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The Influence of Traditional Auspicious Thoughts on Chinese Belly-Band Patterns

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DOI: 10.4236/chnstd.2017.63020    580 Downloads   1,045 Views  
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ABSTRACT

The traditional bellyband pattern is an artistic form of Chinese national culture and the art carrier of the national history, culture and ideologies as well. In the past decades of years, as the appeal is launched nationally for more efforts in transmitting Chinese culture, studies on traditional bellyband culture are on the rise nationwide. The visualized analysis of bellyband related studies during 2001 to 2017 indicates the rising trend in costume pattern study in terms of historical, cultural value as well as artistic aesthetics. As analyzed, Chinese traditional bellyband patterns are closely related to traditional auspicious thoughts in terms of Yin-yang and Five-element thoughts, Nature-man unity, Neutralization and Mean thought and Confucianism and Taoism, and they have become a cultural language by being infiltrated into the costume culture with different symbolic meanings. Therefore, what is endowed in the patterns of bellybands not only embodies auspicious thoughts and the national cultural spirit, but also interprets and expresses the feelings, reflecting the strong desire of people for the auspicious life and prospective future since ancient times.

1. Introduction

1.1. General Introduction

National costumes refer to traditional costumes or costume-related accessories for a certain nation. National costumes differ from nation to nation due to different living environment and various customs. Traditional bellyband patterns in China are the art carrier of the national history, culture and ideological implication. Meanwhile, it has also become an artistic form of Chinese national culture that should be valued. Focus on bellyband patterns can not only explore the traditional costume culture of Chinese nation, but also serve for inheritance, innovation and transmission of costume culture.

Traditional Chinese bellybands are the external manifestation of the cultural language, recording the historical changes and that of times. Symbol patterns are the high generalization and epitome of the symbolic significance of the national spirit. To explore the cultural sense of bellyband patterns with the knowledge of cultural language in bellyband patterns, and perceive the core spirit in national culture would provide inspiration and reference not only for inheriting the national traditional culture, but also for the modern costume design, popular fashion and its aesthetic appreciation as well.

1.2. Research Status, Focus and Trend

As Figure 1 shows that researches concerning bellyband during 2003 and 2004 keep growing, which indicates bellyband receives widely attention. There is a slight decrease in the number of articles during 2004 and 2008, because research focus has turned to the other direction. The growth in 2009 shows that researchers have recognized the importance of traditional bellyband study again. During 2013 and 2016, the number of the bellyband-related articles is on the increase, but decrease in 2017, because articles in 2017 are only retrieved as of May, 2017. Since 2014, there is a clear trend of growth in traditional costume study, which is the result of nationally launched appeal for more efforts in transmitting Chinese culture, during which, study on traditional culture is on the rise nationwide.

Based on the general picture of bellyband related researches, we can further study the traditional bellyband with the help of Cite Space, analyzing its present situation, and displaying the related information visually.

Figure 1. Research Trend of Bellyband during 2001 and 2017.

Figure 2. Timezone View of Articles concerning Bellyband during 2001 and 2017 (Slice Length = 1). (Note: #4 embroidery bellybands in Shan Xi province #7red belly bands #6 regional features of bellybands in Shan Xi province #3 bellybands, smokes and others #8 art design for Chinese children’s wear through comparison between princess dress and belly band #5 what is suggested by belly bands #1 Oscar of lingerie―Siuf “Gold Belly band ”award).

pattern culture, auspicious culture, costume culture, tangible cultural heritages, orientalization and the like. 2010-2013 belongs to the stage of development, during which the research is further deepened by dealing with the inheritance and innovation of bellyband, the artistic form of bellyband as well as the fashionable feature and national character of bellyband. 2014-2016 is the maturity stage. In this period, the research is widened and deepened further; the researchers explore the implication of bellyband on modern design, the design art of bellyband, the female culture in bellyband, emotional art in bellyband, cultural connotation, the stitches technique of bellyband, traditional costume and its translation, and etc. The future research would center on bellyband related diversified application.

Based on the visualized analysis of CiteSpace, we find there are 118 nodes, 210 ligature, global density is 0.0314, modularity Q is 0.8967, mean silhouette is 0.7073. There are totally 29 clusters.

As Table 1 shows, recently, researchers are making more efforts in costume pattern study, exploring its historical, cultural value and artistic aesthetics as

well. While studying the cultural connotation of costume patterns, traditional costume is fused with modern costume design to achieve an effective combination of tradition and modern design, which presents practicality of costume. Another thing that is found in the literature review is that discussion on the relationship between the traditional thoughts and bellyband pattern is less than expected, so it is quite necessary to clarify the influence of traditional Chinese thoughts, especially the auspicious thoughts, on the pattern. Above all, to study the relationship between traditional thoughts and traditional costume, and the traditional bellyband culture enable us to spread Chinese culture worldwide.

