exchanges of materials, including clothes, have flourished. Today, traditional Tibetan clothes are disappearing and being replaced by modern Western-style suits, jeans, and other contemporary fashions. Middle-aged women, though less bold than younger people, might also wear a Western-style suit jacket over their Tibetan dress, along with a traditional hat decorated in gold and silver satin. This is a very popular way of dressing in Tibet, and demonstrates the Tibetan tolerance of outside culture.

The personal ornaments worn by girls in the hinterland, such as silver bracelets with turquoise inlets, and silver necklaces inlaid with agate and other local jewels also reflect the Tibetan influence.

Many fashion designers derive their inspiration from traditional Tibetan clothes. In July 2000, the first Chinese Ethnic Garment and Adornment Exposition, sponsored by the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, was held in Kunming. Traditional Tibetan clothes evoked praise and admiration from all members of the audience. The designs of Wu Haiyan, Chinese female fashion designer, were all styled on the Tibetan model.

Among the displays at this exposition, the most valuable was that comprising four suits of Tibetan clothes, selected and sent by the Tibet Autonomous Prefecture of Deqen, Yunnan Province. TheTibetanrobes are lavishly embellished with gold, silver, pearl, and agate ornaments. From these finely made and exquisitely decorated garments, it seems possible to trace the entire history of the development of Tibetan clothes.

Being the carrier of culture, Tibetan clothing has not only aroused the curiosity but also the sincere respect of people the world over.


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