some updates…in the mist of my messy schedule trying to balance school, FYP, job applications, exams and relationships :((((
my next step is finish CAD all designs and make them 3D printable…
some updates…in the mist of my messy schedule trying to balance school, FYP, job applications, exams and relationships :((((
my next step is finish CAD all designs and make them 3D printable…
Phoenix(凤凰feng huang) are a mythological birds in Chinese history that reign over other birds.
Originally, Feng Huang are two different birds of same breed. Feng is the male and Huang is the female. Later, during Yuan Dynasty, the two words are combined to one Fenghuang as the king of birds. As the image of dragon is slowly accepted to describe male emperor,phoenix is then used to portray females empresses.
5 types of phoenix: 五凤
太史令蔡衡曰：凡像凤者有五色，多赤者凤，多青者鸾，多黄者鵷雏，多紫者鸑鷟，多白者鸿鹄－ref 夜航船 卷十七 四灵部 by 张岱 http://guji.artx.cn/article/28345.html?key=%E4%BA%94%E8%89%B2%E8%80%8C%E8%B5%A4%E8%80%85
“There are 5 types of bird look like phoenix:
With feather mainly in scarlet, it is a phoenix凤,
mainly in Blue, it is a Luan鸾
mainly in yellow, it is a Yuan Chu鵷雏
mainly in purple, it is a Yue Zhuo鸑鷟
mainly in white, it is a Hong Hu 鸿鹄 ”
In fact they are all categorized under phoenix, but only the scarlet phoenix is of the highest status and purest of them all.
There is other version of explanation regarding the types of phoenix. From <Classic of mountain and Sea>:There are three multicolored birds, one is Huang皇, one is Luan鸾, one is Feng凤 .《山海经》曰：有五采鸟三名，一曰皇鸟，一曰鸾鸟，一曰凤鸟。
Some versions say that Luan鸾 is actually the same breed with 凤 feng and 凰 huang, just it is not an adult bird. As Luan grows up, it will become Feng or Huang. Nevertheless, all these are fairy tales and there isn’t a scientific way to verify as they are made up of people’s imagination.
Here come back to my jewelries. I need to decide which bird to depict on each jewelry:
Choker as Queen Consort/Empress Consort–one bird 皇后
Ring as Imperial Noble Consort–one bird 皇贵妃
Cuff as Consort–4 birds 妃
Spectacle chain as Dame-6 birds 嫔
Necklace pendant as Noble Lady-feather/wing 贵人
Hairpin as Xiunv-feather 秀女
There is no doubt that phoenix will be depicting Queen Consort皇后.
As for Imperial Noble Consort皇贵妃, since it is also a single bird, there must be a different meaning of the bird, which is why I research on the breed of phoenix. The position of Imperial Noble Consort is very close to Queen Consort, as such choosing a breed of phoenix that is inferior than pure phoenix would be ideal. However, if the phoenix only varies by colors, it is pretty difficult to reflect in the jewelry as the material would most likely be in the same color(unless adding crystals). I realize among the 5 breeds of phoenix, the white-color breed, 鸿鹄 hong hu, has both mythological meaning and daily-life meaning. the rest 3 breeds: 鸾luan， 鵷雏yuan chu ， 鸑鷟yue zhuo are seldom heard nowadays and probably most Chinese cannot even read the words. 鸿鹄 Hong Hu can be explained as the type of bird that fly very high and very far, such as eagle, Dayan, swan, crane. It is in modern context used to describe people with great ambitions. There is one idiom as 燕雀安知鸿鹄之志(How can swallows and sparrows understand the ambition of a Hong Hu), means “How can a common fellow read the mind of a great man?” As such, it is very suitable to use the bird hong hu on Imperial Noble Consort because she has the great ambition to defeat substitute the current Queen Consort.
4 birds are used for the cuff as Consort妃. As it comes down to consort, the bird is less prestigious. The first bird came into my mind is peacock. Why? Because usually the 4 consorts are always openly or secretly competing with each other, on who is the prettiest, who wears the most luxuries, or who are more favored by the emperor. It is just like peacocks showing of their feather and attracting the opposite sex. Although the fanned peacocks are males in nature, this metaphor is still applicable to the consorts and their jealousy.