2. Some Traditional Main Thoughts and Auspicious Culture in China

The important thoughts in Chinese traditional culture, the foundation of Chinese auspicious culture, are listed as the following:

1) Yin-yang and Five-element thoughts

The thought of Yin-yang, originated from Xia dynasty, is the basic philosophy in Chinese ancient time, according to which everything in the universe is the unit of opposites. Yin-yang originally has the plain meaning with yang referring to “sunward” while yin referring to “downsun”. From the view of ancient philosophy, antagonistic relations of Yin and Yang and their growth and decline are not only the inherent phenomenon of everything, but also the fundamental law of the universe. The five-element thought is one of plain materialist ideas, maintaining that all the phenomena in the universe are composed by the movement and mutation of the five objects, including metal, wood, water, fire and earth, focusing on the dynamic connection among the five objects, as well as the mutual promotion and restraint to keep dynamic balance.

2) Nature-man unity

Nature-man unity is also called “harmony between nature and man” or “oneness of man and nature”, which “Emphasizes the unity and harmony between nature and man is the dominant tone of ancient Chinese philosophy (Ji Xianlin, 2015: p. 41) . The highest level of Chinese traditional culture is “harmony”, including the harmony among human beings, the harmony between human body and mind as well as that between human and nature, which have great influence on traditional auspicious ideas in China.

3) Neutralization and Mean thought

Neutralization thought (Zhong He in Chinese), “Harmoniousness” (He for short), is the core of Chinese traditional culture. While things in the world differ greatly from each other, they can coordinate harmony, achieve symbiotic co-existence and mutual promotion by being brought together.

4) Confucianism and Taoism

Confucius, also called Kongzi, founded the Confucianism. Mencius carried forward and further developed Confucianism, which is improved and perfected by Xunzi. The core of Confucianism is benevolence (Ren 仁). Confucius advocates the ethical virtues including humaneness (仁), righteousness (义), propriety (礼), knowledge (智), integrity (信), forgiveness (恕), loyalty (忠), piety (孝) and filial respect (悌), which have great influence on Chinese traditional auspicious culture (Wang Jia, 2013: p. 15-16) .

Taoism is a combination of sorcery in ancient China, Five Elements and Doctrine of Huang Lao (Taoism), and many auspicious patterns are produced along with the pursuit of good luck and happiness, and immortality as well.

Traditional Auspicious Thoughts in China

In a Chinese dictionary of words and expressions Shuo Wen Jie Zi, Auspiciousness is explained as Shan (happiness in English) and Fu (auspiciousness in English), the combination of which means “propitiousness” and “peacefulness”, that is to say, everything goes well with great satisfaction (Sun Yongqing, 2010) . Auspicious culture grows out of people’s aspiration and pursuit of the happy life since ancient times. The main contents of auspicious involve “happiness”, “affluence”, “longevity”, “joy”, “wealth”, “safe” and “health”. Mr. Zhang Daoyi, an artist on folklore, has ever boiled the content of auspiciousness down to ten Chinese characters (福, 禄, 寿, 喜, 财, 吉, 和, 安, 养, 全) including happiness, affluence, longevity, joy, wealth, auspiciousness, peaceful mentality, safe, self-cultivation and completeness of life. In order to reflect the auspiciousness, abundance of auspicious characters, mascots are created along with the auspicious folklore, decorations and patterns.

The initial presentation of auspicious culture is the totem worship. Professor Tao Siyan, a famous expert on folklore has ever said: In the ancient times, the symbols or pictograms closely related to life, are regarded by our ancestors as the spiritual longing, while the totem is so-called the original unique mascot (Huo Mingkun, 2010: p. 1) . The Ancestors tend to resort to the outside forces to remove the threat from disease, plague, natural disasters and war, which constitutes a serious danger to people’s life. The totem worship, as a psychological hint, arises since then. As spiritual sustenance, the signs and pictures, drawn by the ancestors, become the patron saint, and totem becomes the earliest mascot, which is the embryonic stage of auspicious culture.

Totem originally refers to race, family, and kinship. In fact, in primitive times certain animals, plants or inanimate object are regarded as the kinship, ancestor or patron saint by primitive people, believing they are not harmed but protected, and they can attain their super power, courage or skills. Therefore, some clans or families are named after the totem, which has already become the symbol of a nation’s patron saint (Da Hua, 2015) .

