Hi! I'm pretty new to hanfu (and chinese culture in general) and I was wondering, are there any kind of mourning clothes? Like, to wear outside of funeral ceremonies, to show that someone's in mourning. I know white's the color traditionally associated with death but at least a lot of chinese shows have people wearing white or whitish clothes casually.
Hi, thanks for the question!
丧服/Sangfu is the name of mourning clothes in Chinese. White is the traditional color of mourning in Chinese funerary ritual, but color symbolism can vary by region.
Traditionally, family members of the deceased wear white and sack cloth garments. Men wear white headbands, and women wear white hoods. More distant relatives wear garments in different colors of white, black, blue and green. Below – photos from modern-day traditional funeral rites (note – all photos are from public sources):
The traditional Confucian Chinese system of mourning dress is called “Wufu/五服” or “Five Mourning Grades”, and it prescribes five main types of mourning dress. What type had to be worn depended on the mourner’s relationship with the deceased and the status of the deceased.
1. The deepest mourning (example: son for his father) is called Zhancui/斬衰, and it consists of: an
untrimmed sackcloth coat and skirt, staff, twisted girdle, hat with strings of cord, and coarse shoes.
It was worn for three years, and over time, restrictions in dress were gradually lessened (note – below illustrations depict clothing styles of the Ming Dynasty):
2. The second level of mourning (example: child for their mother), Zicui/齊衰, was worn for three years or one year (depending on the relationship), and consists of: a hemp coat and skirt, staff, cloth girdle, hat with strings of
grass-cloth, and coarse shoes. 3. The third level of mourning, Dagong/大功, was worn for either nine or seven months, and consists of a grass-cloth coat and skirt:
4. After three months, this mourning dress is replaced by the Xiaogong/小功 coat
of bean fiber cloth, and this was worn until the nine months were
complete. 5. The final level of mourning dress is the Sima/緦麻 or fine hemp
mourning. It was worn for only three months:
Simply put, the closer the mourner’s relationship to the deceased, the longer the mourning period, and the more uncomfortable the clothing. The coarseness of the garments are intended to be an external manifestation of grief.
Some more image examples:
– From history:
– From TV:
As you can see, casual white clothing wouldn’t be mistaken for mourning clothes, as the latter is markedly different from regular clothing, and is worn with its own unique accessories. Therefore, it wouldn’t be that unusual in the past to wear white clothing in daily life.
Hope this helps!