Ancient China Clothing

Ancient China clothing was important and was designed to show a person’s class status. The type of material used to make clothes in ancient China was important too.

Specific materials like silk were only worn by the emperor, nobles or wealthy people. Poorer farmers wore clothing made of hemp.
Ancient China Clothing
Merchants were punished for wearing silk clothing in ancient China. Color was important too. For instance, only the emperor was allowed to wear yellow clothing.

Clothing for the poor in ancient China

Ancient China clothing for the poor was made out of hemp. Clothes made from hemp were durable but not comfortable.

The material made clothes stiff and scratchy. Hemp clothes were ideal for working the fields. Women wore one-piece tunics that flowed to their feet.

Men wore a tunic shirt and pants. Poor people in ancient China wore sandals made of straw.

Over time cotton replaced hemp as the material of choice for poor people in ancient China. Cotton was introduced to ancient China by the Mongols during the Yuan Dynasty.

Cotton was popular because the material was cheaper, softer than hemp and in most cases warmer.

Clothing for the wealthy in ancient China

Ancient China clothing for wealthy or noble people was made of silk. The ancient Chinese discovered the making of silk from cocoons of silkworms.
Chinese Empress
Silk clothing is soft, supple and delicate. Silk clothing in ancient China was long robes. Men wore a variety of silk robes from waist to ankle length.

Women wore ankle length silk robes. Sometimes women wore two robes of different lengths. Shoes for wealthy or noble ancient Chinese were made of cloth.

Significance of color

The color of clothes in ancient China was important. The color of clothes in ancient China also related to social status. For instance, poor people during the Sui Dynasty were only allowed to wear clothes that were black or blue.

Wealthier and noble people wore clothes that were dyed different colors. Many times the color of ancient China clothing symbolized emotions or seasons throughout the year. Red clothes signified happiness and joy.

White clothing represented mourning. Green signified wealth and harmony. Yellow clothing was reserved for the emperor. Only the emperor wore yellow clothing.

Other rules of ancient China clothing

Ancient China clothing represented what type of social status a person held. Silk was reserved for wealthy, noble or royal families.

There were specific punishments for poor people that wore silk clothing. Merchants were also not allowed to wear clothes made of silk.
Old Chinese Garb

Hairstyle in ancient China

Hairstyle in ancient China was one way for the ancient Chinese to display jewelry or adornments. Long hair in ancient China was a must do.

Short hair in ancient China was seen as a punishment and generally worn only by prisoners. Religious people like monks shaved their heads because appearances did not matter.

Men in ancient China men shaved their head expect for a long pony tail. The pony tail was then tied into a knot.

Most men in ancient China wore a hat or square cloth over the knot of hair. Women wore long hair that was braided or coiled into an assortment of styles.

Women used a variety of colorful hairpins to decorate their hair. The ancient Chinese did not allow girls to wear braids or hairpins until after a girl was married.

Important facts about ancient China clothing

  • Poor ancient Chinese people wore clothes made from hemp.
  • Wealthy or noble ancient Chinese people wore clothes made from silk.
  • Merchants whether poor or wealthy were not allowed to wear silk.
  • Ancient China clothing for women was a long dress type robe.
  • Men in ancient China wore long robes or a tunic and pants.
  • The color of clothing in ancient China was significant. Poor people at one time were only allowed to wear black or blue clothing.
  • Only the emperor was allowed to wear yellow clothing.
  • Long hair was the norm in ancient China. Short hair was a sign of punishment.


1. What class status of ancient Chinese wore clothes made of hemp?

Poor people

2. What color of clothing did the emperor in ancient China wear?


3. Ancient Chinese people wore white clothes to signify what type of event?


4. Merchants were not allowed to wear clothes made of what type of material?