6 birds are used for spectacle chain for Dame嫔. Cuckoos could be the choice. Cuckoo bird is famous for their zygodactyl feet and laying eggs in other birds’ nest or other members’s nest from the same breed. The cuckoo egg hatches earlier than the host’s, and the cuckoo chick grows faster; in most cases the chick evicts the eggs or young of the host species. The chick has no time to learn this behavior, so it must be an instinct passed on genetically. This instinct for competition and eliminating enemy reminds me of the rivals of concubines and their kids.
Fun fact:Cuckoos have various strategies for getting their egg into a host nest. Different species use different strategies based on host defensive strategies. Female cuckoos have secretive and fast laying behaviors, but in some cases, males have been shown to lure host adults away from their nests so that the female can lay her egg in the nest. Some host species may directly try to prevent cuckoos laying eggs in their nest in the first place – birds whose nests are at high risk of cuckoo-contamination are known to ‘mob’ cuckoos to drive them out of the area. Parasitic cuckoos are grouped into gentes, with each gens specializing in a particular host. There is some evidence that the gentes are genetically different from one another.
Noble Lady-unlimited vacancies, Thus I would only use wings in the necklace pendant. Wings means they are at a position to get ready to depart to a higher status. They are polishing themselves to get ready in the game.
Last but no least, Xiunv as a hair pin. Xiunv are merely the candidates for the beauty pageant. Their status is low and they might not end up the Emperor’s concubine. So their fate is unpredictable. I would like to use feather to depict them as feather is the most common thing in birds and it can be found in any bird. Whether it is a feather of phoenix or a feather of sparrow, depends on fate and their effort. Also, the shape of feather is coherent to the shape of hair pin, which makes it easier for the design process.
To depict each breed of bird, I am not going to design in a very realistic way. The birds are just references to give each piece of jewelry better meaning.
Queen Consort-1 phoenix, on choker
Imperial Noble Consort-1 Honghu, on ring
Consort-4 peacocks, on hand cuff
Dame-6 cuckoos, on spectacle chain
Noble Lady-wing shape necklace pendant
Xiunv-Feather shaped hair pin
Hong Hu鸿鹄 http://baike.baidu.com/view/339866.htm
Some references are from Chinese classics, poems and tales.
Previously, I had my choker mockup done from wire:
After which I proceed to drawing them out in computer, 2D. The form was further simplified.
I drew them in group-from top down, 3 in a group. The first of the three is the first layer, second is the second layer, third is the layering of 1st and 2nd layers, to explore the possibility of layering.
I also drew the variations of design, some has cut out, some have holes for tassels or dangling details. Some have wings more angled than the rest.
Following the 2D design, I drew the choker in 3D rhino.
As you can see from the image on the left, this choker is ergonomically not feasible. Our neck is not a standard cylinder but rather a cone shape. As this choker is pretty wide, it should be designed with a slight angle. If not, it can only be wore at a very high position on neck(right image) and would be really uncomfortable to wear. In addition, the pointed edges and spikes can be dangerous for people to wear on neck.
side profile of the product . In addition, the bulky design needs a lot of printing materials, at the same time, reducing the flexibility of the choker.
After slight adjustment of the angle of the wings, the choker sits better on the neck. Nevertheless, it still doesn’t solve the problem of safety. AND after all it doesn’t look so appealing aesthetically.
I started to review my design and think of other possibilities. As we have learnt in Studies in Forms module in year 3, depicting an animal does not necessarily depicting the entire feature. It can be just representation of certain traits. Take phoenix for example, to me, the most symbolic part pf phoenix is the flamboyant tails and the proud even arrogant gestures. Starting from there, I simplify my design into something more representative.
I personally like this idea a lot although I wouldn’t say it is perfect. It is physically and visually much lighter, more versatile and modern.
Based on similar design I drew out a wrist cuff.
previously I have done my ring mock ups like these
After last presentation, I did CAD models and 3D printed them out.
The printing quality isn’t good. The ring sizes are reasonable and fits me well. As rings are very particular in sizes the products will come in S M L sizes which is US 6 7 8, the most common female ring size.
Then I CAD out the matching ring design with previous choker and cuff.
And alternative design with a lotus. A such the series will not seem boring with wings wings and wings.
