My Chinese wedding dress Qun Gua 我結婚的龍鳳裙褂

For the Chinese, the traditional colour for wedding is red. This signifies prosperity, good luck and happiness. Today I want to introduce you to the traditional Chinese wedding dress. It is called the Qun Gua or sometimes simply the gua.
在中國婚禮上,傳統顏色是紅色。這代表吉祥,也讓人想起歡欣,富貴與榮華。 今天我向大家介紹中國傳統的婚嫁服飾,也是紅色的,是龍鳳裙褂,簡單一點可以叫褂。

 

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裙褂歷史The history

The gua originates from the Manchus, an ethnic minority in China who established the Qing Dynasty and, for reason that I still don’t know, is worn predominantly by brides from southern China, including Hong Kong.
裙褂原本是滿洲人的服飾,但不知為什麼會傳到中國南方,包括香港,變成新娘子的傳統出嫁服飾。

Ever since I was a child, and during the many years I worked in Hong Kong, I have always seen brides wear the gua at weddings so thought it was the norm for all the Chinese brides. Since coming to Taiwan, I found out that brides here don’t normally wear the gua, and after a bit more investigation, it seems that neither does many parts of China particularly the northern part.
從小時候開始,一直到在香港工作多年,我去參加親戚朋友的婚禮,都會看到新娘子穿著裙褂,所以我以為所有的中國新娘子結婚也會這樣穿。 直到我到台灣後跟朋友聊天,才知道原來台灣新娘子結婚不穿裙褂。之後在網上找資料,又發現原來在中國,尤其是南方以外的新娘子,也不穿龍鳳裙褂結婚。似乎,龍鳳裙褂是中國南方,尤其香港的傳統而已。


我的裙褂My Qun Gua

Like most brides in Hong Kong, I wore a gua when I got married. This gua actually belongs to my eldest sister, bought by her mother-in-law from Hong Kong. To give you an idea of how old the gua is, my sister is now a proud and happy grandmother of three lovely boys the eldest one being six years old!

This is me on my wedding day. Those were the days when I was still young and beautiful….
跟一般的香港新娘子一樣,我結婚時亦有穿裙褂。而我穿的這一套,是我大姊當年結婚時,她的奶奶(台灣人稱婆婆~老公的媽媽)特別從香港買到英國給她。這套裙褂現在已稱得上為古著,但究竟有多古舊? 我大姊現在已經是一位幸福的婆婆,有三名非常可愛的孫子,最年長一個已經六歲。你說這道這套裙褂是不是很有歷史呢?

這是我當年結婚的照片,那時我還稱得上年青貌美

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For the eagle eyes, I didn’t get married on 26 Feb 1987!  眼利的你,我絕不是1987年6月26日結婚呀!

The gua I wore is fully beaded and sequined, thus hand made of course. I don’t know how long it took to make it, but I hear nowadays the embroidered ones can take anything up to 8 – 12 months. So I imagine this would have taken just as long if not longer.
我穿的這套裙褂是全手工做,整套的表面用珠子和亮片繡上極精細的圖案。 我不知道當年做這套褂需要多少時間,但聽說現今手工刺繡的要大概8至12個月,所以我覺得做這套需要的時間一定不比這短。

A Qun Gua comprises of two items. Gua is the top half, like a jacket with a zipped front and 3/4 length sleeves. The jacket is loose fit, and the sleeve length is purposely designed shorter so the bride can show off her jewellery, the gold bangles, bracelets and rings gifted by relatives.
一套龍鳳裙褂分開兩部分。上半身的襯衣是褂。褂一般設計較為鬆身,有小直領,胸口前有隱藏的拉鏈,不會破壞精細手工刺繡的視覺效果。袖子是3/4長度,可讓新娘子顯示親朋戚友送的黃金首飾嫁妝。