Chinese auspicious patterns come from Shang and Zhou period, developed in Tang and Song dynasty, and experience its peak development in Ming and Qing dynasty. During Xia, Shang and Zhou period, rite and music culture were formed with the auspicious theme seen on sacrificial vessels, such as bronze wares. auspicious culture was enriched by increasing number of mascots with the implication of propitiousness and happiness, warding off ill fortune and diseases. During Ming and Qing period, various auspicious words, ceremony and behavior in daily life marked the peak of auspicious culture. Above all, it is the everlasting theme of auspicious culture to persistently pursue the good by reflecting and exploring the life value.

It is an indispensable part of profound Chinese traditional culture which has penetrated into every aspect of social life. The traditional auspicious thought can be found to be conveyed brilliantly and effectively in the traditional bellyband patterns.

3. Chinese Traditional Bellybands and Bellyband Patterns

3.1. Chinese Traditional Bellybands

According to the legend, at the beginning of the world, the brother and sister, Nv Wa and Fu Xi, are married after great flood, and giving birth to sons and daughters. It is they who created the original costume of human being―bellyband, to hide the body against shame. The original bellyband pattern is toad, which is the totem token of Nv Wa tribal group.

The Chinese underwear enjoys a long history. The earliest ancient underwear in China is called Xieyi (亵衣) (Baidu Encyclopedia, 2017) . Chinese character Xie (亵) means frivolousness, dignifiedness (Pan Jianhua, 2005: p. 1) , indicating the general attitude of ancient people towards underwear. There are different appellations for the unique underwear in the various periods of Chinese history: In Han dynasty, the underwear is called Xinyi (心衣), which is inherited from the north nomadic people. In Tang Dynasty, bellyband is called Hezi (诃子)derived from a historical story about love affair between Yang Guifei and An Lushan (Pan Jianhua, 2012: p. 17) . Tang Dynasty enjoyed the open policy under which it is quite popular for women to wear colorful high-waisted skirts with Hezi as the upper garment. It is not until Yuan Dynasty bellyband is given a sensational name as Hehuan Jin, Hehuan (合欢) in Chinese means happy get-together. Zhuyao (主腰)is another name for bellyband in Ming Dynasty because bellyband in this period is designed with nipped waists, highlighting the waist shape. In Qing Dynasty, bellyband is called Dudou (肚兜), Moxiong (抹胸), Doudu (兜肚), for it is not only for female. During this period, bellyband becomes quite popular for all-young and old, man and women, for its role in not only keeping physical beauty, but also keeping warm and covering embarrassment. And it is called Xiao Ma Jia (small vests in English) in modern times and still can be seen nowadays. The various appellations in different times reflect the diversities and the improvement of Chinese female underwear in application (Zang Yingchun & Xu Qian, 2015: p. 108) .

3.2. Bellyband Patterns

4. Traditional Auspicious Thoughts in Bellyband Patterns

Under the agrarian economy, the ancient people has the strong belief that the stable and wealthy life could be guaranteed only by the favorable weather for good harvests, and they focus more on the value of life and physical well-being. Therefore, they prefer to express their earnest hopes and desires through the natural patterns closely related to their life.

The Ancestors take the natural objects and natural phenomena as gods with the irresistible forces, including Sun, Moon, stars, animals, plants and Sunrise and Sunset. So, they worship faithfully for gods’ protection. Auspicious patterns are the continuation of totem culture of the ancestors. Totem, certain animals, plants or some inanimate objects seen as the ancestors or patron saints by the ancient people, is believed not only to protect the ancient people, but also provide them supernatural power. Hence, Totem becomes the sign of patron saint for a nation. Later, fairy-driven auspicious patterns arise. With the improvement of social productivity and stable economic life, focus is shifted to the abundance of natural patterns, such as flowers, grass and birds. Rich and colorful auspicious patterns are composed of various combinations such as beautiful flowers, various grass, diverse birds, auspicious animals and mythological gods, aiming at driving out the ghosts, avoiding diseases and pursuing happiness. Mountains, rivers, flowers, birds, clouds even mascots are displayed through bellybands, advocating heaven, earth and human come from the same origin with the cultural value of equality and harmony. The process from totem patterns to auspicious patterns is deeply influenced by traditional culture involving ideology, philosophy and religion in different social periods.

The Chinese traditional thoughts, such as “Yin-yang thought, the Five-element thought, the Confucianism and Taoism, have been infiltrated into the costume culture with different symbolic meanings. After thousands of years, some symbol patterns have become the highly generalization and concentrated reflection of the national spirit symbolism.

