Food, clothing, shelter and transportation are usually regarded the four most basic necessities of life by Chinese people.
In ancient society people lived in crude caves, naked. During the New Stone Age they invented bone needle and began to sew simple winter dress with leaves and animal skins. With the development of the society, people were engaged in agriculture and they started to spin and weave, even sewed coats with linen.
In the class society, dress became the token of social status. It was from the Xia and Shang Dynasties that dress system came into being in China. In the Zhou Dynasty, the system was perfected. From then on the distinctions as to color, design and adornment of dress were strictly made among the emperor, officials and the common people.
China is a multi-national country. Each nation has a traditional culture of its own. The mutual support and inspiration among different nationals made Chinese dress more plentiful and glorious.
During the Sui and Tang Dynasties, the economy boomed and people led a quiet life. People from different countries gathered in Changan and Luoyang to promote the international cultural exchange. Particularly the culture of middle Asia deeply influenced Chinese dress system.
Stringent rules are made for the color of ancient dress and adornment. Yellow is the most valuable color as a symbol of center. Green, red, white and black symbolize the East, the South, the West and the North respectively. Green, red, black, white and yellow are pure colors applied by the emperors and officials. The common people could only apply the secondary colors. With the development of the society, the colors of the dress, which are more harmonious and form a partial contrast, replace that of remote ages, which was very simple. These changes make the dress and adornment splendid.
On the other hand the ideology also directly influenced dress and adornment. During the Warring States period, many vassal states were competing with each other, hence the patterns of dress and adornment became diversified. During the Sui and Tang, the unity of ancient China and the prosperity of economy brought about new thoughts, and the dress became splendid, particularly the decolIetage appeared. Because of the intensity of the feudal ideology, the patterns of dress and adornment gradually became conservative from the Song and Ming Dynasties. Influenced by western cultures, the designs were more fitting and tasteful from late Ming.
The geometrical patterns, the pictures of animals and plants were widely adopted on ancient dress and adornments. Before Shang and Zhou, the patterns were primitive, succinct and abstract. After Zhou the patterns became much neater. The compositions were balanced and symmetric. During the Tang and Song more attentions were paid to the compositions. From the Ming and Qing Dynasties most of the patterns were realistic, and the flowers, animals and mountains-and-waters were all really true to life.
The articles of clothing of past dynasties are one chapter of Chinese long history and culture. They are not only the reflection of the politics and economy of a given society, but also the great contributions for world civilization.