135th Tobunken-ASNET Seminar "To Dress or Not to Dress: Body Representations on China\'s Southwestern Frontiers"

Jan 21 (Thu), 2016, 5:00-6:00 p.m.


Ground Floor, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo


Qi AN (Lecturer, School of Humanities, Shanghai Jiao Tong University)


"To Dress or Not To Dress: Body Representations of the Ethnic Minorities on China’s Southwestern Frontiers"


Clothes makes the man and creates the social notions. The stipulation of attire had its origins in Confucian orthodoxy and was deeply rooted in the understanding of social hierarchy. The term yiguan [lit., clothing, head-dress and cap], for instance, epitomizes the doctrines of empire-making and Confucian imperial order. According to the binary opposition between civilisation and barbarity, the ‘cultured’ dwellers of the Central Plain (zhongyuan) possessed a sophisticated yiguan system, whereas the ‘barbarians’ in the peripheral areas were deemed semi-naked.

The paper aims to draw attention to the ways in which political authorities endeavoured either to ‘imperialise’or ‘nationalise’ the Southwestern ethnic minorities (particularly in Guizhou Province) by dressing them properly.