Introduction: there is no doubt that the revolutionary significance of cheongsams is that it has given a liberation call to oriental women to set their bodies free. Through a looming slit, female bodies become so sexy and elegant. And in contrast, women have suddenly flashed platinum dazzling light to illuminate the long dark night of the space of oriental female bodies. Not like the western beauties, Chinese women have the restrained temperaments and they will not be too bold.
The improvement, innovation and the peak of the cheongsam has a certain environmental factor inside. To understand the Chinese dress deeply, we should return to the beginning of the Chinese dress age to re understand it from to a deep understanding. The Chinese dress has been flourished in the colonization age of the old Shanghai. Today we will journey across the time to come to the old shanghai and view the dresses with western aesthetic points of view, and to know the great significance of the reform of Chinese clothing with the Chinese bound and eager to re examine and understand the meaning of cheongsam. If we can see cheongsam from another point of view, it may bring us some different understandings and interpretations.
The Chinese dress is the dress which can present the era of colonization, the Eastern culture, the oriental women, and the modern sexiness. Cheongsams have mixed the Chinese traditional culture and modern style as a whole. Its paradoxical cultural semantics can represent the nature of the ambiguous style of twentieth Century Chinese culture. So we must place it in the special context of the colonial culture to study the cheongsam and only this can help us to truly understand the unique cultural connotation of the Chinese dress. And if there is no Western women’s clothing system can be used as a reference, the meaning of the Chinese dress will become blurred, and even it will lead to some serious misunderstanding. The famous period of cheongsam is the golden age of for Chinese dresses. In exploring reasons which behind its own prevalence, many scholars has related it to the women’s liberation. After the Qing Dynasty had been overturned, Chinese feminists had called for women’s liberation and they want to set women’s body free from traditional roles and they led several such movements to against the gender segregation, which including the bound feet for women, cutting off long hair and covering the oriental beauty of women and encouraging Chinese women to wear one-piece clothing, which is called as cheongsam. What we called as cheongsam is a form-fitting Chinese dress, which is also called as the Mandarin gown in English or Qi pao in Mandarin Chinese. The English word cheongsam is an anglicized version of the Cantonese pronunciation of the garment, which can be translated into “long dress “literally. The cheongsam was created in 1920s in old Shanghai. The Chinese dress is traditionally be with the length to ankle, with slits on the sides of the dress, and such dresses always have high collars, and the sleeves are above the elbow. And the cheongsams can be made with a variety of materials, though perhaps the most traditional can be the embroidered silk.
The cheongsam was invented in old Shanghai, which is a certain kind of modernized version of the traditional Chinese dress, and this is a fashionable garment which can be worn by those Chinese women since the 17th century. While the original cheongsam was wide and loose, the version had been invented in the 1920s which was form-fitting, and used cut slits on the sides. The dress was first worn by socialites as well as those courtesans, and soon it has become immensely popular. By the 1950s, cheongsams were also made with the materials like wool and other fabrics for women to wear in the workplace. The Chinese dress had also become popular in the western countries during the 1960s. Though the traditional cheongsam is one kind of very attractive garment, it is still fairly uncomfortable due to its high and stiff collar as well as its tight shape. Traditionally, the Chinese dress is made of a material which could not stretch, such as silk. In nowadays, cheongsams usually be worn for some formal occasions, so the designs will make people feel more comfortable now. They are also sometimes used as some kind of uniforms, for example, some Chinese schools will use some improved cheongsams as the school uniforms, which can be used to show our Chinese culture as well as our Chinese fashion styles. Today, there are more and more variations of the cheongsams, including those two-pieced versions, long-sleeved and sleeveless versions, knee-length or shorter skirts, or those cheongsams made of stretchy materials. There is also a male version of the cheongsam, which can be called as the long clothes.
