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Mao Jacket / Zhongshan Zhuang

The Chinese tunic Zhongshan zhuang [after Sun Yat-Sen, Romanized as Sun Zhongshan] is known in the West as the Mao suit (Chairman Mao Zedong wore this jacket on public occasions). Since the early 1950s, both men and women liked to wear a Mao jacket. Mao jacket is a light weight jacket with a high collar; worn by Mao Zedong and the Chinese people during his regime.

Mao wore this type of suit, with four exposed front pockets, in the PRC inaugural parade in 1949 as well as at all state ceremonies and significant diplomatic occasions during his reign. It is commonly worn by Chinese leaders during important state ceremonies and functions.

Figures dressed in a typical Zhongshan suit evoke the ambiance of totalitarian nostalgia, and an official dressed in Mao jacket may be regarded as not being open-minded. Bond's arch-enemy, SPECTRE chieftain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, wears a Mao jacket in You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. The Mao jacket, with a bland, boxy, buttoned-up look, is the last sartorial symbol of China, and no other item of clothing screams China to the West so loudly. These were worn widely by government leaders as a symbol of proletarian unity and an Chinese counterpart to the Western business suit.

Chinese men's fashion didn't stretch much beyond the Mao jacket or Zhongshan suit in the world's eyes. By the end of the Cold War, the Mao jacket was mainly for the old and the dead. Chairman Mao, of course, was clad in one in his crystal sarcophagus in Tiananmen Square.

Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping (1904 - 1997), who initiated the reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, resumed the dress code when he reviewed the military parade and mass pageant on the National Day in 1984. Premier Li Peng donned a Mao jacket in 1989 when he announced the government was sending of troops into Tiananmen Square to put down the revolt by students demanding greater democracy, but otherwise he preferred a suit and tie. The official photographs of the seven men on China's powerful Communist Party Politburo showed six in Western suits and ties and the seventh in an army uniform.

President Jiang Zemin showed up in the Mao suit in 1999 when the PRC celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding. Jiang Zimen wore it only on special occasions, such as to state dinners, but this practice was almost totally discontinued by his successor Hu Jintao.

Like previous leaders of the CCP, Hu Jintao realised that he needed to ensure that the military remained firmly under the control of the Party and to guarantee their support for him personally in order to consolidate his power. When When Jiang Zemin retired, somewhat reluctantly, from the post of Chairman of the Central Military Commission on 19 September 2004, Hu Jintao moved rapidly to strengthen his personal relationship with senior military officers. He made a point of being photographed with senior officers while wearing the zhongshan zhuang (the Mao jacket) in military green rather than his usual trademark Western-style suit, collar and tie.

Chinese President Hu Jintao made his first appearance in a high-collared dark Mao suit at the grand national ceremony 01 October 2009, following the dress code which had prevailed when Chinese leaders review National Day military parades. Former President Jiang Zemin and Hu's top colleagues, the eight members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, all dressed in Western-style suits with bright-colored ties and some, including Vice President Xi Jinping, wearing red label pins showing the figure 60.

Shortly after, Hu, riding in an open-top, domestically-made, 12-cylinder engine Red Flag limousine with a license plate showing the year of 2009, shouted "Greetings, comrades," in his review of the troops and equipment along Chang'an Avenue as the commander-in-chief of the People's Republic of China (PRC) armed forces. Cheers and greetings burst out when spectators saw Hu appear at the balcony of the Tian'anmen Rostrum.

Xi Jinping was elected general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee at the first plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee on 15 November 2012. Xi Jinping was also named chairman of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Military Commission at the first plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee.

No one actually calls them "Mao jackets" in China. They're called "Yat-sen outfits," after Sun Yat-sen, the man who overthrew the last imperial dynasty in 1911. Sun, who lived briefly in Tokyo, modified Japanese student garb. The Mao jacket has hardly changed over the decades. It always has five buttons and four pockets. The top two pockets must be aligned with the second button, the bottom two pockets with the bottom button.

But they they haven't been generally worn in years. Although there isn't an official doctrine, suit and tie have become the accepted business dress code. China is still a nation of uniforms, but of more and more kinds of uniforms.

Known in China as the Sun Yatsen Suit, the Mao jacket was at first a symbol of the cultural avant-garde. It entered into the mainstream with its adoption as an official formal ethnic costume in the mid 1920s Republic of China. Later, in an atmosphere of fervent nationalism, it became the symbol of the revolution under the socialist system, wherein everyone from officials to intellectuals and even the general public donned the jacket as an expression of the abandonment of individuality and fusion into a unified society.

Political leaders were not the only ones to wear Mao suits. People of both genders, in all areas, and in all different kinds of professions began wearing variations of the Mao suit on a daily basis. Initially, cheongsam was a traditional long gown worn by the Manchu people in northeast China, regardless of their age, gender and social status. Trendy Shanghai women, who tended to lead clothing trends, continued refinements. In 1926, sleeves were added to the weskit, transforming the costume into the first modern cheongsam.

After the founding of the Peoples Republic in 1949, cheongsam was gradually replaced by simple garments. Since then, cheongsam only appeared for exclusive foreign affairs activities. By the end of the 1950s, cheongsam was replaced by the Chinese tunic suit and Mao jacket. It was not until the early 1980s that the garb was again seen in public places.

Before the late 1970s, everyone in China wore the iconic Mao jacket and trousers ensemble, making Chinese womanhood a far cry from that of Western conceptions of femininity. Many young Chinese women think wearing a qipao suggests employment in the hospitality industry, a booming business in the country these days. They admire and respect traditional Chinese fashion, but disdain wearing a traditional qipao, because it resembles a uniform rather than a fashion trend.



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Page last modified: 04-01-2016 20:02:42 ZULU