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Essential Keywords for the Average Hanfu Enthusiast: Collars & Garment Types

Essential Keywords for the Average Hanfu Enthusiast: Collars & Garment Types

Posted on May 01 2024

If you haven't noticed by now, all historical Chinese garments have some confusing (and long) names!

Duijin Changshan, Fangling Ao, Jiaoling Duanshan, the list goes on and on.

If you've never studied Chinese, these phrases can seem especially overwhelming but they're extremely important to learn for your hanfu journey. 

The good news is: it's easy to understand once you learn the keywords! 

You'll be able to identify any piece of hanfu on the shop and off the shop just by familiarizing yourself with these roots and radicals. Chinese clothing for the most part is very literal and not as intimidating as it seems ✨

Without further ado, here are the Essential Keywords for the Average Hanfu Enthusiast! 


Table of Contents

  • Basics
  • Collar Types
    • Jiaoling - Crossed Collar
    • Liling - Standing Collar
    • Dajin/Duijin - Parallel Panel Collar
    • Heling - Adjacent Collar
    • Fangling - Square Collar
    • Dui Chan Jiao - Worn Cross Collar 
    • Tanling - U/W Collar
    • Chuiling - Drooping Collar
    • Quling - Curved Collar
  • Garment Types
    • Ru - Early Dynasty Shirt
    • Shan - Single Layer Shirt 
    • Ao - Double Layered Shirt
    • Pao - Robe
  • Combining Keywords
    • Combination Cheatsheet
    • Specialty Words
  • Overview



Hanfu garments are typically described literally, although there are special garments that have their own word.

Take for example the Ming Dynasty shirt, 对襟长衫 Duijin Changshan:

The name 对襟长衫 Duijin Changshan can be divided into two parts: Collar Type & Garment Type

对襟 Duijin describes the collar, while 长衫 Changshan describes the garment type.

We'll dive into all collar types later but for now, 对襟 Duijin means "parallel panel collar". While 长衫 Changshan literally translates as "long shirt". 

So all together, it means "parallel paneled long shirt"! Just like the image above, you can see the parallel panels and long shirt.

Easy, right? 


There are also garments that deserve their own special names. Take for example the Ming Dynasty Pifeng 披风 which translates as "cloak".

This jacket however always is constructed with a parallel paneled collar, even without the 对襟 Duijin collar descriptor before it.

So there are a few types of clothing that requires direct memorization without relying on descriptor words!


Some specially named garments can still be combined with collar descriptors, especially Tang Dynasty garments since they varied collars so much.

For example, the Tang Dynasty Banbi 半臂 or "half arm". This was a popular cropped jacket and came in different collar types and lengths.

The most common style of this jacket: 圆领半臂 Yuanling Banbi (round collar, half arm). 

Note the low rounded collar and short sleeves. Although it is tucked into the skirt, it can be assumed based on artifacts that the jacket was the typical cropped length.

And another popular style of the jacket: 对襟半臂 Duijin Banbi (parallel collar, half arm).

This one was tied in the center, the parallel collar creates a V-neck effect while remaining true to the short sleeve and cropped length.


To recap, there are 3 main types of garment names.

  • Literal Descriptor Names - translated directly, contains collar and garment type and length
  • Specialty Names - direct translations give you a hint on the garment type, usually a bit vaguer, constructed with its preset collar type without specification 
  • Combination Special Literal Names - literal collar type descriptor paired with the specially named garment


Additionally, here are the 4 core main aspects of hanfu garments in general: 

  1. Ling 领 (Collar) - refers to the neck and below neck areas of the garment. Various styles such as Yuanling (圆领, round collar), Liling (立领, standing collar, Fangling (方领, square collar), etc.
  2. Jin 襟 (Bodice) - refers to the intersection of the neckline of the clothes, and also refers to the chest section of clothes. Two main styles: Dajin ( 大襟, large/diagonal panel) and Duijin (对襟, parallel panel)
  3. Xiu 袖 (Sleeve) - refers to the sleeve shape and width. Various styles such as Zhi Xiu (直袖, straight sleeves), Pipa Xiu (琵琶袖, pipa sleeves), Da Xiu (大袖, large wide sleeves).
  4. Yi Chang 衣长 (length of clothes) - length of clothes and what is considered "long" varies dynasty by dynasty. There is no set length but generally Changshan/Ao ( 长衫袄, long shirt/jacket) hit around knee-length or longer. Duan Shan (短衫, short shirt) can hit anywhere from hip to waist-length.