Patterns play the role of identification in dress with the symbolic significance. The intuitiveness and vividness of patterns outweigh the structure of garment and the fabric. Therefore, it becomes the most important part in demonstrating garments’ integral spirituality, and quite easily served to convey information by the main dress group.

The shape of bellyband is often designed with round front lower hem and square back lower hem with the belief that the heaven is round while the earth is square, so, it contains the idea of nature-man unity. The traditional bellyband patterns abound in much subject matter. Flowers and birds, animals, gods, fairytales, opera figures and persons in daily life are all embroidered in the traditional costume and fused with the aesthetic thoughts, advocating that Human and Nature (including the sky and the land) come from the same origin, emphasizing the equality and harmony, the wishes for the happy life, and it also indicates the great influence of the Chinese traditional thoughts on the costume pattern design. Ideas including Karma advocated by Buddhism, Yin-Yang and Five Elements by Confucianism and the immortality by Taoism, along with various fairytales have greatly enriched the topics of auspicious patterns.

The influence of the auspicious thoughts on bellyband patterns can be illustrated specifically from the following six perspectives:

Many children and grandchildren, many generations and more offspring are the life aspiration of Chinese ancient people influenced by the ancient auspicious thoughts. Since ancient times, there are the sayings such as the more sons, the more blessings (多子多福), and There are three unfilial acts and no posterity is the greatest (不孝有三, 无后为大). More offspring stands for filial piety, more children and grandchildren imply blessings of life, while no children indicates impiety, which is the violation of Confucian ethical codes. In the pattern of San Duo pattern (三多纹), more children (多子) are emphasized, because that would bring more happiness (多福). Pattern of children at Play (婴戏图) in the bellyband presents a vivid illustration of more cheerful and harmonious happiness with many children. Besides, pomegranates, grapes and gourds are often found in bellyband patterns because of more seeds, which symbolize more children.

The Confucianism and the Taoism in traditional Chinese culture have long dominated and influenced the spiritual life of the Chinese nation by following the common view of fusion in mutual aid, harmony in diversity, and coexistence and mutual prosperity. The Chinese traditional thoughts have become the code of the Chinese traditional costume concept, and the ethical norm of the society. The individual psychological desires are embodied through costume, especially the various costume patterns, which are designated for the powerful tool of the ruling class.

2) The glory or honor to the ancestors and being rich are desired by all, so the key goal for people is to seek the smooth official career with high position and great fortune, abundant wealth and immense fame. The auspicious patterns of flowers, birds, insects and animals indicate the human-nature harmony for its conformity with Confucian nature-man unity. Of course, the feudal idea of success in imperial examination, official career, and wealth with high rank and substantial emolument in auspicious patterns is the direct result of Confucian influence. The classical bellyband patterns are: Five children pass the imperial examination (五子登科), Number One Scholar passes an imperial examination (状元及第), Immediate promotion (指日高升), Pattern of Rooster and Cockscomb (冠上加冠). Family names are very important, and bringing glory on one’s ancestors can comply with the Confucian standard, which is the source of being auspiciousness and happiness. Take pattern of Rooster and Cockscomb (冠上加冠, which means putting on two hats) as an example, Guan (冠) is a homophone for Guan (官), marking repeated promotion for glorifying the ancestors. Another good example is the pattern of Liu Hai plays with the Gold Toad (刘海戏金蟾), Gold Toad is the incarnation of wealth, which implies financial success. The patterns in bellybands are in fact the carrier of the ideology of the times.

3) Virtuousness and noble personality are greatly valued in ancient time, and paid more attention to than material living. Confucianism attaches great importance to virtue, and the feudal ethics and values under the influence of Confucianism are infiltrated into the bellyband pattern, that’s why many bellyband patterns are related to the idea of sages and upright ministers, heroic maidens and dutiful sons, the three cardinal guides and the five constant virtues, and even moral and ethical tales. Self-cultivation is advocated by Confucianism, the good cases in point are the auspicious pattern of three durable plants of winter-pine, bamboo and plum (岁寒三友), and that of four nobles of flowers including Plum Blossom, Orchid, Bamboo and Chrysanthemum (四君子). Those patterns are quite popular because of being in conformity with Confucian ethics. Confucianism emphasizes ritual system between a ruler and his ministers, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and regarding the animals as the auspicious signs. Bellyband Pattern of Journey to the West (西游记) is a good case in point, which depicts the theme of “piety, virtuousness and noble personality”. These thoughts are commonly acknowledged and advocated by depicting the story in bellyband pattern, indicating people’s psychological pursuit and strong desire for auspiciousness.

