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Elective fashion and culture – chinese political art and fashion Elective fashion and culture – chinese political art and fashion Document Transcript

  • Elective  fashion  and  culture  –  Chinese  political  art   and  fashion   Done  by:  Sarah  Lee  Shan  Yun       Figure  1  –  Cao  Youcheng.  The  army  loves  the  people,  the  people  support  the  army,  the   army  and  the  people  are  as  dear  to  each  other  as  members  of  one  family.  June  1957.   Shanghai  renmin  meishu  chubanshe.  Print.       The  title  of  the  poster  itself  seems  to  summarize  the  sense  of  enforced  unison   that  was  propagated  during  the  early  stages  of  the  Great  Leap  Forward.  Before   China’s  Cultural  Revolution,  the  Communist  Party  of  China  (CPC)  campaigned   aggressively  to  reorganize  the  society  from  a  predominantly  agrarian  one1,  to  a   communist  one2.  In  this  picture,  a  soldier  wears  a  standard  military  uniform  tunic  of                                                                                                                   1  "China".  Encyclopædia  Britannica.  Encyclopædia  Britannica  Online.   Encyclopædia  Britannica  Inc.,  2014.  Web.  19  Mar.  2014   <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/111803/China/71844/Reconstruction-­‐and-­‐Encyclopædia  Britannica  Inc.,  2014.  Web.  19  Mar.  2014   <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/111803/China/71844/Reconstruction-­‐and-­‐ consolidation-­‐1949-­‐52>.   2  Teiwes,  Frederick,  and  Sun  Warren.  China's  road  to  disaster:  Mao,  central  politicians,  and  provincial   leaders  in  the  unfolding  of  the  great  leap  forward.  Armonk,  N.Y.:  Contemporary  China  papers,  1955-­‐ 1959.  52-­‐55.  Print.  
  • the  People’s  Liberation  Army3  known  as  the  Zhongshan  suit4.  The  Zhongshan  suit,   one  of  the  early  versions  of  the  Mao  suit,  is  a  significant  symbol  of  proletarian  unity.   According  to  Hongdu,  the  Chinese  manufacturer  of  Zhongshan  suits  since  1956,  the   stiff  collar  of  the  suit  represents  the  rigorous  representation  of  the  state,  the  five   buttons  in  the  middle  of  the  suit  represent  the  five  powers  of  administration,   legislation,  jurisdiction,  examination  and  supervision,  the  three  buttons  on  the  cuff   of  the  suit  symbolize  nationalism,  democracy  and  people’s  livelihoods  and  the  four   pockets  represent  prosperity,  justice,  integrity  and  a  sense  of  shame5.  In  addition,   Gu  Mingtian,  the  general  manager  of  Beijing  Hongdu  group  notes  that  the  singularity   of  the  suit’s  back  piece  signifies  the  “peace  and  unity”  of  the  country6.  On  the  collar   of  the  suit  lies  an  embellishment  containing  two  stars  on  a  red  background  –   dominant  symbols  of  Chinese  communism7.   Noticeably,  there  is  a  stark  contrast  between  the  dress  of  the  male  soldier   and  that  of  the  old  woman  that  stands  beside  him,  providing  him  with  food  and   drink.  She  wears  a  robe  of  the  ‘old  society’,  known  as  the  Cheongsam8,   characteristically  representative  of  the  rural  and  pastoral  lifestyles  of  the  late   republican  socialists9.  Also  known  as  the  Qipao,  the  traditional  dress  encompasses   many  centuries  worth  of  historical  significance  in  China,  dating  back  to  the  early   17th  century,  later  becoming  a  symbol  of  the  changing  political  climate  during  the   1900s10.  The  garment  seen  in  the  image  is  loose  fitting  and  made  of  a  relatively                                                                                                                   3  China.  Department  of  the  Army.  Handbook  on  the  Chinese  Communist  Army.  1960.  Print.   