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What is this?

Most of a Ming dynasty First Rank square showing a pair of cranes with spread wings arched across a gold sky filled with brightly colored attenuated cloud streamers. Birds are white with gray and black lower wing feathers and throats, vermillion crests, and beak, feet and eye details in black and pale green. Cloud bands are white with shades of blue, pale green, yellow and vermillion on a gold metallic ground.

Why is this in our collection?

This rare Ming dynasty rank badge would have been worn by a first rank civil official, woven into or appliquéd to a long, full-skirted red robe accompanied by a gem-inset hoop belt and black gauze winged hat. Square badges with birds or animals can be found in Yuan period (1271-1368) court clothing, but it was not until the Ming dress regulations of 1391 that animals and birds were systematically corresponded to civil and military ranks, and the term “rank badge” (bu zi) appeared. The rank badge system proved both enduring and influential. It continued through the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and into the early Republic of China, and was adopted by neighboring vassal countries like Korea and Annam (central Vietnam). This elegant example shows a pair of white cranes circling each other in flight, set against the clouds rippling in broad bands of warm colors. In Chinese culture, the crane is a symbol of longevity, and is often seen in Daoist imagery transporting immortals to mystical islands. Flying cranes came to allude to a rise in rank, in this case indicating a first-rank official.

This is a rank badge (buzi) from China. It is dated Ming dynasty 1368–1644 and we acquired it in 1902. Gift of John Pierpont Morgan.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ This object is currently resting in our storage facility.

Its medium is

medium: silk, gilded paper technique: plain weave with discontinuous wefts (tapestry) label: silk and metallic tapestry (k'ossu)

Its dimensions are

H x W: 34 x 31.1 cm (13 3/8 x 12 1/4 in.)

This object was catalogued by Jean Elizabeth Mailey and donated by John Pierpont Morgan

A timeline of event horizons

This object has been included in the following exhibitions:

See more stuff from the Textiles department.

Do you have your own photos of this object? Are they online somewhere, like Flickr or Instagram? Or have you created a 3D model of one of our objects in SketchUp or Thingiverse? If so then then tag them with ch:object=18130939 and we will connect ours to yours!

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18130939/ |title=Rank Badge (buzi) (China), Ming dynasty 1368–1644 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=30 July 2015 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>

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