test copy - Qing-dynasty rank badges 

These rank badges (bŭzǐ) of China, often called mandarin squares by collectors, were worn as symbols of civil or military court rank during the Qing dynasty (1644–1912). The custom of wearing rank badges at court concretely dates to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The following Qing dynasty was founded by a clan from northern Manchuria that facilitated the fall of the Ming dynasty. To stabilize their reign, the Manchus had to balance their own traditions with those of the Han Chinese. While incorporating some Manchu characteristics among the Han Chinese, including new modes of dress at court, they retained some aspects of Ming-dynasty bureaucracy such as the use of rank badges. Rank badges were altered to fit the Manchu cut of clothing, creating badges that were smaller than the preceding Ming badges. The badges were worn on both the front and the back of robes. The front badge was split down the middle for the robe opening—as seen in the hanging scrolls to the right.These rank badgesThere were nine ranks each for civil and military positions and, accordingly, nine figures that could be found on badges for each. Civil badges display a range of nine bird types in contrast to the military badges’ nine animal figures. For social events, women could wear a complementary badge signifying their husband’s rank or, if not yet married, their father’s.Civil Rank MotifsANTHRO EXAMPLERank 9The ninth rank is symbolized by a paradise flycatcher. A white bird, its head can be either rounded, usually with a feather or two that matches its tail feathers, or crested. The distinctive tail has two long feathers narrower at the base with a single dot or eye near the end.ANTHRO EXAMPLE?Rank 8A symbol of courage, the quail is the sign of an eighth-rank official. Usually brown, it generally had a body with scale-like feathers with the feather's midrib explicitly shown. The tail was basically non-existent, with the body's feathers ending in a jagged edge.Rank 7The seventh rank official wore a badge with a mandarin duck. The most colorful bird of all the rank badges, it generally had a crested head and a wedge-shaped tail. Its neck feathers denote this bird's identity, if the range of colors had not yet done so. The feathers on the mandarin duck's neck are typically in two tiers, each feather coming to a soft point and often curling up at the ends.Rank 6An egret is the symbol of the sixth rank. The head can be either smooth or crested, but if smooth it usually has a small feather or two attached. The legs can be a variety of colors, but green and yellow seem to be most common. Its wedge-shaped tail distinguishes it from other white birds such as the crane and silver pheasant. This example from UMMA's collection diverges from the standard depiction due to the lack of a wedge-shaped tail. These variations could happen due to mistakes, but at times it was a technique to imply a different rank. At first glance, the bird with the five separated tail feathers could be a silver pheasant. An accusation of misrepresentation could be argued by pointing out the lack of the distinctive scalloped edge of the silver pheasant's tail feathers. Still, the ambiguous tail feathers of UMMA's egret rank badge hints at ambitions to be seen as a higher-level civil official.Rank 5The fifth-rank bird was a silver pheasant. While sometimes shown in blue, it is generally white and often has a crested head. Paired with the color, the distinctive serrated- or scalloped-edge tail feathers identify this bird. In the early Qing period, the pheasant had three of these tail feathers, but the number later increased to five.ANTHRO EXAMPLE?Rank 4The fourth civil rank is represented by the wild goose, a symbol of loyalty and marital bliss, like the mandarin duck. This bird is usually mustard yellow, tan or gold with a smooth head. The two particular characteristics of this bird are its wedge-shaped tail and the representation of body feathers by small pairs of black marks often in comma-like shapes.Rank 3The peacock, the third civil rank, denotes elegancy, dignity, and beauty. Easily identified by the well-known "eye" design on the tail feathers, this bird is colorfully embroidered, often in shades of green. The heads of this depicted bird were generally smooth, though at times with a small feather or two with the same "eye" design that the peacock tails have.Rank 2A golden pheasant, symbolizing duties and obligations, was the second rank for civil officials. These birds were generally depicted in two ways: either in variegated color or a more monochrome version of golden threads. Either way, identifying the bird is easiest by looking to its tail feathers. The golden pheasant's tail has two sword-shaped feathers that have black bars along them. Additionally, this pheasant is usually shown with a crested head.ANTHRO EXAMPLERank 1First rank civil officials, highest ranked, wore a badge with a depiction of a crane, a bird symbolizing longevity and wisdom. Generally, the crane is shown as a white bird with a red-capped rounded head. There is some variation with the body either smooth or with a scaled design of feathers. As with many other bird