Festive Fashion: Challenging the Changshan

Happy Chinese New Year from us at IGNITE Style! So Chinese New Year is still going on (I know, it lasts 15 days), and everyone is still enjoying the lingering festive mood on campus. Being a born and bred Chinese Malaysian, I celebrate CNY like most do – visiting relatives, eating, taking naps, eating some more, and of course receiving red packets. Though there was one fun idea that I had wanted to try for a long time, and that was to don something a little more traditional for CNY – a Samfu.

While most of us may call it ‘Samfu’ here in Malaysia, it is most commonly referred as ‘Changshan’ (in the Mandarin dialect) or ‘Cheongsam’ (in the Cantonese dialect). However, in Hong Kong, cheongsam is often referred to the female traditional garment. So, we now use ‘changshan’. Interestingly, the Changshan was implemented by the Manchu rulers during the Qing dynasty, who asked the Han people to adopt this over the Hanfu (them long robes in the Chinese dynasty dramas). The Changshan is worn during weddings and also important Chinese dates.

Evidently an important piece of Chinese culture, I thought that wearing a Changshan for a day will help me feel more Chinese and be closer to my roots. So I got a Changshan from Giant that cost around RM40. Typically, Changshans made from silk would’ve cost up to hundreds or even thousands, so this cotton-blend fit just fine. Albeit it being rather unconventional for festive wear, the black colour and shorter cut was more suited to my wardrobe than the bright shiny red/gold silk.

So after taking the Changshan out for a day – it wasn’t as bad as I had expected, nor did it garner much attention from others. I had expected my friends to give a huge response and note how cool it looked, but several of my friends didn’t even notice I was wearing a Changshan before I pointed it out to them. Perhaps it was the black colour that made the details less visible.

While I did get a few compliments (huehue), after wearing it for a day, I realised that the Changshan did not make me more Chinese. Turns out, there’s nothing that can make me feel less, or more, Chinese. I just am who I am, ethnically. So the results of this experiment were that even though it did not make me ‘feel’ more Chinese, I’m glad that I now own something from my cultural heritage that I can celebrate.


Happy Chinese New Year peeps.

Eat more CNY snacks and keep them Angpaos comin’.

Written by Andrew Ng


Ratchet pharmacist and local fashion slut.

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