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Xia Pei Hanfu Vest

Xiapei, also known as “Xiapi” or “Pi Silk”, is one of the important coronal costumes since the Song and Ming dynasties.

Xiapei originated from the Peizi of the Southern and Northern Dynasties period and evolved to be called Xiapei during the Sui and Tang dynasties, with a shape similar to the common modern shawl. In the Qing Dynasty, it was restructured into vest style clothing. Xiapei was originally worn by the imperial concubines, but in the Song Dynasty, Xiapei was included in the ranks of destined women’s formal attire, officially becoming a symbol of status and rank.


Xia Pei

Origin and development

Xia Pei originated from the Northern and Southern Dynasties period, and during the Sui and Tang dynasties, the narrow and long Pei evolved into a silk robe, gradually becoming a ribbon draped between the arms and before and after dancing. Later, because Peizi looked as beautiful as colorful clouds, it was naturally known as Xiapei.

During the Song Dynasty, Xia Pei, as a type of destined woman dress, appeared on the historical stage. It was a continuation of the Tang Dynasty silk robe and had different decorations depending on the grade. In the Ming Dynasty, Xia Pei looked like two colorful ribbons, wrapped around the head, draped over the chest, and hung a golden and jade pendant. During the Ming Dynasty, the wives of empresses and officials were all dressed in Xia Pei.

In the Qing Dynasty, Xia Pei was worn by the Han Dynasty’s destined women, but not by the Manchu people. Its function was equivalent to the official attire of men, and it was the court coat of Manchu destined women.

During the Republic of China era, it was still prevalent in some regions for women to borrow clothes and wear Xia Pei when getting married. However, in most regions, Xia Pei began to be replaced by qipao attire and Western style wedding dresses.

Production process


The Ming Dynasty Xia Pei was a long ribbon with weaving and embroidery techniques, approximately 14 centimeters wide and 150 centimeters long. It was worn around the neck and hung on the chest, with a pendant at the end. The material of the pendant varies depending on the identity level of the wearer of the Xia Pei.

The Qing Dynasty Xia Pei was a round neckline, double breasted, sleeveless, with a body length of about 110 centimeters and a hem width of about 65 centimeters. It was embroidered with cloud and dragon patterns and a long camisole with gold edges. Generally, there are two rows of dragons in the front and one straight dragon in the back, with patches on the chest and back, and tassels at the hem. The early styles of Xia Pei were relatively thin and long, forming a straight line from the shoulder to the hem. In the later period, the body length was shorter, the hem was relatively wide, and the contour of the armhole was obvious.


The main types of craftsmanship for Xia Pei include embroidery, silk tapestry, and makeup techniques. Among them, the Xia Pei made with makeup and flower techniques has been passed down very few times, almost all of which are from the early Qing Dynasty. By the mid to late Qing Dynasty, the Xia Pei technique of makeup and flower making had basically disappeared, and was completely replaced by embroidery and tapestry techniques. The era of Kesi Xiapei is generally relatively late, with a large number of passed down generations and significant differences in craftsmanship. The later the era, the coarser the craftsmanship, and most of them use a combination of Kesi and painting, resulting in a clearly rigid composition. The common Xia Pei is mostly embroidered.


During the Ming Dynasty, there were four main types of patterns on Xia Pei:

Zhai pattern: Zhai (a type of bird) pattern is required for the first and second grade destined women, as well as the county princess and Duke Xiapei.

Peacock pattern: Peacock pattern is used on the Xia Pei of third and fourth grade destined women.

Mandarin Duck Pattern: The Xia Pei of a fifth grade destined woman is adorned with Mandarin Duck Pattern.

Training Magpie Pattern: The Xia Pei of the sixth and seventh grade destined women is adorned with training magpie patterns. [1]

The patterns of Xia Pei in the Qing Dynasty:

The Xia Pei of the Qing Dynasty underwent a reform, with patches in the middle. The patterns embroidered on the patches were generally determined based on the husband or son’s grade [9], but all were bird patterns without animal patterns. Even if the husband was a military official’s wife, bird pattern patches were worn [4].


