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Chinese Qing Dynasty Rank Purse

At first glance this appears to be a lovely elaborately embroidered ladies handbag, silk thread on silk cloth with Peking glass handles. There is an interesting story behind this elegant purse.

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During the Qing Dynasty officials wore badges sewn to their robes which indicated their rank and area of service. All military officials wore badges embroidered with specific animals… the civil officials wore badges embroidered with various birds. The badges were square… a solid square on the back of the jacket and a split square on the front at the opening.

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This custom evolved over time and in the 19th century the wives of court officials were allowed to wear squares that indicated their  husband’s rank… with one difference… on a man’s badge the animal or bird faces left on the wife’s badge, it would face right.

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So this handbag, embroidered with a peacock would have been the property of a woman married to a civil official of the third rank.

For more information, there is an interesting article on Wikipedia.

Visit PrivateCollection’s PictureBook to see additional photos… many in larger formats.

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