Purple or maroon

A leader does not wear purple or maroon decorations on his gown; red and purple should not be used for casual wear at home. During the summer, he wears a fine or coarse linen singlet, but never goes out without wearing a gown. With a black robe, he wears lamb skin; with a white robe, he wears fawn skin; and with a yellow robe, he wears fox skin. The fur robe he wears at home is long and has a shorter right sleeve. His nightgown is very long. Thick furs such as fox and badger are worn at home. Except when he is in mourning, he wears all the ornaments on his girdle. Apart from his ceremonial robe, the layers of his other robes are cut to different lengths. At funerals, he does not wear lamb skin or black caps. On New Year’s Day, he attends court dressed in full court attire.

This passage looks as if it has been ripped off from the ancient Chinese equivalent of GQ, and refers to leaders (君子/jūnzǐ) in general rather than Confucius in particular. That doesn’t make it any less interesting, though, assuming of course that the finer points of fifth-century BC Chinese gentleman’s fashion are your thing.

A few additional comments and explanations that I have gleaned from various sources:

Purple and maroon were too close to black in color, which was used only for ceremonial and official purposes.

Red and purple were considered too lavish to wear at home.

The right sleeve on the home robe would probably have been shorter to make eating and other tasks easier.

The meaning of the phrase describing the gentleman’s nightgown (長一身有半/ zhǎng yīshēn yǒu bàn) has perplexed scholars for thousands of years. Literally it means “half as long again as a man’s body”, which would make for an extremely long garment. I have settled for the ambiguous “very long” for wont of any better alternative.

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