Western women use the contrast of various parts of the body to highlight the sexy part of their sexy parts, and the grammar is declarative, at the same time, it is with obvious romantic style. The structure of western women’s dresses is relatively huge and complicated, which can be used to maximally extend the area of the body. And a seductive voice will be given even when the woman is still away from you. Starting from the lyric chest (extremely uplift and express), and the thin waist (the tiny wasp waist was suddenly pulled tight). There are ups and downs along the way to achieve a holy climax (high tilting hips and ultimate point to an open end (open peacock like stretched skirt). This extreme exaggeration of the S – like narrative structure can make the woman like a Gothic style novel. However, the Chinese dress is not like so. The syntax of the Chinese dress is imaginary, with an oriental traditional style. It can close to the surface of the body quietly and smoothly, which has no publicity, which is just like the quality of the Eastern women’s gentle and elegant temperaments. The texture of silk dresses can suggest that the girl has smooth white skin, as well as it still has the temperature. The cheongsam’s narration is gentle, is compact, which is simple and concise just like the style of notes. A tighten cut can show the body lines and the figure of the Oriental woman. Western women’s exaggerated body shape is not very suitable for wearing a Chinese dress, they have a large range of ups and downs of the line, so the Chinese dress will become rough, uneven, and thus it is very funny. However, just because of the difference of the appearance, this is the real source of the so-called “Oriental beauty” in the colonial context. The cheongsam belongs to the Eastern countries, and the women who can wear such dresses also belong to eastern countries. But the myth of the Chinese dress is established in the imagination of Western perspective views of sexiness of Eastern countries, which can be called as the sexy props of colonization of the eastern countries.
On the other hand, the cheongsam is self contradictory clothing. If we find that only when taking off the complex clothes can we call them as sexiness. Then the slit of the silk cheongsam, the leaving long narrow slit can omit the action of “taking off”, which can be an aggressive behavior. This makes the cheongsam become the object which can be viewed. But it does not expose directly, and it is so looming, which can make you fall in love with it at first glance. It doesn’t need “taking off “to be able to meet the ornamental needs of the audiences. Through the slit, which appears to be so natural, seems like the fabric has been broken or torn inadvertently. And the formation of “leakage” can show the looming desires of the figures. While, the extreme high slit is a distinct symbol which has special meaning, it can provide some suggestive and imaginary hints for the parts of the body which has been seen from the slit, as if it is the blooming ambiguous smile from the Angel with full temptation from a distance. Cheongsam is between the cover and the exposure with an unknown state, it is clever to use the contradiction between the rhetoric oxymoron of clothing to put the pornography of the clothing to the height of the art.
Or, we can say that the contradiction of the rhetoric is the basis of the erotic science of the Chinese dress. In fact, the modern Chinese dress was produced in the colonial era of Shanghai, which was first be used as a kind of pornography. If there is no high velocity penetration of the modern western culture, then it will cost much time for the modern cheongsam to transfer from prostitutes to those respectable woman.
There is no doubt that the revolutionary significance of cheongsams is that it has given a liberation call to oriental women to set their bodies free. Through a looming slit, female bodies become so sexy and elegant. And in contrast, women have suddenly flashed platinum dazzling light to illuminate the long dark night of the space of oriental female bodies. So at that time, more and more women wore such dresses to show their figure lines. But we all know that Chinese are restrained, so more and more people think that such dresses are not suitable for women to wear to go outside. The old Mr. Wu’s experience in the novel “Midnight” reveals the serious consequences of the incident. When the old man first witnessed the cheongsam, he got a shocking visual impact. The light of female’s body has not only burned Mr. Wu’s eyes, but it also burned his old heart, and gives a fatal blow to the aged fragile body.
In view of the semantic features of erotica of the Chinese dress, it is inevitable that cheongsam has the fate of destruction in a sacred revolution. By the middle age of twentieth Century, a revolution has swept the clothing full of erotic temptation. Since then, the cheongsam has been thrown away because of that it is too sexy. Then in the subsequent several decades, the female body has been recycled to the hard clothing, or even has been withdrawn to the masculine uniforms. Until the end of the 20th century, after the portrait of interpretation of Maggie Cheung, who has played a role in film “In the mood for love”, people has felt the myth and the beauty of cheongsam once again. So in this case, more and more people have fallen in love with such amazing dresses again. And Chinese dresses have become popular among the world. IN nowadays, people feel nothing about the sexiness of the cheongsams, because girls will wear little to show their bodies, sometimes, we really miss the age when women all wear those restrained but sexy clothes.