4  Generalissimo  Chiang  Kai-­‐shek  (front  centre)  and  Mao  Zedong  (front  right)  both  dressed  in  the   Zhongshan  suit  (1945).  1945.  Photograph.  Ugly  Chinese,  China.  Web.  19  Mar  2014.   <http://www.uglychinese.org/civil_wars.shtml>.   5  Huang,  Lan,  prod.  Zhongshan  suit:  Timeless  Chinese  style.  China  Daily,  2011.  Web.  19  Mar  2014.   <http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/video/2011-­‐05/03/content_12432753.htm>.   6  Ibid.   7  Snow,  Edgar.  Red  Star  Over  China.  Canada  and  USA:  Grove  Press,  1968.  Print.   8  Lee,  Chor  Lin,  and  May  Khuen  Chung.  In  the  Mood  for  Cheongsam:  A  Social  History,  1920s–Present.   Singapore:  Editions  Didier  Millet  and  National  Museum  of  Singapore,  2012.  Print.   9  "China".  Encyclopædia  Britannica.  Encyclopædia  Britannica  Online.   Encyclopædia  Britannica  Inc.,  2014.  Web.  19  Mar.  2014   <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/111803/China/71838/The-­‐tide-­‐begins-­‐to-­‐shift>.   10  Chiu,  Chu  Yang.  The  meanings  of  Qipao  as  Traditional  Dress:  Chinese  and  Taiwanese  Perspectives.   Diss.  Iowa  State  University,  2007.  MI:  ProQuest  information  and  learning  company,  2007.  Print.  
  • inexpensive  fabric  when  compared  to  its  silk  and  georgette  counterparts11.  As  seen   in  the  background  of  the  image,  the  rural  population  had  to  perform  farming  jobs   and  agricultural  activity,  leading  to  a  more  practical  silhouette  with  little  or  no   embellishments.  In  a  way,  the  Qipao’s  simplicity  represented  the  simplicity  of  rural   life.   According  to  Chen’s  article,  the  CCP  celebrated  such  minority  groups  and   considered  them  as  part  of  the  socialist  society,  yet  at  the  same  time,  deemed  them   as  being  “backwards”  with  regards  to  liberation  by  the  CCP12.  The  picture,  therefore,   contains  an  abstruse  ulterior  meaning.  To  the  individual,  one  might  construe  an  idea   of  servitude  between  the  peasant  and  the  soldier  and  therefore,  a  corresponding   power  dynamic.  When  the  Cheongsam  and  the  military  uniform  donned  by  the  male   individual  are  compared,  both  garments  seem  to  emphasize  functionality,  though  in   considerably  different  ways.  The  embellishments  on  the  Zhongshan  suit  connote  a   sense  of  a  higher  collectivist  purpose  as  opposed  to  a  more  independent,  self-­‐ serving  one.  On  the  other  hand,  from  the  perspective  of  the  collectivist  or   communist,  the  image  could  also  suggest  that  the  army  and  people  should  be  united   as  one  family,  relating  to  the  virtue  of  filial  piety  that  is  deeply  embedded  within   Confucianism  and  Chinese  philosophy13.  It  communicates  the  notion  that  it  was  also   the  duty  of  the  collectivist  soldier  to  include  and  influence  the  rural  population  in   the  country’s  progression  towards  “liberation”.  Why  did  the  artist  choose  to  portray   an  elderly  woman  in  the  “old”  fashion  and  a  young  man  in  what  was  considered  the   “new”  fashion?  Evidently,  the  political  propaganda  hidden  within  this  image  can  also   be  thought  of  as  an  elimination  strategy,  and  that  the  old  ways  of  thinking  will   slowly  fade  away  with  time,  and  that  new  strength  will  arise  from  the  passing  of  the   old.                                                                                                                   11  Lee,  Chor  Lin,  and  May  Khuen  Chung.  In  the  Mood  for  Cheongsam.  Singapore:  Didier  Millet,  Csi,   2012.  Print.   12  Chen,  Tina  Mai.  Dressing  for  the  Party:  Clothing,  Citizenship  and  Gender-­‐formation  in  Mao's  China.   United  Kingdom:  Berg,  2001.  149.  Print.   13  Huang,  Kuang-­‐Kuo.  Asian  Journal  of  Social  Psychology:  Filial  piety  and  loyalty:  Two  types  of  social   identification  in  Confucianism.  Taiwan:  Department  of  Psychology,  National  Taiwan  University,  1999.   163-­‐183.  Web.  <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/1467-­‐839X.00031/asset/1467-­‐ 839X.00031.pdf?v=1&t=htitnkn2&s=99747929fbb063ec2240a5c4889294cdcb21203a>    
