The Mao suit, also known as Chinese tunic suit or tunic suit, is the western name for the style of male attire known in China as the Zhongshan suit (Traditional: 中山裝; Simplified: 中山装; Hanyu Pinyin: Zhōngshān zhūang, or Chinese: 中山服; Pinyin: Zhōngshān f), named after Sun Zhongshan who introduced it shortly after the founding of the Republic of China. In accordance with the Chinese tradition of changing the style of dress for different dynasties, Sun instructed that a new form of clothing be designed for the new republic. The Western name comes from its popularization by Mao Zedong.
Incorporating elements of German military dress including a turndown collar and four symmetrically placed pockets and based on a form of attire popular with contemporary Chinese men in Japan and Southeast Asia, the Zhongshan suit was an attempt to cater to "modern" sensibilities without completely adopting Western styles wholesale. Instead of the three hidden pockets in Western suits, the Zhongshan suit had four outside pockets to adhere to Chinese concepts of balance and symmetry. Over time, minor stylistic changes developed. The suit originally had seven buttons, later reduced to five.
In the 1920s, civil servants of the Chinese government were required to wear the Zhongshan zhuang. A designed version of the suit, adapted for combat, formed the basis for army uniforms during the Second Sino-Japanese War and Chinese Civil War. After the establishment of the People's Republic of China, the suit became a symbol of proletarian unity, and was regularly worn by Communist partycadres until the 1990s when it was largely replaced by the Western business suit. The Zhongshan or Mao suit remained the standard formal dress for the first and second generation of PRC leaders such as Deng Xiaoping.
During the 1990s, it began to be worn with decreasing frequency by leaders of Jiang Zemin's generation. On informal occasions, most older cadres will wear panama shirts and most younger cadres will wear polo shirts. By the early part of the 21st century, the Mao or Zhongshan suit has been rarely worn even on formal occasions. The infrequent occasions on which it is worn usually involve situations in which civilian party officials wish to demonstrate control over the military. On Taiwan, the Zhongshan suit was seldom seen after the 1970s.
Today among the Chinese people, the suit has been entirely abandoned by the younger generation in urban areas, but is still regarded as formal attire by many old. It is also prevalent among Chinese peasants as casual dress.
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