Xia Pei

Cultural characteristics

Decoration connotation

the Ming dynasty

Zhai Wen: Zhai used it to symbolize the virtue of a concubine and demanded a combination of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and virtue. Therefore, he also had this moral requirement for high-ranking women.

Peacock pattern: Peacock is also known as “Kong Que” or “Kong Jue”. People regard it as a lucky bird. It has a large body and a long tail, combining the beautiful feathers of a hundred birds into one body. The tail feathers are spread out like a fan, and it is golden and magnificent, so it is often used for clothing patterns and jewelry styling. Peacocks love beauty. In “Er Ya Yi”, it is said, “Of course, I cherish it. When encountering fragrance, the scenery is beautiful. When I hear a string song, I will spread my wings and tail, and dance with a gaze.”

Mandarin Duck Pattern: In “Piya · Shi Niao”, it is said that “Mandarin ducks, like birds, have thoughts.”. The annotation states, “Mandarin ducks are like ducks, and neither male nor female are separated. When a person gains one of them, they think and die, so they are called birds. Mandarin ducks have such a nature, so they were carefully chosen by the king.” Therefore, the term “Mandarin ducks” was used by women at that time as a synonym for chastity, containing the meaning of “the husband sings and the woman follows”.

Practicing Magpie Pattern: In “Piya · Shiniao”, it is said: “Mandarin ducks, birds with thoughts.”. The annotation states, “Mandarin ducks are like ducks, and neither male nor female are separated. When a person gains one of them, they think and die, so they are called birds. Mandarin ducks have such a nature, so they were carefully chosen by the king.” Therefore, the term “Mandarin ducks” was used by women at that time as a synonym for chastity, containing the meaning of “the husband sings and the woman follows”.

Wearing restrictions

In the Song Dynasty, Xia Pei was a part of the common attire for noblewomen, and not everyone could wear it. In the Ming Dynasty, Xia Pei was a formal dress for destined women, and there were strict regulations on its wearing. The wives of the Empress Dowager and the officials were all dressed in Xia Pei, but only the Empress Dowager could use vermilion and golden dragon and phoenix inscriptions, while other women could only use dark blue unedited Pei. In the Qing Dynasty, Xia Pei was generally a clothing exclusively worn by imperial concubines. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, only women in the officialdom were allowed to wear phoenix crowns and Xia Pei during their marriage, commonly known as “borrowed clothing”. The commoner women only use the concept of “borrowing”, not the true Xia Pei. The Xia Pei of the royal family and destined women is not the same item as the Xia Pei of the common people. In other words, the formal attire of empresses, concubines, and destined women is the true Xia Pei; The folk Xiapei is a auspicious dress worn by the bride in folk weddings, but it is a far cry from the actual Xiapei and does not live up to its name.

Historical value

As an important part of the traditional Chinese destiny dress system, Xia Pei has had a profound influence on the clothing culture and etiquette system of ancient feudal dynasties. Some concepts and customs can even be seen in modern Chinese weddings. Xia Pei went through a process from its initial embryonic stage to the Ming Dynasty, transitioning from popular clothing to exclusive clothing for authoritarian rule, and extending from its basic decorative function to the symbolic meaning of identity and status.

The Ming Dynasty was the peak period of the development of Xia Pei. At this time, the Xia Pei system had already matured, and the government had made detailed rules and regulations on the pattern, color, and production process of Xia Pei, as well as strict regulations on the people wearing Xia Pei. At this time, the Xia Pei, due to various decorations, has been endowed with complex ideological connotations and has become an external manifestation of the ruling class’s spiritual education and rule over the people, no longer just a piece of clothing.

Folk women are only qualified to wear the “Phoenix Crown and Xiapei” when getting married, which has become a symbol of distinguishing the identity of the main and side rooms. It is an external manifestation of happiness, representing blessings and identity. Therefore, folk women are full of longing for the Phoenix Crown and Xiapei. This phenomenon is widely popular among the people, and for a long time, Fengguan Xiapei has gradually become a standard accessory in many people’s hearts for traditional Chinese weddings.


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