Hope I haven't lost you yet! 🌸

Let's dig into collar types before diving into the vast world of hanfu garment types. 



Collar Types

Often placed before the garment name. Refers to not only the area around the neck, but continues further below. Collar types help refer to how the front of the shirt will connect together on your body. 


Jiaoling 交领 - Crossed Collar 

This is probably the first collar type you run into on your hanfu journey! It's also the collar type people often think of when imagining East Asian clothing. 

Consists of two overlapping panels of fabric and is either secured with two to three ties, or simply tucked into the waistband (although tucking in shirts has its own name, keep reading for more).

Multiple Jiaoling 交领 cross collar shirts can be layered. 

Typically, crossed collar garments have a thicker or contrasting border along the edge of each panel. Borders can vary in width, color, and patterns. 

Depending on the dynasty and style, crossed collars can vary from high neck crosses to lower neck crosses. 

It’s always left over right! Right over left collar crossing is reserved for funeral purposes, thus wearing right over left can signify calling in misfortune.

Some non-Han ethnic groups wore collars right over left, but it’s generally a good rule of thumb to follow left over right.

To remember to cross it the right way, try this little saying: Leftover Rice! It sounds like "left over right" so it's pretty foolproof if I do say so myself. 


Say it 3 times to make it stick! 🍚 

Leftover Rice, Leftover Rice, Leftover Rice


Liling 立领 - Standing Collar 

Probably the most iconic style of all collar types, the standing collar is a relic from the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) that features a high neck similar to a turtleneck. 

The standing collar is attached onto the garment with a round neck base and connected together with one or two Zimukou 子母扣 buttons.

Literally translated as "mother & child clasps", Zimukou 子母扣 buttons are commonly seen throughout Ming Dynasty clothing. Made of metal and consists of two overlapping pieces that pass through each other to secure, hence the name "mother & child". 

Further down the neck into the torso, depending on if its a parallel paneled shirt or diagonal collared shirt, the garment is tied with either buttons or clasps.

Top: Liling Ao 立领袄, parallel paneled standing collar shirt, secured with buttons

Bottom: Changshan 长衫, "long shirt" always comes with a standing collar and diagonal closure, secured with ties


The collar can be flipped downwards in half to reveal the inner lining which can be a different color, this is called Fanling 翻领 "flipped collar". 



Duijin 对襟/Zhiling 直领 - Parallel Panel Collar/Straight Collar

Another quintessential collar type that you'll see all over Chinese history! Often seen in pre-Ming outerwear and post-Ming shirts. 

Duijin 对襟 can refer to a parallel collar as well as any parallel paneled bodice.

For pre-Ming outerwear, the parallel panel collar is typically open and can be tied together at the center to create a tight V-neck, or left untied to create a parallel 11-like collar. Ties are not guaranteed, depending on the brand they may or may not come with a center tie. 

For post-Ming shirts, the parallel panel collar is fastened together with many Zimukou 子母扣 clasps. Occasionally a decorative ribbon at the waist is added.

Zhiling 直领 refers to just the straight collar. These typically have a thick contrasting border, either crossed & tied or loose & untied depending on the dynasty. 

Zhiling 直领, when crossed, has an asymmetrical lowercase "y" shape made with the border.

Although it may sound similar to Jiaoling 交领 (crossed collar), Jiaoling collars typically don't have a wide border and are symmetrical and crossed evenly. 



Dajin 大襟/Xiejin 斜襟 - Large Collar/Diagonal Collar

Dajin 大襟 is typically used for all hanfu garment types while Xiejin 斜襟 is reserved for Ming Dynasty garments.

For Ming Dynasty shirts, as the name suggests,  the Xiejin 斜襟 collar slopes down diagonally from the end of the standing collar to the wearer’s right, ending at the armpit.

