Cheongsam - Chinese Language Usage

Chinese Language Usage

The English loanword cheongsam comes from chèuhngsāam (Simp./Trad. Chinese: 长衫/長衫, 'long shirt/dress'), the Cantonese pronunciation of the Shanghainese term zǎnze or zansae, by which the original tight-fitting form was first known. The Shanghainese name was somewhat in contrast with usage in Mandarin and other Chinese dialects, where chángshān (the Mandarin pronunciation of 長衫) refers to an exclusively male dress (see changshan) and the female version is known as a qipao.

In Hong Kong, where many Shanghai tailors fled to after the communist revolution in China, the word chèuhngsāam may refer to either male or female garments. The word keipo (qipao) is either a more formal term for the female chèuhngsāam, or is used for the two-piece cheongsam variant that is popular in China. Traditionally, usage in Western countries mostly followed the original Shanghainese usage and applies the Cantonese-language name cheongsam to a garment worn by women.

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