rank insignia

An embroidered mandarin square, or rank badge, worn on the front of a court robe. There is a void in the centre of the satin ground where a rank insignia, either a civil (bird) or military (animal) would be applied. The upper section of the square has rows of 'ruyi'-shaped clouds in couched blue silk floss to represent the sky.

Below the sky are repeated curved lines to represent the sea waves. A rock on which the bird image would usually perched represents the earth and rises in the middle of the waves. The standing water, 'lishui', pattern at the bottom is depicted by the gold and silver slanting lines to represent the deep sea. The Eight Buddhist Emblems are arranged in circle around the void. Both the fish and conch shell are shown in the waves, while the lotus, canopy, umbrella, endless knot, wheel and vase are placed in the sky.

A silver-coloured sun disk placed in the upper left corner indicates that it was made for the official himself rather than his wife. The border has an alternating pattern of bats and 'shou' characters, which denote happiness and longevity respectively.

Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be errors. This part of the website is also still under construction, so there may be some fields repeated or incorrectly formatted information.

The database sometimes uses language taken from historical documents to help research, which may now appear outdated and even offensive. The database also includes information on objects that are considered secret or sacred by some communities.

If you have any further information about objects in our collections or can suggest corrections to our information, please contact us: enquiry@horniman.ac.uk