designs on the rank badges, the tail can be key in identifying the type of bird. The crane's tail feathers are short, stubby, spade shaped, and black with points separated from one another. Many crane badges show the bird with red legs and long beaks, but the feathers are the most reliable form of identification.Military Rank MotifsMilitary rank badges are rarer than civil badges. This is likely because the military, exclusively Manchu to ensure the stability of the Manchu/Qing government over the Han Chinese, was not viewed in a positive light during the Qing dynasty. When it was overthrown by the republican revolution in 1911, the military were particularly singled out for retribution. To escape such retribution (often violent), military men would destroy their official clothing to avoid detection. Unlike the military officials, the largely Han Chinese civil officials/scholars were incorporated into the new republican government. Because there was no animosity towards the civil officials, there was no need to destroy their badges and therefore many more civil badges are extant today.Rank 9Rank 8Rank 7Rank 6Rank 5Rank 4Rank 3From 1662 to the end of the Qing dynasty, the leopard represented the third military rank.These leopards were shown with either life-like spots or, later in the Qing dynasty, circles. At times, a badge leopard may have a circular star radiating lines on its forehead. While flames may sometimes be seen somewhere on the square, they were usually not part of the body since a leopard is not a mythical creature.Rank 2The second-rank military badge animal was a lion. Most often white, lions could also be depicted in blue. Lions are distinguishable from bears by the curls at the base and ends of mane (when long enough) and tail. Later Qing lion badges show the hair continue from the mane along the back to the tail, tips also curled. The flames that generally mark a mythical creature are part of the lion badge designs, which aligns with the fact that these lions are more like the mythical temple lions rather than naturalistic animals.Rank 1From 1662 to the end of the Qing dynasty, the first-rank military official badge illustrated a qí lín, a powerful mythical beast that represents longevity, grandeur, felicity, and wise administration. Prior to that point, both the first-rank and second-rank badges were a lion. This composite creature had a dragon's head with two horns, a stag's body, a fish's scales, and a Chinese bear's tail (with curls only at the base unlike a lion's which has curls at both the base and tip). There are also flames marking its status as a mythical beast, coming from its back and around the legs. Unlike all of the other animals and birds, the qí lín looks out at the viewer rather than the sun.Censoriate Civil BureaucratsThis group of appointed officials conducted investigations for the emperor to identify wrongdoing or inefficiency among general bureaucrats. The square rank badge worn by these investigators illustrated a mythical creature known as a xiè zhì, particularly appropriate because mythically this creature could determine truth from lies. The animal was white with a dragon's head, a lion's body, a bear's tail, a mane, paws, and a single horn on its head. The mouths of this creature are shown open to bare their teeth in warning. These mythical animals are often mistaken for a bear or lion due to the inconspicuous nature of the single horn on its head. Although not legal, in the late Qing Dynasty judges and magistrates also started wearing this type of square. This UMMA example is the mirror image of a censor's badge, indicating that it was worn by the official's wife- FIX THIS; NOT QUITE RIGHT.Imperial Ranks RanksBadge compositions generally have a sun in one of the upper corners, placed depending on the location of the Emperor in official settings or their wife in social settings. It is easiest to discern whether the wearer was male or female in civil badges: the birds on the male officials’ badges face toward the left while their wives’ badges featured birds that face toward the right as shown in one badge displayed here.The history of embroidery in China is rich, with the earliest evidence of embroidery from Shang-dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BCE) China and extant works dating to the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE). Embroidered items were used in a variety of ways, which included: as burial goods, devotional images in religious traditions such as Buddhism, to outfit the home, and to adorn the self. This vibrant embroidery tradition continued to modern day. The embroidered strips on display here are cuff bands from the Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Embroideries such as these, which have survived around the world in great numbers, were made for application to women’s robes. Cuff band compositions drew on a long-established repertoire of motifs that originally had auspicious or significant meanings, but by the nineteenth century were likely employed more for aesthetic purposes or as convention.


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April 4, 2020 2:19 p.m.


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