Sun Yat-sen introduced Zhongshan suit shortly after the founding of the Republic of China as a form of national dress although with a distinctly political and later governmental implication.
The Zhongshan suit was an attempt to cater to contemporary sensibilities without adopting Western styles wholesale. The tunic can be traced back to British army uniforms from World War I and U.S. Army uniforms during the Spanish-American Philippine War.
After Sun Yat-sen's death in 1925, the Zhongshan suit was assigned a revolutionary and patriotic significance. The four pockets were said to represent the Four Virtues cited in the classic Guanzi: Propriety, Justice, Honesty, and Shame. The five center-front buttons were said to represent the five Yuans (branches of government)–legislation, supervision, examination, administration and jurisdiction–cited in the constitution of the Republic of China and the three cuff-buttons to symbolize Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the People: Nationalism, Democracy, and People's Livelihood. Finally, unlike Western-style suits that are usually composed of two layers of cloth, the jacket is in a single piece–symbolizing China's unity and peace.