Mandarin Court Necklace – A Qing Dynasty Cultural Icon

If one were to pick a single symbol or ‘cultural icon’ to represent the 268 years of the Qing Dynasty, the Mandarin Court Necklace would certainly be on the short list. This pictorial timeline, shows that the necklace is a ‘constant’ throughout the reign of all 12 of the Emperors and Consorts.

The beginning of the Qing Dynasty starts with Emperor Shunzhi who was 5 years old when he became Emperor in 1644.

“Legend has it that the Court necklace was patterned after a mala (a string of Tibetan prayer beads) that were given to Emperor Shunzhi (1644-1661) as a gift from the Dalai Lama.” PrivateCollection

In 1653, the 10th year of the reign of the Emperor Shunzhi of the Qing dynasty, the 5th Dalai Lama, who had reached Beijing in the previous year, was granted an honorific title plus a golden certificate of appointment and a golden seal of authority by the Qing imperial court.


The picture above shows a fresco in the Potala Palace depicting that Emperor Shunzhi received the 5th Dalai Lama in Beijing. In 1652, or the 9th year of the reign of Emperor Shunzhi, Ngawang Lobsang Gyamco came to Beijing and was granted to be the 5th Dalai Lama plus a golden certificate of appointment and a gold seal of authority in the following year. (Xinhua file Photo)  Credit:

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This is a court portrait (on the left)  of Shunzhi at a young age. It shows him without a court necklace. But this portrait is suspect given the similarity to the one of his father, Hong Taiji-so the possibility of this being a accurate representation should perhaps be discounted.

“The emperor [Shunzhi ] had become a fervent follower of Chan Buddhism in the late 1650s, even letting monks move into the Imperial palace. But much circumstantial evidence––including an account by one of these monks that the emperor’s health greatly deteriorated in early February 1661 because of smallpox, and the fact that a concubine and an Imperial Bodyguard committed suicide to accompany the emperor in burial––suggests that Shunzhi’s death was not staged. ” Wikipedia

Prince Regent Dorgon (pictured below) in imperial regalia. He reigned as a quasi emperor from 1643 to his death in 1650, a period during which the Qing conquered almost all of China. This would possibly be the first official ‘Court Portrait’ of someone with a court necklace. It would date the practice between 1644 to 1650. Emperor Shunzhi would have been between 5-9 years old old.


Empress Xiaohuizhang, a Khorchin Mongol just like Shunzhi’s mother, became the emperor’s second Empress Consort in 1654. She would reign until 1661. This is her official court picture.


Oboi was then named Main Regent to Shunzhi in 1661. This is an official court portrait of him below.


Succeeding his father Emperor Shunzhi at the tender age of eight, Xuan Ye, (pictured below) is better known as the Kangxi Emperor and is widely acknowledged as being one of China’s greatest emperors.


Reigning from 1662 to 1722, he consolidated Manchu rule over China, thereby expanding the Chinese empire. An astute ruler, skilled warrior, keen scholar and patron of the arts, the Kangxi Emperor’s many achievements can be attributed to his passion and competence in his various roles.

The list of Emperors and there official portraits could go on but this photo brings it to a close…this picture was taken in 1922  ten years after the fall of the Qing.


Puyi; (7 February 1906 – 17 October 1967), of the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan, was the last Emperor of China, and the twelfth and final ruler of the Qing Dynasty. Source:Wikipedia

These pictures speak a thousand words… so I hope I spared you some time reading …but I think they show: the ‘Mandarin Court Necklace is an icon of the Qing Dynasty’.

[Note: all images are from Wikipedia unless noted]

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