Chinese Rank Badge
Chinese rank badge, also known as a mandarin square, was a large embroidered badge sewn onto the uniform of an official in the Chinese Empire. It was heavily decorated with animal or bird insignia, symbolizing the rank of a person wearing it.
We are Doris Leslie Blau! Our timeless and iconic rugs for sale are featured in our rug shop located in New York. Established since 1965. World’s most recognizable brand for the Persian, oriental, antique and vintage rugs and makers of the finest custom carpets. Our rug boutique is the source of inspiration for most famous designers and architects such as Peter Marino and Alberto Pinto.
Mandarin squares appeared for the first time in 1391 during the Ming Dynasty. Although similar embroidery on the clothes of Empire's officials was in use when Yuan Dynasty was in power, it was purely aesthetic and had no real meaning. Rank badges were used even after Ming dynasty ended, as Qing dynasty eagerly embraced them. The fall of the imperial system in 1912 marked the end of Mandarin squares as they were no longer needed for a new government.
During Ming Dynasty badges had trapezoidal shapes and stretched throughout the chest and back. Qing-style badges were completely different - they were smaller and more decorative than Ming ones and while the meaning of specific animals did not change, their designs evolved. In both dynasties predators such as tigers, lions bears and leopards usually stood for military ranks, although the rhinoceros present in Ming Dynasty was swapped for a sea horse during Qing's reign. Scholars always bore birds on their badges. They ranged from cranes and peacocks to ducks and wild goose. Curiously enough, musicians also had their own rank badges, which usually were embroidered with orioles. Rank badges also appeared in Korea during the Choson Dynasty . Like Ming style, they were small and heavily decorated. Big cats such as leopards and tigers were used for military officials, while civilians usually bore cranes.
Badges usually had toned-down dark backgrounds which served as a great canvas for colorful threads used to decorate them. The most popular hues to use where red, green and yellow which symbolized good fortune, but blue was just as popular.