Must contain a standing collar. Secured by buttons, clasps, or ties.

Example below. 

For non-Ming garments, Dajin 大襟 refers to any top that is tied on the far right side. The collar style can vary. For example, the image below is a Zhiling Dajin 直领大襟 which would essentially mean "a shirt with a straight collar tied on the far right". 


I know that this Dajin vs. Duijin section is especially confusing! Here's a little graph to help show how Dajin vs Duijin can impact garments:



Yuanling 圆领 - Round Collar

Most popular in Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) clothing, the round collar is known for its long robe form called Yuanlingpao 圆领袍 but can be found throughout all hanfu garments. 

From undershirts to outerwear, it's a favorite collar style throughout Chinese history! Can vary from slimmer crewneck styles to wider boatneck cuts. 

One of the most common hanfu styles for men, these round neck garments were popular for gentlemen from the Tang to Ming Dynasty, an astounding 1000+ years.

Can't say we blame the fellas, much respect for finding one outfit that works and sticking with it! 🌱


Heling 合领 - Adjacent Collar

Not to be confused with the straight collar or parallel collar, the Heling 合领 has a half collar that slants slightly towards the middle, then hangs straight down.

Most often seen in Song and Ming dynasty outerwear, this variety is usually worn open and not tied or clasped together, but can also be installed with ties or buttons to keep them closed.

Sleeve lengths can vary but Heling 合领 can always be spotted by its thick trim border along its collar! Parallel/straight collars have a border that continues to the end, while the adjacent collar is stopped short halfway.


Fangling 方领 - Square Collar 

If you guessed that this collar would be square, good news - you're correct! 

From the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), the square collar is wide, can come in jacket or vest forms, and is always parallel paneled and secured with Zimukou 子母扣 buttons. 


Dui Chan Jiao 穿交 - Worn Cross Collar

Less of a collar type and more of a technique to wear a shirt. The cross-worn collar is when you take a parallel or straight collar shirt and cross it over the front of your body to imitate the jiaoling (cross collar) style. 

Kept it in place by tying the skirt over the top. Some hanfu in this style also come with ties to keep it in place.

Usually seen in Song dynasty women's clothing and results in a very low cross-collar look further down on the torso, usually only used in outer layers.


Tan Ling 袒领 - U/W Collar

Literally translated as "bare collar", these collars are much lower than your typical hanfu, exposing more of the bare chest. 

Can come in two main low cut forms: U-shaped collar & W-shaped collar. 

Very similar to the round collar, the U-shaped collar is a collar exclusive to feminine short outerwear and tops that was particularly popular in Tang dynasty.

It also usually doesn’t have the crossed-over design that the typical round collar features. It's either constructed like a t-shirt so that you put it on by just sliding it over your head or buttoned in the front like a cardigan. Though some early forms do have an overlapping collar, more similar to the Yuanlingpao 圆领袍. 

The W-shaped collar version is also only seen during the Tang Dynasty. Exposes as much bare chest as the U-shaped version but curves upwards in the center, creating that iconic W-shape. 

The W-shaped version is secured in the center with buttons and is never secured on the side due to construction limitations. 


Chuiling 垂领 - Drooping Collar 

Another Tang Dynasty specialty! The Chuiling 垂领 appears most often in Tang dynasty outerwear, worn over a long-sleeved, slightly more high-necked top. Long sleeved shirts can also come in this style.

It features a fairly deep symmetrical V-neck, secured with buttons at either side — the point of the V can be deep enough to touch the waist, or shallow enough to resemble a Tanling 袒领 collar. Shoulders are more covered compared to a Tanling 袒领 collar.


Quling 曲领 - Curved Collar 

Exclusive to inner Ru 襦 (single layered shirt) during the Han to Jin dynasties, the Quling 曲领 is a rarer variety of collar.

One side of the top has a piece that curves around the neck slightly, sort of like a turtleneck, and then the other side is pulled over and secured with a tie much like the Jiaoling 交领 collar.

Quling 曲领 are only used for undergarments and is worn under layered cross collared shirts.


