Difference Between Qipao and Cheongsam

Today, Qipao and Cheongsam are two names of the same dress in China. The dress is considered the epitome of Chinese fashion.

However, they are originally two different dresses and due to various historical incidences, the names overlapped and with time, it became the same dress. Nevertheless, the original dresses carried significant differences.

Qipao vs Cheongsam

The main difference between Qipao and Cheongsam is that Qipao is a Mandarin dress whereas Cheongsam is a Cantonese dress. While today the two dresses are defined the same and the names are interchangeably used with each other, the two had distinguishable differences at the time of their origin.

Qipao vs Cheongsam

Qipao means ‘banner robe’. It is a Chinese dress that originated in the 16th Century during the Qing Dynasty. Linguistically, Qipao is a Mandarin dress and was worn by women of the Manchus, an ethical minority in China during that period.

The dress had designs of the minority’s banner and the people of this movement were known as ‘banner people’.

Cheongsam means ‘long gown’. It is a Chinese dress that originated in the 20th Century years after the decline of Qipao.

Linguistically, Cheongsam is a Cantonese dress and is largely worn by women of China, and is considered as the epitome of Chinese fashion. China is renowned for Cheongsam.

Comparison Table Between Qipao and Cheongsam

Parameters of ComparisonQipaoCheongsam
MeaningIt means ‘banner robe’.It means ‘long gown’.
Year of OriginIt originated in the 16th Century.It originated in the 20th Century.
Linguistic OriginIt is a Mandarin dress.It is a Cantonese dress.
WeightQipao dresses were heavy.Cheongsam dresses are lighter.
SignificanceIt is ethically significant.It is the epitome of fashion.

What is Qipao?

Qipao means ‘banner robe’. It is a Chinese dress that originated in the 16th Century during the Qing Dynasty. Linguistically, Qipao is a Mandarin dress and was worn by women of the Manchus, an ethical minority in China during that period.

The dress had designs of the minority’s banner and the people of this movement were known as ‘banner people’.

During the period of the Qing Dynasty in the 16th century, Nurhaci, a chieftain created the Eight Banner System or Minorities.

The people of the movement were organized into eight different minorities and each one had a representing banner or flag. These people were called the Manchus, who then went on to rule China for over 2 centuries.

These people distinguished themselves from the ordinary citizens of the country by wearing clothes specific to their movement. Women wore banner robes, which was then known as Qipao.

The dress was loose, spread, and covered the whole body. All the women of the eight minorities wore Qipaos, with their specific banner imprinted on it.

When the Qing Dynasty came to an end in the early 20th Century, the Republic of China took over. As a consequence, various reforms promoted increased education for women.

In a very short time, younger women and students neglected Qipao which led to its decline.

What is Cheongsam?

Cheongsam means ‘long gown’. It is a Chinese dress that originated in the 20th Century years after the decline of Qipao.

Linguistically, Cheongsam is a Cantonese dress and is largely worn by women of China, and is considered as the epitome of Chinese fashion. China is renowned for Cheongsam.

Shortly after the rise of the Republic of China, Qipao-like long gowns were back in style, influenced by Western culture. The dress was revived with a few modifications including slimmer structure, better fitting, and various forms of sizes.

Over the years, the dress kept modifying concerning the modernization of fashion sense. Soon after, the dress was worn by celebrities and famous first ladies, further increasing its popularity.

By the 1930s, Cheongsam became the epitome of fashion in China and is still largely called so.

However, the dress again fell out of favor in the 1950s with the Communist Revolution. There has been no satisfactory explanation for it. The dress was evidently seen as a symbol of feudal times in China and a bad influence by the Western culture.

As all of this happened in a long period, the dress was now already largely popular. With the relocation of tailors over time, the concept of Cheongsam was known everywhere. It became practically impossible to eliminate its existence.

Main Differences Between Qipao and Cheongsam

  1. Qipao is a Mandarin dress whereas Cheongsam is a Cantonese dress.
  2. Qipao carried historical significance to it as it was worn by the Manchus. On the other hand, Cheongsam doesn’t carry any such significance.
  3. Qipao dresses are ethical whereas Cheongsam dresses are inclined towards fashion.
  4. Qipao dresses were heavy with many layers whereas Cheongsam dresses are lighter with lesser or no layers.
  5. Qipao was loose and covered the whole body. On the other hand, Cheongsam is well fitted and not all of them cover the whole body.
Difference Between Qipao and Cheongsam

Conclusion

Today, Qipao and Cheongsam are simply two names of the same dress. The differences are known only when one studies their historical and linguistic origin.

The dress today is directly inspired by the original Qipao but has a modern and western touch to it. There are many different forms of dress including short, long, and ethnic, etc.

Even though the original dress was made to define a movement and represent certain minorities of China, it was and still is an excellent example of what a fresh, and innovative concept truly is.

The dress had perfect symmetry, an excellent balance of design, and the significance of purpose. With the introduction of Western culture, many modifications have been made since then.

Nevertheless, the originality of the concept is still noticeable in every form of the dress.

The confusion starts to rise when the difference between the two is tried to be understood without considering the historical incidents and their linguistic origin.

At a certain point in time, there existed only one of them, and during others, neither of them existed. Nevertheless, the dress exists today and is considered the epitome of fashion in China.

References

  1. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-97199-5_15
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=OPuiDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=cheongsam&ots=zXZjVITUjk&sig=nwYjMDGtwdFwLxPjc5d9FUkz3f8
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