Rank Badge (buzi) (China), Ming dynasty 1368–1644
This is a Rank Badge (buzi). It is dated Ming dynasty 1368–1644 and we acquired it in 1902. Its medium is silk, gilded paper and its technique is plain weave with discontinuous wefts (tapestry). It is a part of the Textiles department.
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.
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Its dimensions are
H x W: 34 x 31.1 cm (13 3/8 x 12 1/4 in.)
Cite this object as
Rank Badge (buzi) (China), Ming dynasty 1368–1644; silk, gilded paper; H x W: 34 x 31.1 cm (13 3/8 x 12 1/4 in.); Gift of John Pierpont Morgan; 1902-1-433
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Making Design.