Qun is the bottom half, the skirt. The qun is a straight full length skirt with a draw string waist. The one I wore had straps that goes over my shoulder like dungarees. Since the gua is loose fit, and both the waist and length is adjustable (up to a certain degree) on the qun, the entire wedding gown can fit a range of bride sizes as alterations which would not be possible.
下半身的長裙是裙。這是一條直身長裙,腰間是索繩子。我這一條裙的腰部還連上兩條背帶 搭過肩膊,穿的時候可幫助減輕繡滿珠子和亮片的重量。裙的設計可調整腰部的寬鬆,及裙的長度,所以可以讓不同尺碼的新娘子穿著,因為裙根本是不能作任何修改。

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The main motifs on the gua are dragons and phoenix as there is a phrase in Cantonese that includes dragons and phoenix and sounds the same as everlasting love. The pronunciation of this phrase is different in Mandarin which may be another reason that gua is not common in large parts of China.
裙褂有時會叫龍鳳褂,因為刺繡的圖案有龍也有鳳。用這兩隻傳說中的瑞獸是因為在廣東話裡,龍鳳呈祥一語,呈祥跟情長同音,取個好意頭。在中文/普通話裡,呈祥跟情長發音卻不一樣。可能這也是裙褂只在中國南部才普遍的原因。

Since my sister’s gua is fully beaded and sequined, it is quite heavy. That is why the straps across the shoulders are necessary to hold up the weight of the qun. In fact the entire Qun Gua weighs 2.6kg. My laptop weighs 2.3kg so imagine lugging your laptop on you on your wedding day. It’s quite hard work!
因為整套裙褂是繡滿珠子和亮片,它是蠻重的。我發現它有2.6公斤哩,而我的手提電腦也只是2.3公斤。你試想像新娘子結婚時整天把手提電腦背在身上,也挺辛苦呀!

During our wedding, our best man who was quite a veteran as a best man, said he had never seen such an exquisite qua before. He joked that with all the beads and sequins, it could double up as an armour if we were attacked!
當我們伴郎的朋友之前有多次伴郎經驗,他也說從來未看過一套這樣手工精細的裙褂。他還說笑,裙褂上的珠子亮片照片很厲害,若不幸被襲擊也可以擋到一兩刀!

This is the rear view of the qua, isn’t it just gorgeous?
這是裙褂的背後,你說手工是否很緻細很美呀?

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我的婚禮 My wedding

As part of a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony, before the bride leaves her maiden home, she has to serve tea to her parents and elderlies. This is done kneeling down as a mark of respect. Here, I am serving tea to my beloved grandmother. The design of the shorter sleeves enables me to show off my (small) collection of gold bangles and bracelets.
在傳統中國婚禮中,其中一個重要的儀式是新娘子出門前要向父母及長輩敬茶,答謝養育之恩。 為了尊敬長輩,新娘新郎都會下跪敬茶。我在這相片中,正向我至愛的嬤嬤(台灣人稱奶奶~爸爸的媽媽 (香港的奶奶是老公的媽媽噢!))正在敬茶。你看,裙褂短袖的設計,剛好可以顯示我佩戴少少的龍鳳鈪和金手鏈嫁妝。

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After the tea serving ceremony, I leave home with my husband to go to my new home (his parents place). In line with the customs, my chief bridesmaid is holding a red umbrella above me. Some say this is to protect the bride from any evil spirits as she starts her new journey. Others say because umbrella sounds the same as blossom in Chinese, so hopefully the bride will bear many children. Either way, we followed the custom.
敬完茶後,是時候出門跟老公到夫家。根據傳統新娘子出門時,伴娘會為她撐紅傘。有說這是為新娘子辟邪,但另外也有說傘跟散同音,代表開枝散葉的意思。無論如何我們也跟著做了這些傳統禮儀。

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A few years ago I lent my sister’s gua to be exhibited in London. My friend works runs a charity and was organising an exhibition called “From East to West : Chinese Life in London Since 1900”. The gua was the centre piece of the exhibition and many people said they had never seen such an exquisite gua like this before.
幾年前我英國有位在一家志願機構工作的朋友, 舉辦一個名為”從東到西~20世紀華人在倫敦”的展覽。我借了我大姊的裙褂給她展覽,更成為展覽場的焦點。很多訪客看到都歎為觀止,說從來未見過一套這樣漂亮的結婚禮服。

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