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Cheongsam Master Chu Hongsheng: Having made cheongsam for 82 years, from Ruan Lingyu to Zhang Manyu, is it now facing loss?

China has great etiquette, hence it is called Xia; The beauty of clothing and chapters is called “Hua” – “Zuo Zhuan, Ten Years of Duke Ding”.

China is a country of etiquette, and dressing up is a basic etiquette in social life. From the pre Qin period to the Republic of China, Chinese clothing has varied, and people are most familiar with cheongsam. Nowadays, many women also wear cheongsam when going out, which is indeed very beautiful.

Cheongsam Master Chu Hongsheng: Having made cheongsam for 82 years, from Ruan Lingyu to Zhang Manyu, is it now facing loss?

In 1984, the state officially designated cheongsam as the formal dress for female diplomats. The beauty of cheongsam is self-evident. Although the handmade craftsmanship of cheongsam is listed as intangible cultural heritage, more and more cheongsam craftsmen are facing the loss of their skills.

Chu Hongsheng personally made over 5000 cheongsam pieces over the course of 82 years, each of which was purely handmade, no more than an inch, no less than an inch, and was renowned in Shanghai Beach. With the development of the times, pure handmade cheongsam became increasingly rare, and Chu Hongsheng persisted, earning him the title of “the last tailor to go to sea”.

Cheongsam Master Chu Hongsheng: Having made cheongsam for 82 years, from Ruan Lingyu to Zhang Manyu, is it now facing loss?

Chu Hongsheng was born in 1918. In this era, women’s thoughts were liberated, and they put on beautiful clothes and stepped onto the stage. In the Republic of China, the qipao was “a hundred flowers blooming and a hundred schools of thought contending”, which was “a perfect time for life” for Chu Hongsheng.

Chu Hongsheng’s family was not good, and in order to make a living, he worked as an apprentice at the most famous Zhu Shunxing tailor shop in Shanghai. This shop is quite famous, with regular customers such as Hu Die, Ruan Lingyu, and Zhang Ailing. Hu Die often needs to perform, so naturally various styles of qipao are indispensable.

Chu Hongsheng studied under Zhu Shunxing for two years. At the age of 18, he was already able to handle it alone. Zhu Shunxing had no children, so he planned to pass on the storefront to Chu Hongsheng. Therefore, he was trained as a closed door disciple and adopted son. At that time, Hu Die wanted to make a set of qipao, and Zhu Shunxing gritted his teeth to make it for Chu Hongsheng.

Cheongsam Master Chu Hongsheng: Having made cheongsam for 82 years, from Ruan Lingyu to Zhang Manyu, is it now facing loss?

If Hu Die is satisfied, it indicates that this kid’s future is promising. If Hu Die is not satisfied, this sign may fall into his hands. Chu Hongsheng plans to innovate and persuades his master to use French lace instead of traditional fabric. This bold innovation has made Zhu Shunxing very worried.

The pure white lace is both light and luxurious. Hu Die looks like a white butterfly dancing gracefully when she wears it. 18-year-old Chu Hongsheng became famous for this qipao and became Hu Die’s “official” tailor. More and more customers came to him to customize qipaos.

Cheongsam Master Chu Hongsheng: Having made cheongsam for 82 years, from Ruan Lingyu to Zhang Manyu, is it now facing loss?

This era was the era of qipao and also the era of Chu Hongsheng. However, the competition in Shanghai Beach was still very fierce, and each family would focus on details. A single embroidery method can be divided into three types of needlework: front snatch, back snatch, and stack snatch. They need at least one star period to make a piece of clothing.

So the amount of cheongsam that can be produced in a year is not particularly high. With the development of the times, machines for sewing clothes have emerged, and manufacturers have made a large number of customized cheongsams. Manufacturers all pay attention to “small profits and high sales”, and the price of cheongsams made by machines is low, which has impacted the market for traditional handmade cheongsams.

Cheongsam Master Chu Hongsheng: Having made cheongsam for 82 years, from Ruan Lingyu to Zhang Manyu, is it now facing loss?

The old tailors closed their stores one by one, while Chu Hongsheng persisted. His reputation was still very well-known in Shanghai Beach, and Gong Li and Zhang Manyu had approached him to make qipao. Even though he was getting older, his hands were still very flexible. At the age of 99, he put down his tape measure and needle and began teaching his disciples how to make qipao.

He prohibited his apprentices from using machines to step on them, which caused Chu Hongsheng to lose some excellent apprentices. Although his craftsmanship can be passed down, he cannot be certain whether this craftsmanship will continue to be passed down. Perhaps one day, pure handmade cheongsam will disappear.

Cheongsam Master Chu Hongsheng: Having made cheongsam for 82 years, from Ruan Lingyu to Zhang Manyu, is it now facing loss?

In fact, it’s not just Chu Hongsheng who has lost his reputation among his peers. Convenient machines have a strong impact on manual production, and it takes three to five years to learn how to make qipao. Young people are rushing for their careers, making it difficult for them to calm down and learn how to make qipao. In addition, Chu Hongsheng and his colleagues have high requirements for apprenticeship, and the threshold has become one of the reasons for the loss.

Now that Chu Hongsheng is 103 years old, he has become the last swan song of Shanghai Beach.

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