Dressing for power: Rite, costume, and state authority in Ming Dynasty China

In: Frontiers of History in China
YUAN Zujie
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As soon as Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the Ming Dynasty, assumed the throne, he and his Confucian assistants imposed a system of clothing regulation on the court and society in order to create a hierarchical power structure. As an important aspect of Chinese civilization, the clothing system functioned to form a social hierarchy, to regulate people’s activities, to harmonize the relations among the people, and finally to make a stable society under the close control of the state. The state control in the Ming remained effective until the reigns of Hongzhi (1488–1506) and Zhengde (1506–1521), when commercialization released people’s consumption desires and economic dynamics and caused deregulation of the Ming clothing system, which eventually undermined the state authority.

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