6 pieces of jewelries and their rankings

This post mainly discuss:

How to depict status through each piece of jewelry


What are the 6 jewelries I am making

To show the rankings/status of the jewelries, there must be some easy-to-understand symbols or metaphors.  Now let’s look back at the rankings of concubines in Chinese History.   Refer to previous post: https://oss.adm.ntu.edu.sg/tzhao002/chinese-hairtyles/

皇后 Queen Consort x 1

皇贵妃 Imperial Noble Consort x 1

贵妃 Noble Consort x 2

妃 Consort x 4

嫔 Dame x 6

贵人 Noble Lady x unlimited

常在 Attendant x unlimited

答应 Repliant x unlimited

Similar to officials, concubines also their rankings corresponding to political status. In ancient China, officials are ranked from 1 pin(一品) to 9 pin(九品), with 1 pin as the highest position and 9 pin the lowest. Traditionally, 1 pin is first class minister, equivalent to nowadays the prime minister, who is only inferior to the emperor. For concubines, 1 pin is Imperial Noble Consort, while Queen Consort being the female emperor in the ranking.  Pin system is very complicated as each pin can be further divided into sub rankings. More detailed information can be found here:(In Chinese) https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%B8%85%E6%9C%9D%E5%AE%98%E8%81%B7%E8%A1%A8

The rankings of the concubines are:

Imperial 1 pin: 皇后 Queen Consort x 1

1 pin:皇贵妃 Imperial Noble Consort x 1

2 pin: 贵妃 Noble Consort x 2

3 pin: 妃 Consort x 4

6 pin: 嫔 Dame x 6

7 pin: 贵人 Noble Lady x unlimited

sub 8 pin: 常在 Attendant x unlimited

9 pin: 答应 Repliant x unlimited

This ranking is according tohttp://www.wenku1.com/news/9E484855626AA3AC.html . HOWEVER, each dynasty has its own titles and ranking system for the ladies ,even for the same title, it might have different ranking or pin in the system. Researching on it, I have also came across many variations of the system. The fact is there were SO MANY concubines and concubines-to-be in the palace that the number of positions became so complicated. As such, it is difficult to clearly define the ranking of a concubine unless she is the Queen Consort or Imperial Noble Consort.

SO here comes two sets of numbers in the system:1, the pin number; 2, the number of vacancies available for a specific title(1 Queen consorts, 2 noble consorts, 4 consorts, etc).

Using pin number can cause confusions as it is not clearly defined. On the other hand, using vacancy number can depict the preciousness of the position and show the competition at that status.

For example. Queen Consort is the highest, one and only position. With One and only major feature(most likely phoenix) indicate that she sits on the most precious seat reign the imperial household. While depicting a Consort status, 4 same or similar features can be put tgt on one piece of jewelry, symbolizing that at the position there are 4 ladies altogether competing and balancing the power. The more features are depicted, the lower the status is. It is like climbing the corporate ladder in modern society, the higher you get, the lonelier you  become.

About the birds.

There is a Chinese phrase百鸟朝凤 bai niao chao feng, means hundred birds worshiping the phoenix/hundred birds paying homage to the phoenix. Phoenix is the leader/king of birds. So to emphasize its importance, it is better to depict only one adult phoenix in the jewelry set, on the most important piece for the Queen Consort. For other pieces that prior to the ascending of Queen Consort, other species of birds can be portrayed. For minor positions, only feather or wing are necessary.

Artist: Qian Xingjian钱行健 124 x 232 cm Chinese ink on rice paper image source:http://auction.artron.net/paimai-art5013260236/
Hundred Birds Worshiping the Phoenix
Artist: Qian Xingjian钱行健
124 x 232 cm, year 1951
Chinese ink on rice paper
image source:http://auction.artron.net/paimai-art5013260236/

So to conclude the idea of this post:

1> Using the difference in bird species to distinguish the status

2>Using the number of birds to show the power and competition for each status. The higher the status, the less birds are depicted. The number goes according to the number of concubines allowed for such position in Chinese history.  1 Queen Consort,  4 Consorts, etc. 

6 pieces of jewelries are:(Most important to least important)

Choker x 1-Queen Consort

Ring x 1-Imperial Noble Consort

Cuff x 1-Consort

Spectacle chain x 1-Dame

Necklace pendants x 1-Noble Lady

Hair pin x 1-Xiunv


Instead of depicting several characters in the story, now I am more focused on depicting only one character and her ladder to power. It is easier to understand and clearly demonstrate the ranking in the story.

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Desirie Z

ADM final year Product Design Student 2016-17

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