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Cultural Appreciation vs Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appreciation vs Cultural Appropriation

Posted on May 02 2024

"Is it ok for foreigners to wear such cultural attires?"

"People will say it's cultural appropriation!" 

"I'm [any ethnicity], I'm pretty sure I would get canceled."

"I'm hijabi and would love hanfu but I'm not sure if it's appropriate!" 

These are just a few comments I receive on a daily basis and it breaks my heart every time I receive this question! From direct messages on Instagram to emails from our Nüwa customers, every day without fail I am asked:

"If I'm not Chinese, is it ok for me to wear hanfu/Chinese historical attire?"

The answer is Yes - everyone regardless of ethnicity, religion, or culture can wear hanfu! Although it's important to wear it correctly, respectfully, and in a non-sexual way. 

It's also important to learn about the clothing you're wearing - what it is, when it originated, and how it was worn. To help, you can always check out our Learn the History tab to learn more about Chinese dynastic clothing.

"How about for a cosplay?"

This also applies to costumes/cosplay hanfu, wear it! But remember to wear it respectfully and in a non-sexual way. 

"Is it ok if I wear hanfu with modern items?"

When mixing traditional garments with modern outfits, a good guideline is to stay within the modesty level of the garment's dynasty.

For example, a Ming Dynasty skirt (left image) is much more modest and should be styled as such. Tang Dynasty clothing (right image) is from a progressive and relaxed era, and thus can be styled for slightly more revealing outfits.

"I'd love to style hanfu with my culture's traditional clothing, can I?"

The rule above is also a great guideline for those wondering about mixing Chinese clothing with another garment from a different culture.

"I'm still not sure..."

Don't worry! There are plenty of other ways to appreciate Chinese clothing without owning a full set. 

You can always get Chinese jewelry which pair great with any outfit, traditionally inspired bags & purses, or even cat-shaped perfume pouches

I personally recommend Hanyuansu 汉元素, or Modernized Hanfu for people looking to start incorporating hanfu elements easily.

Modern Hanfu combines traditional cuts with contemporary patterns, making it one of the most beginner-friendly hanfu options out there! (Pictured: modernized Ming shirt, Touqi Shirt)


What's the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation

In March 2018, the Oxford English Dictionary defined cultural appropriation as:

“The unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the practices, customs, or aesthetics of one social or ethnic group by members of another (typically dominant) community or society.”

Appreciation is when someone seeks to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden their perspective and connect with others cross-culturally.  

Appropriation on the other hand, is simply taking one aspect of a culture that is not your own and using it for your own personal interest and gain (think Gwen Stefani circa 90s). 

Ashley Wells of NIH recommends these fantastic tips:

So, what are some ways to celebrate a culture without exploiting it? Start with these basic tips:

  1. Examine your own culture and beliefs. Knowing your own culture is one of the best ways to understand and appreciate other cultures.
  2. Recognize and embrace cultural differences. Allow these differences to spark healthy dialogue.
  3. Refrain from using sacred artifacts or symbols from another culture as an accessory.
  4. Ask yourself why. Ensure your intentions are sincere and genuine.
  5. Be an ally! Engage in important conversations and help others learn about cultural appropriation


If you've read this far, that already shows you've put in an effort to truly learn about this topic and I thank you for that. 

There are many resources to learn even more about hanfu such as:



To congratulate you, I'd like to present you with the Official Certificate of Cultural Appreciation! Feel free to print and sign, high quality version here.

Certificate of Cultural Appretion


If anyone ever gives you s***, you can just whip this out and BOOM. No words needed.

Alrighty, I hope this makes you more confident to wear hanfu! It's truly such a liberating feeling putting on beautiful garments because we deserve it ✨

Many blessings, Chuyan (Hanfu Jesus)

((P.S. Hanfu Jesus originated from a funny comment years ago, not my idea)) 


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