The Mandarin word ''changshan'' is cognate with the term ''chèuhngsàam'', which has been borrowed into English as 'cheongsam'. Unlike the Mandarin term, however, Cantonese ''chèuhngsàam'' can refer to both male and female garments, and in Hong Kong it is frequently used for the body-hugging female garment rather than for the male ''changshan''. The Hong Kong usage is reflected in the meaning of 'cheongsam' in English, which refers exclusively to the female garment.
''Changshan'', along with ''qipao'', were introduced to China during the Qing Dynasty . The Manchus ordered that all should adopt the ''changshan'' style of dress—or face execution. Thus, the traditional Chinese Hanfu style of clothing was gradually replaced. Over time, the Manchu style gained popularity.
''Changshan'' was formal dress for Chinese men before Western-style became common in China.
The male ''changshan'' went well with the western overcoat, fedora, and scarf, and portrayed a unique East Asian modernity.
The 1949 ended the wearing of ''changshan'' and other similar clothing in Shanghai, but Shanghainese emigrants and refugees brought the fashion to Hong Kong where it has remained popular. Recently there has been a revival of the Shanghainese ''changshan'' in Shanghai and elsewhere in mainland China.
Use of ''changshan''
''Changshan'' are traditionally worn in pictures, weddings, and other more formal historically Chinese events. A black ''changshan'', along with a rounded black hat, was, and sometimes still is, the burial attire for Chinese men.
''Changshan'' are not often worn in Mainland China, except during traditional Chinese celebrations but, with the revival of some traditional clothing in urban mainland China, the Shanghainese style functions as a stylish party dress .
Mainland Chinese, even the elderly, rarely have any ''changshan'' left from before the Cultural Revolution.
''Changshan'' in popular culture
In older Wong Fei Hung films, the kung fu master was always portrayed as a well-dressed gentleman in a ''changshan''. In the movie ''Kill Bill'', Sofie Fatale wore a typical male black ''changshan''.
Gen from the ''Street Fighter Alpha'' series wears a male changshan as does Yun and Yang from the ''Street Fighter III'' games.