  •     Figure  2  –  Uniforms  worn  by  all  students  at  ACS  (International),  Singapore       In  my  country,  Singapore,  all  primary  and  secondary  level  students  are   required  to  wear  uniforms  in  school,  whether  in  private  or  public  institutions.   Although  the  uniforms  vary  between  each  school,  they  are  a  way  to  promote   equality  amongst  students  when  they  are  in  an  academic  environment.   Racial  and  ethnic  harmony  is  a  major  part  of  the  value  system  in  Singapore  as   the  city  has  always  been  and  continues  to  be  particularly  multicultural,  since  its   founding  in  181914.  In  1965,  Singapore’s  population  was  made  up  of  about  75%   Chinese,  13%  Malays,  7%  Indians  and  5%  others15.  This  ethnic  composition  of  its   citizens  remains  similar  today16  although  there  is  a  considerably  bigger  presence  of   foreign  workers  (over  1  million  in  December  201317).  Although  the  pre-­‐dominant   race  in  Singapore  is  Chinese,  the  national  identity  of  Singaporeans  has  always                                                                                                                   14  Barbara,  Leitch  Lepoer.  Singapore:  A  Country  Study.  Washington:  GPO  for  the  Library  of  Congress,   1989.  Print.   15  Chan,  Sek  Keong.  Multiculturalism  in  Singapore.  Diss.  Singapore  Academy  of  Law,  2013.  Singapore:   Singapore  Academy  of  Law  Journal,  2013.  Print.  <http://www.sal.org.sg/digitallibrary/Lists/SAL   Journal/Attachments/625/(2013)  25  SAcLJ  84-­‐109  (multiculturalism).pdf>.   16  Wong,  Kee  Kim.  "Population  Trends  2013."  Department  of  Statistics,  Ministry  of  Trade  &  Industry,   Republic  of  Singapore  (2013):  3.  Web.  2  Apr  2014.   17  "Foreign Workforce Numbers." Ministry of Manpower. MOM, 14 03 2014. Web. 2 Apr 2014. <http://www.mom.gov.sg/statistics-publications/others/statistics/Pages/ForeignWorkforceNumbers.aspx>  
  • remained  diverse  through  rigorous  social  control  by  the  government18.  Part  of  this   effort  to  promote  equal  opportunity  and  racial  amicability  in  Singaporeans  was  the   enforcement  of  official  uniform  laws  in  schools  by  the  Ministry  of  Education  in   195719.  In  addition,  Singaporean  primary  and  secondary  students  celebrate  racial   harmony  day  each  year  on  the  21st  of  July  to  commemorate  the  unfortunate  deaths   of  those  involved  in  the  race  riots  of  196420.       Figure  3  –  1964  Racial  riots  in  Singapore21                                                                                                                   18  Chua, Beng Huat. Multiulturalism in Singapore. Diss. National University of Singapore, 2003. Singapore: Institute of Race relations, 2003. Print.   19  Singapore  Education  Act.  Revised  edition.  Singapore:  Attorney-­‐General's  Chambers,  1985.  Part  61.   Web.  2  Apr.  2014.  <http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=1f5ec256-­‐c27f-­‐ 4386-­‐86ba-­‐834d19ecca94;page=0;query=DocId%3A%22acab79b8-­‐6671-­‐4ed8-­‐a984-­‐ 4eb09060e314%22%20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0;rec=0#pr61-­‐he-­‐.>   20  Clutterbuck,  R.  L.  Conflict  and  violence  in  Singapore  and  Malaysia:  1945-­‐1983.  Singapore:  G.  Brash,   1984.  Print.   21  1964 racial riots in Singapore. 1964. Photograph. Internal Security Department, Singapore. Web. 2 Apr 2014. <http://www.mha.gov.sg/isd/ct.htm>.  