Lotus is an element I consider to add into other pieces such as glass chain, earrings, necklace pendant.
Image sources are individually stated.
Here comes the Chinese New Year, and luxury brands never fail to seize the opportunity to have some limited editions. It is a trend because Chinese culture has increasing status as China economy and global influence getting stronger.
It is fascinating to see how foreigners understand Chinese culture, although I do not know if there are Chinese designers in the design team, the limited editions certainly bring new aspects to the Chinese zodiacs. Some of them did a great job from a Chinese perspective; others might need to understand more about the concept. Let us now look at the products for the year of CHICKEN. The comments I make are not mean to be offensive.
Dior has Chinese Zodiac bracelet every year. I am not sure what horrible thing the chicken is staring at because she looks stunned to me. But this is not so bd compared to the monkey, dragon and snake.
When you look into the eyes of the dragon…Maybe it is a dragon baby?
It seems alright until you see the cover
The cover remains the same for the limited edition each year, only the pattern on the foundation changes. So after u finish using the foundation, you can’t tell which box if for what zodiac anymore. In addition, the “福” character on the cover is in a not so enticing font. It looks like taken from Microsoft word…
This is how the price of a foundation pack triples…
It is a low-profile to celebrate the year of Chicken.
The two roosters in the front reminds me of the ancient pass-time cockfighting. I can’t decide whether is the rooster makes the brand more special or the brand makes the roosters more special…I don’t find the jacket ugly but I personally don’t find it that persuasive to me neither…Maybe seeing the real product will have bonus points from the craftsmanship or the intricacy.
Burberry checked scarf is a very classic product. The Chinese calligraphy style “福” instantly makes it elderly-friendly. But at the same time, not so youth-friendly…Probably because of the style of the character.
At first I though it is a bladder or a heart(as an organ). Then I realize it’s designers’ effort to make it a heart shape yet cute at same time.
The color is pretty hard to pull of though. If not match well can become a rural auntie from Northeast China village.
The embroidery used to be a bee, now becomes a chicken for the CNY.
The face of the chicken(or owl?) certainly brights up my day.
發huat and 福fortune are auspicious wished individually. However, when combine together发福 it means getting fat/gaining weight..So…
Here are the more pleasant example of the designs.
First Vans shoe design took inspiration from eggs and roosters respectively, and incorporate the colors into shoes.
Second design is a Gucci key chain.
Third design is a scarf by Salvatore Ferragamo
Fourth is a Piaget wrist watch.
The eight blossoms symbolize auspicious number 8 in Chinese culture, which sounds like Fa(huat).
Accessories for Lee(Main character):
1, a Zan, long hair pin to secure hair bun. This accompanies her throughout her life, as a item of memory from her mother.
2, a Bi, comb-like accessory, marks when she becomes Noble Consort, which is the highest position she reaches when she is with the old Emperor.
3, a ring, marks her return to the Palace as Imperial Noble Consort of the new Emperor.
4, a Qitou-like accessory, which will be made into a necklace(or maybe remains a hair accessory?), symbolizes her status of Empress Consort.
A choker. I recently found out that (structured)choker can instantly gives the formal, elegant, high class impression. It is like the structured collar of costume.
the Old Emperor
He is an outstanding emperor who rules his country very well. I am thinking of a pair of cuff links for him as they are specifically for shirt(formal attire), like emperor who is always managing states affairs. cuff link also allows great variety of designs to be added to it. Not all men use cuff links and for those who use it, it instantly gives the impression that this man pays attention to what he wears and the details of the attire.
Young Emperor/Prince Lihong
Young Emperor is actually’controlled’ by Lee, which means he does not have the real power and ability to make all decisions. I am thinking of making a ring for him, as Lee also has a ring for her when she is married to him. The Emperor’s ring may comes in hollow design, or something like the crown shape with no gem embed, to represent his situation. It can be worn by males as modern accessory
Xiunv Ou(Lee’s best friend)
I am thinking of an eyeglass chain/glasses chain/spectacle chain to secure spectacle. It is something most people see as extra, but can be very useful at times. Originally I used bracelet for her in the story, but on second thought I decided to change to this. It can be written as necklace/chain in the story, and in reality used as eyeglasses chain.