Garment Types

Now that we've learned all the collar types, it's time to pair it all with garment types. Luckily the list for garment types is much shorter!


Ru 襦 - Early Dynasty Top

It's hard to describe the Ru 襦, the Ru 襦 is often confused with the Shan 衫 (more on that later). Over time, the word Ru has become kind of a catchphrase for ‘top’ in hanfu.

In reality, a top only really counts as a Ru if it has something called a Yaolan 腰襕 (waist piece), which is a separate rectangular piece of fabric stitched to the bottom of the ru to extend its length. The example above has a very clear Yaolan.

This design was especially prominent in the northwest regions of the Han to Jin dynasties (202 B.C. - 420 A.D.). Ru most often came with crossed collars with straight or vast sleeves, and very rarely come in any other combination.

Rule of thumb —if there's a Yaolan 腰襕, you can probably call it a Ru. 


Shan 衫 - Single Layer Shirt 

The shan is probably the simplest type of top you can find! There's no connecting piece making up the waist of the piece and instead, it’s made of the same piece of fabric from top to bottom.

In modern times, the character Shan  is often used to mean shirt or blouse. But in hanfu, anything can be a Shan no matter if it’s short or long.

Shan is paired with a length description, a shorter Shan is referred to as Duanshan 短衫 (short shirt), while a longer Shan covering most of the body would be a Changshan 长衫 (long shirt).

Shan can come in all kinds of combinations of collars, sleeves, and lengths, however the defining characteristic connecting them is that they’re made of a single layer of fabric.


Ao 袄 - Double Layered Shirt/Untucked Shirt

Think of an Ao 袄 as a Shan 衫 but double-layered. Made up of an inner layer that’s usually smoother against the skin and an outer layer sewn together. Each layer is sewn individually then stitched together afterwards.

You’ll most often see the Ao 袄 in Ming dynasty clothing for a few reasons:

  1. The Ming dynasty was colder because of the Little Ice Age, which caused their clothing to become much thicker, hence the many warm outerwear options.
  2. As the textile industry exploded due to Ming trade and economic prosperity, fabrics woven with gold and silver thread to create shining and colorful effect became very popular, but the back of these fabrics can be rough against the skin, and so an inner lining was needed.

Although you’ll see the Ao 袄 almost exclusively in Ming dynasty Aoqun 袄裙 (untucked shirt and skirt combination), technically any double-layered top without a Yaolan 腰襕 can be referred to as an Ao 袄.

It's important to remember that while both Shan and Ru can be tucked into skirts and pants, the Ao sits over, untucked the skirt.


Pao 袍 - Robe 

The Pao 袍 is what we’d usually call a robe, always long and covering the full body. Earlier on the pao was used as an inner layer, but it pretty quickly evolved into outerwear.

Unlike Changshan 长衫 (long shirt) and Changao 长袄 (long double layered shirt), the Pao 袍 usually goes past the knees and down to the ankles. There’s also no connecting piece between the top and bottom part at the waist, though these robes are often cinched at the waist with a belt or other waist accessory.

A few of the most popular Pao 袍 include the Yuanlingpao 圆领袍 (round collar robe), the Daopao 道袍 (Taoist Robe). In earlier dynasties, the Zhiju 直裾 (straight hem robe), and Quju 曲裾 (curved hem robe, pictured above). 

Ju is another word used for robes in the pre-Tang dynasties.


Specialty Words

Some hanfu have their own specific words, sometimes with no perfect direct translations. These specialty word garments typically adhere to one form only, relatively unchanging although slight variations through the dynasties.


Beizi  褙子 - Song Dynasty Outerwear 

This outer garment, which is essentially a duijin changshan 对襟长衫 or "parallel collar long top" that comes with a decorative border all along the sleeve cuffs, collar, and occasionally bottom hem.

The Beizi 褙子 is typically used for the above type of Song Dynasty outerwear, however it's also used for Tang Dynasty outerwear also called Beizi 褙子. Tang Beizi is much shorter, taking on a cropped look. Hence to avoid confusion, the Tang Beizi is more commonly referred to as:


Banbi 半臂 - Half Arm

The Banbi is a cropped upper garment, it was called Beizi before that term came to refer to the iconic Song Dynasty long jacket. 

