Built in 2000, the Beijing National Costume Museum is the first extensive collection of traditional ethnic attire. The institution’s large exhibition area holds over 10,000 pieces in seven display galleries. The museum’s exhibits are a “must see” for those interested in Chinese heritage and culture.
The museum has nearly 1,000 rare pictures recording the Yi, Tibetan and Qiang nationalities’ lives in the 1930s.
The seven exhibition halls include examples of the traditional dress of China’s ethnic minorities, the Miao nationality, and Han nationality. Also on display are textiles and embroidery, ornamentation, an exhibition of the 2008 Beijing Olympics costuming, and photographs of ethnic minorities in traditional attire.
Beijing National Costume Museum has seven exhibition halls including a metalworking jewelry hall, an ethnic minorities’ costume hall, a textiles and embroidery hall, an old photos hall, a Miao nationality costume hall, a Han nationality costume hall and the Olympic costume hall. The museum mainly displays China’s ethnic minorities’ traditional costumes and their colorful cultures. Exhibitions range from beautiful national silver jewelry, traditional textiles and embroidery to fantastic Miao nationality costumes.
Silver is important in many ethnic traditions as a source of good luck. It is used in embroidery as well as jewelry and hairpins.
Many of China's ethnic minorities have the habit of wearing silver. In traditional concepts, wearing silver can bring good luck. In the modern concept, silver decorations stand for wealth and beauty. Owing to the geographical barrier, different ethnic minorities wear different silver ornaments. Besides, the process of making silver ornaments is quite complex, so the silver ornaments are extraordinarily precious.
China is home to 55 officially documented ethnic minorities. These individuals are of non-Han majority descent and comprise just over eight percent of the population. The Beijing National Costume Museum houses exquisitely preserved examples of the traditional garb of the Manchurians, Tibetans, Mongolians, and many other ethnic minorities.
Northern and southern costumes have obvious distinctions. The costume of northern minorities in China is a long dress. The fabric is mainly fur and brocade. However, in the south, coats and skirts are the main garments. Most are made from cotton and linen. The numerous types of garment and variety of decorations of China’s ethnic minorities are beyond description.
Embroidery and batik, a wax resist dyeing process, are commonly used by the native people of China to add individuality and ornamentation to their costuming. Ethnic minorities that lacked written histories also used these decorative processes to record their legends and customs.
Residing primarily in the mountains of southern China, the Miao ethnic minority are renowned for their colorful and intricately embroidered costuming. The Miao create individual designs utilizing pictorial embroidery, batik, woven textiles, and silver ornamentation.
The Miao nationality has over 100 branches, therefore it has more than 100 types of costumes. From Shidong Miao’s gorgeous clothing to the original south Dan Miao’s costumes, every type of costume has its own unique design. The most beautiful Miao clothing is in Guizhou. Embroidery, wax printing, textiles and silver are all extremely outstanding, which fully reflects the characteristics of the Miao nationality’s art of clothing.
You can't miss the beautiful Miao silver during the visit: the luxuriant Shidong Miao silver embroidery, Hezhen fish skin and Chahar princess headdress.
The Beijing National Costume Museum is located at A2 Yinghua Road at the north entrance of Heping Street in the Chaoyang District. It is part of the Beijing Institue of Fashion Technology campus and is approximately 1000 ft (500 m) north of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.