4) Good health and a long life are the everlasting theme of Chinese ancient people. Immortality is the constant pursuit for Taoism, which attaches great value to the individual life, with the conviction that the individual cultivation is the preparation for immortality in a fairyland. Immortality, the important message of Taoism, is not only what all previous monarchs pursue, but also what people have been yearning for through ages. Therefore, patterns related to longevity become the major part of auspicious patterns.

“Pursuing good fortune and staying out of disasters” is brought into Taoism because of sorcery, and hence becomes its main part. For instance, Tai Chi diagram and eight diagrams can be often seen in costume patterns as the auspicious pattern of removing ill fortune, which turns out to be the symbol of seeking advantages and avoiding disadvantages. Many flowers in bellyband are endowed with “longevity”, such as the pomegranate with multiple and plump seeds, symbolizing great wealth and multiple descendents, therefore, it is the mascot in the eye of the Chinese people. Peaches, one of fruits to prolong life in the fairytale of Han Nationality, mark good health, longevity and happiness. Some animals (beasts) such as crane, one of long-lived beasts, are regarded as the holy birds, that’s why it is called Xian 仙 (which means holy in English), symbolizing longevity, and reflecting people’s yearning for long life. The typical bellyband patterns are Monkey Stealing Peaches (猴桃瑞寿, which means the auspiciousness and longevity), Longevity (寿比南山) and the like.

5) Unity of heaven and man, harmony are the core of Chinese traditional culture. People’s lifelong pursuit of happiness is embodied in policy of benevolence, grand harmony and removal of evils. According to traditional thoughts, harmony is the optimal principle for handling the impersonal relationship and everything, it is also the principles of self-discipline for all behaviors. “Harmony is most precious” can be seen in bellyband patterns, such as Phoenixes playing among peonies (凤凰戏牡丹), phoenixes are the king of birds while the peony is the king of flowers, this pattern depicts a scene of harmony in society, which is in line with the policy of benevolence. Other similar examples are: Hundreds of Birds show respects for phoenix (百鸟朝凤), Phoenix facing the sun (凤鸣朝阳), Deer and crane in Spring (六合同春或者鹿鹤同春). The pattern of God of He He (合和) is a popular pattern in bellyband, which is the auspicious aspiration for the whole family to be happy together in the following years.

6) The ancient ethic codes, including the idea of piety, the advocate of “women are inferior to men” in marriage and the core of oriental female culture “the three obedience and the four virtues”, etc. Three obedience hold that a woman is required to obey her father before marriage, her husband during married life and her sons in widowhood. The four virtues are morality, proper speech, modest manner and efficiency in needlework, such as The Cowherd and the Weaving Maid or Milky Way lovers (牛郎织女), Pattern of Delivering Lunch to Husband (送饭图), which are perfectly and effectively conveyed through the bellyband patterns (Shu Mao, 2012) .

Filial piety (Xiao孝) is not only the core of the Confucianism, but also the code of ethics for maintaining the Chinese family harmony for thousands of years, which is adhered to the traditional virtues. There are many kinds of bellyband patterns promoting the filial piety. such as Giving up the official position to search for mother (弃官寻母), Carrying sacks of rice by traveling a long way (百里负米). Those various patterns present the mental world of people, as well as the significance of adherence to the filial piety.

5. Conclusion

Bellybands take on the esthetic value and cultural value, including folk custom and etiquette, feudal ethical codes. Compared to other garment accessories, the value of bellybands is more important than bellyband itself in that what is endowed in the patterns of bellybands not only embodies the national cultural spirit and the feelings, but also has the obvious sign of Chinese traditional thoughts. The traditional important thoughts decide people’s ideological direction, and drive people to comply with the codes in daily life, therefore, it has been integrated into every aspect of life and it has greatly influenced people’s ideology, and in turn, it can be shown as an auspicious aspiration from every aspect of life. Professor Pan has ever pointed: If the style is father of bellybands, the aesthetic idea is mother of bellybands, and then cultural meaning is the soul of the both. (Pan Jianhua, 2014) . As time goes on, what the traditional auspicious thoughts advocate has been the collective subconscious, and “harmony is most precious” is deeply rooted in people’s mind, which affects the behavior of all. Therefore, bellybands, in a sense, are the cultural and ideological heritage, recording the development of Chinese thoughts and the developmental process of Chinese lingerie. Well, it is also our duty to explore and study this unique national costume, regarding it as the thought heritage more than a form of lingerie. Visualized analysis of belly-band related literatures has shown more experts are making efforts to involve in national costumes from different perspectives.

Acknowledgements

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Zi, W. (2017) The Influence of Traditional Auspicious Thoughts on Chinese Belly-Band Patterns. Chinese Studies, 6, 201-212. doi: 10.4236/chnstd.2017.63020.

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