China National Silk Museum (NSM), located by the West Lake in Hangzhou, near Shanghai, is the No.1 textile and fashion museum in China. It was opened to the public in 1992, and reopened in 2016 during the G20 Summit Hangzhou, after an extension and renovation project. In 2019, NSM was named as the Most Innovative Museum in China.
The NSM collects mainly silk textiles from China, and other textiles and costumes from around the world. There are several galleries. The Silk Road Gallery displays silk textiles from 5000 years of Chinese history. On the other hand, the NSM leads an alliance of Sericulture and Silk Craftsmanship in China, part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List, so it demonstrates the whole process from sericulture to weaving and dyeing at the museum. Moreover, the NSM set up the Key Scientific Research Base of Textile Conservation, taking care of textiles from all over the country. In recent years, NSM has strengthened cooperation with museums, institutions and universities. In 2015, it founded the International Association for Study of the Silk Road Textiles (IASSRT), including more than 30 institutional members from 18 countries, who meet once a year to have a symposium in Asia and Europe.
Background of Hanfu Festival
Literally, Hanfu means the traditional costume of the Chinese Han people. In recent years, Hanfu has become a new trend among Chinese young people, while various Hanfu activities are also emerging one after another. Many people come to NSM wearing Hanfu and enjoy those costumes in traditional Chinese style, just like the costume show or cosplay in the gallery, attracting other visitors’ eyes. Besides, Hanfu is gradually developing into a large-scale business with a large market. According to iMedia Research, the number of Hanfu consumers blooms very quickly, reaching 2.042 million in 2018, up 72.9 percent year-on-year.
The theme of International Museum Day 2019 was Museum as a Cultural Hub: Tradition in Future, which accords with what we consider to be the function of museums very well. Hanfu has community in China, and their aim is to inherit and revive the tradition. However, they do not have enough knowledge of it, and they do not understand how those costumes are made either, and they live too far away from each other to meet and discuss. In this case, the museum could offer a platform for them to study real costumes from our collection, to listen to lectures from senior scholars, to learn from each other and show their opinions. So we decided to organize an annual event, titled Hanfu Festival at NSM as a social education project every spring since 2018. Our slogan is to let cultural heritage come alive, and make people enjoy better life, and our purpose is to present a Hanfu Festival different from the other common Hanfu events. The attempt also meets the government aims of inheriting Chinese culture systematically, protecting cultural heritage carefully and developing traditional craftsmanship
The NSM has already held the Hanfu Festival two times, with different themes, Collection to Prove the Origin in 2018, and Glory of the Ming Costume in 2019, each with a 2-day programme.
On the first day, all the participants joined the guided tours to our permanent exhibition gallery where recently rotated costumes were on display in the morning. Some special exhibitions of traditional costumes were also prepared for the event, such as a Song costume exhibition in 2018 and the Traditional Textiles and Costume from Korea in 2019.
In the afternoon, 90 yearold Prof Sun Ji, the most famous historian on Chinese costume from the National Museum Beijing, and other senior scholars, were invited to give lectures which combine various documents and archaeological findings to share the research results with the audience. Furthermore, some 20 selected lucky people were allowed to view some real ancient costumes in the study room of the Collection Building, while the others were watching the live-broadcasting in the large auditorium.
The Hanfu Evening is the highlight of the whole event, in which five or six Hanfu teams took part in and each presented a show representing different types of costume, for example, costume for royal palace, for the court, for ceremony, or for some leisure cases. All those performances have to tell the audience where those costumes were originally from, how their reconstruction research was made and what the story was in the real history.
In the second morning, there came the Hanfu Forum with about six young scholars giving their opinions on the research, reproduction, design, production, promotion, and education of the Hanfu movement, and in the afternoon was a HanfuBaby Show, which attracts more families.
During the whole event, the Craftsman Camp and Handicraft Fair were also opened, where visitors could experience the wearing of traditional Chinese costumes and buy souvenirs. In this way, the event continuously enhances the public’s sense of participation, acquisition and identification, as well as truly realizes the ideal of “to focus on the audience and oriented to the community” initiated by ICOM
Collaborations internally and externally
As a small-scale theme museum with relatively limited human resources, we are strengthening internal collaborations between museum departments and teams, making full use of external resources, and keeping close contact with partners, industry, market and media resources.
Internally, we comprehensively mobilize resources from all departments of our museum. The exhibition curator organized the temporary costume exhibition. Many professionals who have long been engaged in the research and conservation have interpreted our representative collection. It is especially worth mentioning that the main initiator and organizer of the Hanfu festival is a museum guide, who herself is one member of the Hanfu community and knows traditional Chinese costume very well. In another word, she knows what the community wants, so she offers a better platform for the community to play.
Externally, we have broadened the media coverage, advocated UGC content collection and expended the communication influence of traditional Chinese costume culture. Some internet costume celebrities were also involved in the festival. With the relevant publicity, there was a breakthrough in Sina Weibo reading and online interaction. In addition, many enterprises played an important role in the execution of the festival due to their mature and rich market experience.
The Hanfu Festival has given full play to and catered to the interest of traditional costume consumers, and also received great support. We help them get a deeper understanding of its cultural connotations and develop them to be the Museum’s friends.
Apart from the Han Festival, we have engaged in many other successful heritage protection approaches in recent years. Global Cheongsam Day, for example, aimed to popularize cheongsam to the world, connecting China with other countries. Last year, we held the first Biennale of Natural Dye (BoND) to share the research achievements among scholars, artists, and craftsmen from all over the world. From this year, we are holding Silk Road Week every June to comprehensively promote silk research along the Silk Road and promote the inheritance and innovation of traditional crafts.
Now, Hanfu Festival has been successfully held for two times and planned for next five years with themes. Last year, it won the 2019 IAI International Travel Award. But in the future, we could broaden the content and turn it into a bigger International Costume Festival. So you are welcome to bring the traditional ethnic costume from your museum or your community to the West Lake, a World Heritage site in Hangzhou, every year and share your culture and crafts with us, to improve the position of costume tradition in the future.
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