She Wears Her Heritage

National Museum of Singapore Manager Gong Pan Pan celebrates her cultural identity by donning hanfu, the traditional dress of the Han Chinese.

While others “dress down” on Fridays, Ms Gong Pan Pan brings a pop of colour and twist to her work outfits by wearing modern versions of hanfu, the ancient dresses worn by most Chinese until the Manchurians came to rule China in the 17th century.

Ms Gong runs the Visitor Experience and volunteers programme at the National Museum of Singapore and has also managed the Singapore HeritageFest.

She first discovered hanfu in 2015, in China where she had her wedding shoot, which had a session where she wore traditional Chinese dresses. Half a year later, she chanced upon similar dresses in an online shop and picked up a few, sparking her hobby of recreating the different hanfu looks.

Han Chinese make up more than 90% of the Chinese population today, with an ancestry that dates back about 3,000 years. Given her passion for history and culture, Ms Gong has found that the best way for her to understand her roots is through hanfu.

Ms Gong dresses up in other ethnic clothing like the Indian sari and Japanese kimono (top right), roping in her friends for these photoshoots too.

She bought plenty of books to research the subject before investing in the costumes and accessories. “I read extensively and love looking at paintings,” she says. “That inspires me as I go into further research on hanfu to bring it to life.”

Among her collection are beads and silver enamel cloisonné hair accessories. The latter are said to have been brought in from the Islamic world during Mongolian rule under Genghis Khan, and were popular throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties. “I love the stories of cross-cultural influence behind these accessories and dresses,” she says. For Ms Gong, makeup completes the whole look.

A few colleagues came over to my place for a group dress-up session. It was a great teambonding activity.

“Many people wear hanfu with their usual hairstyle and glasses. It doesn’t have the complete authentic look. Personally, I like to be as authentic as possible and understanding makeup is a big part of this … to match the fashion and sense of aesthetics of the era.”

While her interest in Chinese culture and history remains a personal pursuit, Ms Gong has found creative ways to share her passion with her colleagues outside of work.

“A few colleagues came over to my place for a group dress-up session. It was a great team-bonding activity and there was plenty to learn from each other,” she says.

Follow Ms Gong’s adventures in hanfu on Instagram at @princesspun or #hanfugirl

    Apr 4, 2017
    Juliana Loh
    Gong Pan Pan
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