The Mao suit, also known as Chinese tunic suit or tunic suit, is the western name for the style of male attire known in China as the Zhongshan suit (Template:Zh-tsp, or Template:Zh-cp); named after Sun Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen) who introduced it shortly after the founding of the Republic of China as a form of national dress. It is also called the People's Suit (Template:Zh-tsp) in Hong Kong.
The Western name comes from its popularization by Mao Zedong.
Origins from Zhongshan Suit[edit | edit source]
When the Republic was founded in 1912, the style of dress worn in China was based on Manchu dress imposed by the Qing Dynasty as a form of social control. The majority-Han Chinese revolutionaries who overthrew the Qing were fueled partly by ethnic hatred against the Manchus and found it necessary to replace the existing "barbarian" dress.
Incorporating elements of German military dress including a turndown collar and four symmetrically placed pockets and based on a form of attire popular with contemporary Chinese men in Japan and Southeast Asia, the Zhongshan suit was an attempt to cater to "modern" sensibilities without completely adopting Western styles wholesale. Dr. Sun Yat-sen was personally involved, providing inputs based on his life experience in Japan: the Japanese cadet uniform became the basis of Zhongshan suit, with the modification of adding the element of German military dress. There were other modifications as well: instead of the three hidden pockets in Western suits, the Zhongshan suit had four outside pockets to adhere to Chinese concepts of balance and symmetry. Over time, minor stylistic changes developed. The suit originally had seven buttons, later reduced to five.
After Sun Yat-sen's death in 1925, popular mythology assigned a revolutionary and patriotic significance to the Zhongshan suit. The four pockets were said to represent the Four Cardinal Principles cited in the classic Book of Changes. The five center-front buttons were said to represent the five Yuans (branches of government) cited in the constitution of the Republic of China and the three cuff-buttons to symbolize Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the People.
Historical development[edit | edit source]
In the 1920s and 1930s, civil servants of the Chinese government were required to wear the Zhongshan zhuang. A designed version of the suit, adapted for combat, formed the basis for army uniforms during the Second Sino-Japanese War. After the establishment of the People's Republic of China, the suit became a symbol of proletarian unity, and was regularly worn by Communist Party cadres until the 1990s when it was largely replaced by the Western business suit.
The Zhongshan/Mao suit remained the standard formal dress for the first and second generation of PRC leaders such as Deng Xiaoping. During the 1990s, it began to be worn with decreasing frequency by leaders of Jiang Zemin's generation. Jiang wore it only on special occasions, such as to state dinners (a practice discontinued by his successor Hu Jintao). On informal occasions, most older cadres will wear panama shirts and most younger cadres will wear polo shirts. By the early part of the 21st century, the Mao or Zhongshan suit has been rarely worn even on formal occasions. The military-green version of the suit is more often worn, usually by civilian party officials wishing to demonstrate control over – or camaraderie with – the military. In Taiwan, the Zhongshan suit was seldom seen after the 1970s.
Today among the Chinese people, the suit has been entirely abandoned by the younger generation in urban areas, but is still regarded as formal attire by many old people. It is also prevalent among Chinese peasants as casual dress. However the suit is becoming more popular amongst young oversea Chinese as a formal or business wear instead of wearing the "generic" Western three piece suit and also as an identity for their Chinese origin.
It is also widely used today in North Korea.