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The Beginner Guides to an Authentic Qun Gua (裙褂)

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Qun Gua (a.k.a Kua/Kwa) (裙褂) is the one and only symbolic traditional wedding costume in Chinese Lingnan region (岭南). This traditional Qun Gua travels a history of more than three hundred (300) years. Yet, most of the aesthetic and philosophy of this costumes are still preserve till today. In this blog content, let us share on some of these legacy facts of an authentic Qun Gua; read on and enjoy.

— 1 —

Qun Gua is a combination of the top; Gua (褂) and the skirt; Qun (裙). In olden days, the bride would put on the wedding costume sewn by her mother for her wedding day. However, this custom is less practised in today's community as it has being relied to the Masters. The Master Embroiderer will embroider auspicious propitious motifs on ten (10) different sections of fabrics using traditional three-dimensional gold embroidery technique. After the embroidery process, the ten (10) different sections of embroidered fabrics will be consolidated to form the entire garb in symbolising perfect marriage (十全十美).

The Master Embroiderer in the process of Qun Gua embroidery.

The main embroidered motifs are dragon and phoenix as they symbolise eternity love between husband and wife. Additional motifs like bats, lucky clouds, pomegranate and etc. will be embroidered in harmonising the overall designs. Few years ago, a bride specially requested us to pick Qun Gua embodies with pomegranate embroidery. She explains to us that it was actually an advise from her in-law as it symbolise the abundance of children. So, one should study the auspicious propitious motifs designs on the costumes as it reflect one’s aesthetic and carries different auspicious propitious meaning to the couples/newly wed.

— 2 —

Is black inauspicious? The truth is the first genre Qun Gua worn by bride is the combination of black Gua paired with red Qun. In those days, taking concubines is commonly practise. So, in differentiating their status from the first wife, the concubines would wear pink Qun Gua. Slowly moving into the 60’s; Qun Gua that are worn by brides evolve to brimful red. As for the matriarch; depending on their status in the family; they are either dressed in full black, black paired with red or maroon colour Qun Gua.

A set of traditional black Gua and red Qun photo exhibit at Xiguan Guangzhou Museum.

— 3 —

In the olden days, people pay great attention to the density of embroidery as it manifest the social hierarchy status and aesthetic taste of the family. The classification of Qun Gua very much depends on the density of its goldwork; whereby the greater volume of goldwork, the higher hierarchy/ranking the costumes will be. For instance, the most exquisite piece of Qun Gua is Gua Huang (褂皇); a.k.a the Emperor with 99% density of goldwork. It could takes up to a year to complete this magnificient art piece.

Multi-Coloured Gua Huang (a.k.a the Emperor) collection by LIANG YUAN.

— 4 —

Back then; people are mostly conservative, thus the Qun Gua is tailored to a much bigger size compared to the bride’s actual size which is the reason of the Qun Gua looking loose in shape. This is also to symbolise that the bride is blessed with abundant of children with great honour and wealth. Today, Qun Gua has been modified to fitted top and skirt in accentuating the curves. Also, the long bell sleeves have been modify to slim 3/4 bracelet sleeves in order to display the bride's dowry in manifesting the social hierarchy status of the family.

Zheng Zhong Gua Hou (a.k.a The Empress) collection by LIANG YUAN.


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