Ren Guanyu [photo: cribeyondbeijing.com]
China is a country that boasts cultural treasures enjoyed by both Chinese and foreigners. As a fan of traditional Chinese culture, Ren Guanyu runs a company that produces traditional Chinese Han costume, which ethnic Han people had been wearing for thousands of years before the Qing Dynasty. Our reporter Xu Weiyi tells us more about the young businessman.
In a small office in downtown Beijing, dozens of beautiful traditional Chinese clothes are on show. Each silk robe consists of a narrow-cuffed, knee-length tunic tied with a sash, and a narrow, ankle-length skirt, worn with a length of fabric that reaches the knees. The decoration and furniture in the office are also traditional. This is Han Yi Fang, which means "workshop of Han costume".
33-year-old Ren Guanyu is the general manager of Han Yi Fang.
"According to legend, the first ruler of the Chinese nation is an immemorial sage king called Huang-Di, or the Yellow Emperor. His wife, Luo-Zu, was said to be the first person to know how to raise silkworms and make silk from the silkworm cocoon, from which Han costume was woven. Thus the Chinese Han costume was invented. It is the traditional costume of Chinese Han people."
After graduation from college, Ren Guanyu first worked in an Australian company in China and was promoted to manager level within his first year. Later, he began to consider running his own business and a trip to Cambridge in Britain helped to clarify this idea.
"My wife was studying at Cambridge University in a Master's program. Just before her graduation, I visited her for three weeks. Her classmates got together a lot, and I often joined them. I noticed that many people wore their national costumes and they appeared to be very confident while wearing them. However, we Chinese can only dress in western-style clothes. I felt embarrassed."
Ren Guanyu decided to do something to change this. According to Ren Guanyu, Han costume has a history as long as the history of the Han Chinese people, but it is largely unknown in China today.
In Dec. 2005, Ren founded Beijing Hanjiang Culture Development Company. It produces delicate, high quality Han costume, which has been welcomed among Han costume lovers. Many people call the company by the brand of its clothes Han Yi Fang.
"I do not just want to make Han Yi Fang a brand of clothes but a brand of traditional Chinese Han culture. Chinese pay great attention to etiquette, and wearing the appropriate styles of Han costume was an important part of courteous behavior."
To better promote Han costume and traditional Chinese culture, Han Yi Fang also provides traditional ceremony services like weddings.
"Han costume is formal dress that only fits formal occasions. Chinese people don't have as many traditional ceremonies today as in ancient times. For most though, the wedding ceremony is a necessity and one of the most important personal affairs. I hope people will get to know more about our own culture by having and attending traditional Chinese wedding ceremonies."
The wedding ceremony Han Yi Fang arranges is not just about wearing Han costume in a hall full of traditional Chinese decorations. It is mainly focused on etiquette.
"The modern Chinese wedding ceremony is more like a wedding party. I don't think it can really be called ceremony as they just follow a few traditional customs. As an important ceremony between the couple, a wedding ceremony should contain a series of etiquette. For example, the new couple should pay tribute to their ancestors; knot a piece of their hair together and share a piece of meat, which indicates they will share happiness and face difficulties together in future."
As one of the first Han costume companies that still exists today, Han Yi Fang is also facing the challenge of survival. Ren Guanyu is considering bringing more modern elements into his Han costumes to make them more appealing to today's customers. He believes, in the future, Han costumes will be the formal dress that many Chinese choose first.
For Beyond Beijing, I'm Xu Weiyi.