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Qun Gua/Kwa (裙褂) : A Journey Through the History and Symbolism of the Iconic Chinese Wedding Costume

Updated: May 31, 2023

With Chinese multiethnic groups consisting the dominant Han plus fifty-five (55) minorities; it’s interesting to know that each group has a symbolic traditional wedding costumes in symbolising the traditions of each group like the Hanfu, Miao, Mongolian, Uyghur and etc. As for Malaysia Chinese which consist mostly descendants from Lingnan region (岭南); the one and only symbolic traditional Chinese wedding costumes is Qun Gua (a.k.a Kua/Kwa) (裙褂).

Qun Gua (裙褂) has been around for centuries and has changed slightly over time but its basic form has remained pretty much the same throughout the history. Qun Gua (裙褂) is divided into two (2) portions - the top (Gua) (褂) and the skirt (Qun) (裙). The garb is designs and embroider with auspicious motifs like dragons, phoenixes, bats, peonies and etc.

There are many folk tales on the origin of Qun Gua (裙褂) and one of the most popular story was an incident happened in the Qing Dynasty. The Emperor awarded one of his Official with a set of wedding costume embroidered with dragons and phoenixes for his daughter’s upcoming weddings. The local folks were astonished with this sophisticated costumes and news spreaded quickly. This costume inspired the locals to create and became a practise in Guangdong which was later popularised in other parts of the empire. In the early 20th century, the flood of emigration of Chinese people to Hong Kong triggered a large rise in the number of embroiderers which helps popularise this forms of costumes in Hong Kong.

An exhibit Gua Huang (褂皇) at Hong Kong Museum of History.
An exhibit Gua Huang (褂皇) at Hong Kong Museum of History.

Throughout the years; various entities have put great efforts in presenting to the public on Qun Gua (裙褂) historical importance and its evolution through various sources like exhibitions, television programmes, workshops and etc. for the purpose of education and preservation of this heritage. Qun Gua (裙褂) is a magnificent combination of traditional wedding culture, art and aesthetic. It’s not just a wedding costumes but it’s also a cultural heritage from ancestral legacy and to be pass on.



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