The banbi can come in various collar and length styles, however when searching online, the banbi is most synonymous with round collar cuts. 

The Tang Banbi can also come with a wide waist border.



Daopao 道袍 - Taoist Robe

A popular men's garment from the Song and Ming Dynasties, although it says "Taoist", men of all religions and philosophies loved this garment. 

The Daopao is essentially a jiaoling pao 交领袍, or "cross collared robe" however received it's special name for its peculiar construction.

The Daopao features additional pleating on the inside, not added on the outside.


Pifeng 披风 - Cloak

The Pifeng is a popular Ming outerwear that is essentially a Duijin Ao 对襟袄, but features borders around the sleeve cuffs. This was unisex and worn by all genders.


Tieli 贴里/ Yesa 曳撒 - Ming Dynasty Warrior Robes

The Tieli and Yesa are both one-piece crossed collar robes worn by upper class warriors and royalty of the Ming Dynasty. Both are based on Mongolian garb.

Yesa 曳撒 features a large panel in the front and many pleats on the side, much like a Mamian 马面裙 skirt.

The Tieli 贴里 is much more popular nowadays and features the same cross collar but with even pleating all around the skirt. 

Both are fastened at the waist with a leather belt and worn with black shoes. 

If you add the design of the flying fish to a Tieli (a fish that looks awfully similar to a dragon until you look at its fishy tail), then it is referred to as a Feiyufu 飞鱼服 or "flying fish clothing". 

Feiyufu were reserved for highest ranking soldiers and royalty only. 


Combining Keywords

Congratulations! You've learned all the necessary keywords to navigate the vast world of hanfu ❤️

Now it's time to put them altogether so you can be well on your way to becoming a hanfu master! 

This is also a great time to put out a friendly reminder that you can search any of these keywords on Nüwa Hanfu if there's a style of collar you like! 


Combination Cheatsheet

Let's test what you've learned so far. Take a look at this Ming Dynasty artifact and try to see if you can figure out what collar type it is! 

First we must look at the collar, we see that it has an almost crewneck shape which means it must be - Yuanling 圆领 (round collar)! 

Next to figure out the garment type, it doesn't have a Yaolan 腰襕 waist band, it seems unclear if it's a single or double layered shirt, and it's not a floor length robe.

Thus, either Shan 衫 or Ao 袄 would make sense for this artifact.

Knowing that this artifact is from the Ming Dynasty, it's easier to assume that this was an untucked shirt or outerwear. Since before the Ming Dynasty, most shirts were tucked in. 

Finally, we can conclude that this artifact is a Yuanling Ao 圆领袄 (round collar untucked shirt)! 


Ready for another one? 

Let's figure out what these lovely palace maids are wearing:

Looks like we have another round collar, based on the crewneck style cut it's definitely Yuanling 圆领 (round collar). 

Next, the length of the garment is ankle length and thus qualifies for Pao 袍 (robe) status! 

So all together it must be a Yuanling Pao 圆领袍, or round collar robe! 


Lastly, let's do a trickier one. What is this ancient lady wearing?: 

If you guessed Duijin Changshan 对襟长衫 (parallel panel long shirt), you'd be technically correct however this has a specialty word...

Based on the decorative trim around the cuffs, collar, and length of the garment, this is a Song Dynasty Beizi 褙子!



So many collars and garments! But now you are 100% ready to face the world of historical Chinese clothing. This helps with searching for specific garments online, as well as on our shop! 

Although it's a bit overwhelming, combine your knowledge of collar and garment types with our previous blog of "4 Main Styles of Hanfu" makes searching and learning about hanfu much easier! 


If I missed anything, let me know in the comments below 🎋





"Hanfu in Components" by redsugarx https://www.newhanfu.com/36870.html

"Tieli vs Yesa" Ziseviolet https://ziseviolet.tumblr.com/post/657098793274228736/i-am-still-kinda-confused-about-the-differences-of 

"Guide to Hanfu Types" by Ling https://www.newhanfu.com/13840.html 

"Hanfu" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanfu


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