  • Like  the  Mao  suit  in  communist  China,  the  uniform  seems  to  promote  a  sense   of  equality  and  homogeneity  amongst  its  citizens,  or  in  this  context,  its  students.   However,  it  is  important  to  note  that  unlike  communism,  the  uniform  celebrates  the   diversity  of  Singapore  as  a  nation  and  its  ability  to  exist  harmoniously  and   peacefully  as  a  community  despite  encompassing  many  heterogenic  identities.   Education,  to  most  communities,  represents  the  growth  potential  of  individuals  and   thus  the  development  of  a  society,  especially  in  a  meritocratic  political  climate22  like   Singapore.  Could  the  school  uniform,  thus,  represent  equal  opportunity  in  the   context  of  national  education?  Personally,  I  felt  certain  benefits  of  wearing  a  uniform   to  school,  including  not  having  to  worry  much  about  perceived  social  hierarchy  or   racial  status  in  terms  of  appearances.  However,  it  also  imposes  a  muting  of  ones   personal  identity,  not  just  racially  or  culturally,  but  also  in  terms  of  individual   expression.  Could  the  enforcement  of  a  uniform  also  have  had  the  effect  of  stifling   individual  freedom  of  choice  in  a  society?  By  complying  with  the  rules  to  wear  a   uniform  to  school,  students  are  in  actuality  creating  a  political  identity  for   themselves,  whereby  they  are  willing  to  sacrifice  individual  expression  for  the   collective  efforts  of  the  nation  in  the  promotion  of  racial  harmony.  By  choosing  to   wear  a  uniform  to  school,  students  of  a  certain  race  are  indirectly  giving  students  of   another  race  the  consideration  and  respect  to  share  a  public  space  and  a  collective   vision.  This  notion  relates  back  to  our  understanding  of  the  way  collectivism  is   enforced  through  fashion  and  dress,  although  not  as  dire  or  consequential  as  in  the   context  of  communist  China.   In  the  modern  day,  as  traditional  clothing  is  no  longer  the  predominant  dress   on  the  streets  of  Singapore,  and  everyday  wear  is  a  result  of  the  globalization  of   multi-­‐national  fashion  companies  and  the  proliferation  of  westernized  ideals,  could   the  original  purpose  of  the  school  uniform,  perhaps,  be  made  redundant?  In  some   sense,  much  like  the  hijab  garment  in  Marrakech23,  the  school  uniform  no  longer                                                                                                                   22  Tay,  A.  (2013,  09  22).  [Web  log  message].  Retrieved  from   <http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/2013/09/22/equality-­‐in-­‐singapore-­‐society-­‐is-­‐far-­‐from-­‐a-­‐ reality/>   23  Taymour  Grahne  Gallery.  (2014).  Hassan  hajjaj:  'kesh  angels  exhibition  press  release.  Retrieved  from   <http://images.taymourgrahne.com/www_taymourgrahne_com/HH_Press_Release_2014.pdf>  
  • possesses  the  same  advantage  and  power  to  effect  homogeneity,  particularly  when   young  people  are  no  longer  dressing  according  to  their  racial  groups,  but  rather  to   suit  their  personal  tastes  or  ideals.  It  is  not  uncommon  to  hear  complaints  about  the   rigidity  and  strictness  of  the  rules  regarding  the  school  uniform  from  Singaporean   students  today.  However,  the  significance  of  the  school  uniform  in  establishing   racial  equality  amongst  youths  makes  the  possibility  of  the  abolishment  of  those   laws  questionable  and  highly  bureaucratic.  Whether  noticed  or  unnoticed,  students   become  political  subjects  in  Singapore  and  will  remain  that  way  so  long  as  the  rules   governing  school  uniforms  continue  to  be  enforced.