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Library showcases Chinese, Japanese clothing

December 9, 2011

The modern language department at UWRiver Falls is bringing a little of bit of Chinese and Japanese culture to the University, with their exhibit of Chinese minority costumes and traditional Japanese costumes. The display which will be presented in the Harriet Barry gallery located inside the Davee Library will run from Monday, Dec. 5 through Tuesday, Dec.20.

“We have many Chinese/Japanese international students on our campus as well as Chinese-/Japanese –American students,” said Magara Maeda, a Japanese language instructor at the University. “This exhibition will mean a lot for them since this will be a great opportunity to share their culture and tradition with the UWRF community.”

“We also have many enthusiastic and highly motivated students who are learning Chinese/ Japanese languages on this campus; learning a foreign language also means developing an understanding towards the target culture and raising awareness towards one’s own culture,” said Maeda. “This exhibition will be a great learning opportunity for students to know more about Chinese/Japanese cultural tradition through the traditional garments.”

Maeda gave a little bit of background on some of the garments. The Japanese Kimono is a traditional Japanese clothing item that originated during the country’s Hainan Period (794-1192). The Japanese Kimono we know of are from the Monoyama and Edo Periods (1568-1867). In modern times, the Japanese Kimono is typically worn on special occasions and is primarily worn by women, but certain men do still wear this garb.

Uchikake, the traditional Japanese marriage kimono, is one of the most ornate garments in the realm of traditional Japanese ceremonial clothing. Wedding Kimono or Uchikake were originally worn by women of nobility for formal occasions, but is now an essential component of any traditional Japanese bridal costume. Uchikake are also extremely expensive when they are made originally; $30,000 to $40,000 is not unusual. As a result, a majority of Japanese brides rent these garments for their weddings—with a typical rental fee of $1500 or more a day.

“Chinese minority garments are also dressed up for many festive occasions or important festivals,” said Kaishan Kong, a Chinese language instructor at the University. “Tourists like to wear the minority garments for pictures to show their respect to the minority groups, and show their appreciation of the beauty of these garments.”

“Chinese is a group of 56 groups. Han is the major group and another 55 are minority groups; each of the minority groups have their own costumes with various colors, patterns and functions,” said Kong. “The costumes reflect their shared values, beliefs, and identity.” For information on the purpose and/or history of all of the costumes, there will be an opening a series of “gallery talks” on Thursday, Dec. 15 to explain the purposes of all of the costumes and how they are used in Chinese and Japanese cultures.

“Chinese and Japanese language instructors are trying to organize one cultural activity per semester for the class as well as for the UWRF community,” said Maeda,” we are very excited to share this wonderful exhibition!”