Chinese Minority Costumes — Ethnic Clothing in China

Each of the ethnic groups in China has its own unique clothing. The type of clothing, its style, and even the fabric reflect the characteristics and traditions of each group. Clothing varies from not only from one ethnic group to the other but also from region to region and tribe to tribe within the same ethnic group. Costumes are symbolic of a particular ethnic group, in fact, some minorities have even been named after their clothing.

Discover the traditional ethnic clothing of the most prominent 10 of China's 55 minority ethnic groups, the most famous first and so on. (The traditional clothing of China's 92% Han majority is the Hanfu.)

1. Miao Clothing

Miao Clothing

The Miao ethnic group consists of about 10 million people in China and their traditional homeland is around the area of Guizhou.

Miao clothes are the most gorgeous of all the national costumes in China and are also part of the intangible cultural heritage of the country.

The clothes are diverse across regions, but the main features are silver, Miao embroidery, and batik.

Men wear short coats and trousers, while women wear dazzling skirts and jewels. The skirts have many patterns based on themes from nature such as flowers and birds.

For special occasions and festivals, Miao women put on shiny silver alloy jewelry and accessories.

2. Manchu Clothing

The Qipao, Manchu Clothing

With a population of more than 10 million, the Manchu ethnic minority group is based primarily in Northeast China.

The national outfit of the Manchu ethnic group is the qipao. It is a beautiful outfit that features a round collar and an open front decorated with ornaments and embroidery. Nowadays, the qipao is popular all over China.

During the Qing Dynasty, this form of dress was popular across the country and became the national costume.

3. Tujia Clothing

Tujia Clothing

The Tujia ethnic group (Chinese: 土家族 Tǔjiāzú) has more than 8 million people living mainly in the Wuling Mountains, the famous scenic mountains and spires of Zhangjiajie.

Men typically wear a double-breasted short coat and a long band of cloth is usually tied around their waist.

Tujia women usually wear a blouse with an opening on the right side. The collar is usually embroidered with three laces. They use long green silk handkerchiefs that are about 3 meters long to wrap their heads.

Tujia women wear shiny jewelry made of silver alloy. On special occasions, both men and women prefer to wear red.

4. Dong Clothing

Dong Chinese minority clothing

The Dong (Kam) ethnic group has about 3 million members in China. They live among related ethnic groups in southwestern China in picturesque rural mountainous areas.

The men wear a variety of sleeveless vests, straight-legged pants, and hooded scarves. The women wear various types of dresses including hand-embroidered ones.

Most of the designs incorporate designs like fruits, flowers, birds, and clouds on their clothing (specifically the collars, wristbands, and edges of their clothing) to symbolize good luck, prosperity, and happiness.

For clothing, vibrant colors are used with cyan colors being the most popular. The women adorn themselves with exquisite silver jewelry.

5. Tibetan Clothing

Tibetan Clothing

With a population of about 7 million, the Tibetans live mainly live in the Tibet Autonomous Region in southeast China and the neighboring provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan. Tibetan people have very characteristic clothes.

Men have three types of attire that are used according to the occasion; the labor dress, the formal dress, and the warrior dress. The clothes usually have two layers, a short inner garment made of silk and an outer garment which is a long robe. The inner garment has long sleeves and the outer robe is generally sleeveless. Men also wear long boots of cattle hide.

Women prefer to wear an apron with beautiful patterns.

Both men and women have pigtails, but men coil up the pigtails over the head while women comb their hair into two or more pigtails and tie beautiful ornaments on them.

6. Hui Clothing

Hui girls with traditional head scarves

With a sizable population of 8.61 million (as of 1990), the Hui ethnic minority is one of China’s largest and most widely distributed ethnic minorities. People of Hui origin can be found in most of the counties and cities throughout the country.

Hui clothing exhibits an influence of Islamic culture. Covering the head is an important part of their lifestyle. Men usually wear round white caps which are also used during prayer. They prefer wearing double-breasted white shirts with white trousers and socks.

The elderly Hui women wear black or brown headscarves in winter and white shawls in summer. Young women wear red, green or blue headscarves.

7. Uyghur Clothing

Female Uyghur clothingUyghur female costume

There are an estimated 11 to 15 million Uyghurs in China, the vast majority living in Xinjiang, a large province that takes up 1/6 of the area of China.

With most Uyghurs living along the Silk Road, Uyghur high fashion means satin and silk. Women wear silk scarves, and for those who can afford it, both men and women might wear silk slippers, especially indoors. Cotton fabrics might have silk embroidery.

Uyghur people grow cotton, so cotton clothing is their traditional daily wear.

Uyghur women typically wear one-piece dresses with bright vests and baggy sleeves. On the other hand, men usually wear gowns paired with a long scarf around the waist.
Caps are the most important piece of clothing for Uyghur people. Women like to put designs on their caps and also love to accessorize with necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.

8. Yao Clothing

Yao women during a traditional festivalThe Red Yao of Longsheng are so named because of their traditional red clothes.

China’s Yao minority has almost 3 million members and live among other ethnic groups in the mountains of southern China.

Blue and green hand-woven clothing is popular among Yao men and women alike. Men usually wear short robes without collars. They match these up with either knee-length shorts or long pants. Women like to wear jackets with openings on the sides together with shorts, long pants or pleated skirts.

Yao women also love to sew. They decorate their clothes with attractive embroidery that they usually add to their belts, hems, and collars. They use bright colors in their designs.

For special occasions and festivals, Yao women don shiny silver accessories such as silver flowers, hairpins, beads, and plaits.

9. Zhuang Clothing

Zhuang Chinese minority clothing

The Zhuang ethnic group has 18 million members and is the largest of China’s 55 official minorities. Most of them inhabit Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Dexterous Zhuang women use hand-woven fabric to make clothes of various styles. Usually, girls wear a blue-and-black collarless jacket and baggy trousers or batik skirts. A delicately embroidered apron is fastened on the waist.

Boys dress in black coats with front openings and cloth-wrapped buttons, and they wear belts.
Zhuang people fancy silver accessories for jewelry and clothing decorations.

10. Mongol Clothing

Mongol Chinese minority clothing

The Mongolian ethnic group has about 6 million people in China in Inner Mongolia, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Liaoning, Xinjiang, Hebei, and Qinghai Provinces.

Mongolian people like to wear silk and satin for special occasions.

The caftan, hat, sash, and boots are indispensable for Mongolian attire. Caftans are made of various materials such as leather or cotton. The caftan can also serve as a makeshift tent, a blanket, or a screen. The long and wide sleeves can be rolled down to protect from the sun, wind or rain.

Women’s sashes are generally shorter and narrower than men’s sashes. In some places, married women wear an embroidered silk vest instead of a sash. Men’s sashes are longer, folded into a broad band, and tied tightly around the waist. The sashes also serve to hold weapons and money pouches.

Hats have always been a special item of Mongolian attire. They might be adorned with whatever the owner values such as pearls, precious stones, and long, colorful tassels. A hat must be worn when meeting or greeting non-family members, entering a ger (though one may be invited to remove the hat once inside), and on the street. It is considered indecorous to go bareheaded.

Meet China's Ethnic Minorities with China Highlights

Guizhou minority clothing

Would you like to see and experience the unique and colorful lifestyle of the ethnic minorities in China, admire and try on the stunning costumes and even attend their festivals and special events? Let us guide you through some of your most remarkable experiences in China.

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