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Manchu Style

The Manchu established the Qing government in 1644. Manchu people expressed their distinct culture, language, and nomadic cultural roots through their dress.

To standardize and signify the different classes, the Manchu government created a visual language through the medium of clothing. Clothing at this time features a specific dress code, which was strictly followed until the government was overthrown in 1911.

In the Manchu tradition, both men's and women's outer wear included a full length robe with a jacket or a vest. Short coats and trousers were to be worn underneath the robes. Men often wore hats no matter the season, and women wore a traditional headdress on formal occasions.

Brown Mang Robe, Manchu Women's Informal Full Length Robe, and Manchu Shoes

All items featured here are from the Late Qing Dynasty, taking place between 1840 and 1911. A silk, brown coat embroidered with dragon motifs and eight Buddhist symbols hangs on the wall of the Manchu section of the exhibit. This Dragon or Mang robe may be the best known of all Qing costumes. It is meant to be a diagram of the universe, carrying motifs of water, rocks, and dragons. The eight Buddhist symbols represented are the wheel, the vase, the umbrella, the canopy, the conch shell, the fish and the endless knot. It is important to note that this style was not standard. It is speculated that this coat may have been used in a Peking opera, the most common form of Chinese opera. To the left of this robe is another ornate robe draped on a mannequin. The dull green robe featured was commonly worn by Manchu women as an informal costume. In addition to the robes on display, the viewer can see two pairs of Manchu slipper-like shoes. These shoes are noted to hold value due to the intricate and colorful embroidery.

The Dragon or Mang robe is perhaps the best known Qing costumes. The color and the dragon motif represent social class. Yellow was the imperial color and officials were always dressed in blue. The dragon robe was a schematic diagram of the universe. The lower border of the robe and rounded billows represent water while the rising rocks symbolize the mountains. The dragon, like the color yellow, was the symbol of imperial authority. Buddhist symbols are assembled above the water motif: the wheel, the vase, the umbrella, the canopy, the conch shell, the fish and the endless knot. Because this Mang robe is not in a standard style, it was likely used for an actor in the Peking Opera.

Manchu Women's Pale Pink Coat (Chenyi) and Head Dress, Late Qing dynasty (1840-1911)

This is a Manchu women's informal full length robe. This style of robe is called a chenyi. It features motifs of golden fish and lotuses embroidered on patterned silk damask. The robe is deeply banded in black, decorative braid with cuprous ball buttons. It is similar to the Changyi; however, the Chenyi features a split on the left side unlike the Changyi. The Chenyi was very popular in the Qing dynasty.

The dress is accompanied by a traditional Manchu Head Dress

Manchu Woman's Head Dress, Late Qing dynasty (1840-1911)

This type of high head dress was a very important feature of Manchu style in the late Qing Dynasty. This particular piece includes a crocheted band around the crown, large black flaps, and artificial flowers.

Manchu Women's Wooden Platform Slippers, Late Qing dynasty (1840-1911)

This pair of blue embroidered shoes has wide bands of black metallic brocade. They are set on platforms with quilted fabric soles. The platform sole shoes are important features of the Manchu style. Manchu official dress included boots for both men and women. However, within the informality of the home, upper class Manchu women wore silk slippers. Some of these slippers were fitted to a wooden platform that significantly increased the wearer's height. Many of these platform shoes balanced on a very small base, imposing a mincing gait on their wearer, possibly in imitation of the bound feet of Han Chinese women.

A Manchu Woman's Shoes, Late Qing Dynasty (1840-1911)

These red slippers are from the Late Qing Dynasty. The shoes feature embroidered flowers and butterflies in shades of blue, green, pink, and peach. The shoe has a thick quilted fabric sole.

Manchu Women's Shoes, Late Qing Dynasty (1840-1911)

These featured shoes are embroidered with many colors in many natural shapes. This shoe is another type of footwear Manchu women would wear during the Late Qing Dynasty.

Men's Tapestry and Painted Jifu Robe (Mang Pao), Late Qing Dynasty (1840-1911)

This men's mang pao exhibits the technique of tapestry with painted details. The multicolored striped section at the bottom indicates that it is of late Qing style. The color blue indicates that it could be used by anyone who had the status to wear a mang pao. The splits on the front, back and both sides were reserved for nobility.

Manchu Woman's Purple Full Length Robe, Late Qing dynasty (1840-1911)

Manchu Woman's Purple Full Length Robe, Late Qing dynasty (1840-1911)

This full-length purple Manchu robe has a very clear and fresh elegance. It was woven with patterns of butterflies and flowers from all seasons. This style was seen in many portraits and photos from the Qing dynasty.

Manchu Women's Informal Full Length Robe, Late Qing dynasty (1840-1911)

Manchu Women's Informal Full Length Robe, Late Qing dynasty (1840-1911)

This photo is a closer feature of a commonly worn robe style by upper class Manchu women on the streets. It was likely paired with a high headdress and high platform slippers. The featured motifs of narcissus, begonia, chrysanthemum, winter plum, winter jasmine and butterflies dancing in the flowers were meant to promote good wishes such as wealth, health, happiness, fertility, love, and promotion.