Empress Consort of Lihong(who was killed by Lee)
Xiunv Zhao(Arrogant concubine of the old Emperor who was abandoned)
A necklace pendant for each of them, because they are replaced by other people and only plays a trivial part in the story.
All images in this article are taken from shanghaitang.com, unless specified otherwise.
I went both the store and its online website for some inspiration. I love some of its items as they are so modern looking yet they have some Chinese traditional elements.
Take the bracelet for example. it is a simple bangle with Shou or Fu or Xi, the auspicious Chinese characters on it. The overall design of the bangle is quite commonly seen, Hermes have something pretty similar.
All above images are from Shanghai Tang official website
the color of the bangle if of the customer’s choice. I personally like the snakeskin material as it looks more high class and sophisticated compared to solid color.
Some other interesting jewelries from Shanghai Tang official website:
I couldn’t list all of them down, but from what I selected we can see the elements designer put into the jewelries–cloud pattern, Chinese Ancient coin(铜钱), Chinese characters, fan, tassels, red thread, peonies, etc.
I am also attracted by its apparels and bags:
I like the leather jacket, which is so cool, so modern chic, but still have the traditional patterns/motifs printed on it. leather+tradition
The black and white Qipao in the second picture(the left) is something I would buy as well(if I have enough $ ha), I wouldn’t feel old fashioned in it although it is a qipao, the material, the shimmer and the monochrome make it wearable even for fashionable young ladies.
The black bag with cloud patterns reminds me of Gucci Jackie bag:
Anway, speaking of Gucci, its 2016 new designs is another style worth mentioning because they started to incorporate embroideries and floral paintings, which is so fascinating, playful, and traditional-modern.
However, Gucci mainly uses literal patterns while Shanghai Tang puts more elements in the designs. For example, the buttons of the men’s jacket(burgundy color) is the traditional button used in Tang Zhuang, the standing collar of men’s suit is also a subtle representation of Chinese style.
I also admire how the ladies match the attire withankle boots. Recently i have growing interest in booties because they can instantly play up the outfit by adding boy-ish chic to the style. They are heels that are not that feminine, and it shows the character of the person once you change heels to boots! Matching boots with Qipao in the advertisement making the whole outfit even more “in”, youthful, and stylish.
Below are the photos I SECRETLY took when I went to Shanghai Tang shop(Raffles City):
So they have not only apparels, jewelries, but also cups, chopsticks, wine stopper, etc.
Beautiful china with intricate patterns. Again reminds me of Hermes. Apparently not only Hermes does great stuff, although it is the most famous one.
Interesting Item! Because the featured person is the last Emperor of Qing Dynasty, a.k.a the last Emperor of China–Puyi, and his favorite concubine who is believed to be murdered by Empress Dowager Cixi. The style is Andy Warhol but the theme is so China. Like how it was played around Chairman Mao, etc.
Chopsticks and chopstick pillow(that’s the direct translation from Chinese). The prints and details make the items so much more high class. Of course, the presentation as well. I don’t think I will ever use it if I buy it back.
Chopsticks again, with Chinese Zodiac heads. They become art pieces instead of utensils. They even have their own pedestal, the presentation makes it look like some ceremonial stuff. The box for the chopstick is also so well designed or overly designed. Just like all the perfume bottles, although the smell of the perfume is the most important factor but companies still spend so much money and effort on the bottles. It is the whole package that matters.
The design of the display wardrobe has strong Chinese influence as well. The Chinese Knot中国结 , the wooden frame, red and golden color. etc.
i hope after simplify and refining my designs, my jewelries can also be modern-chic yet have the sense of tradition.
Another 5 years has passed. Our son is almost 7 years old now. He is as smart as his mother, and as beautiful as her mother. My Empress Consort and Imperial Noble Consort have not creating troubles for me and have kept family affairs very organized. Probably because Lee is more decisive and My Empress Consort Wong is more obedient and soft-tempered. Lee has helped Empress Consort a lot, if not for her, the Empress Consort might get a lot of disrespect due to her quiet nature.
I have health problem since young, sometimes I am too weak to read all the memorials from officials, and Lee will help me read, even write the comments according to my will. Over time, I would allow her to comment on her own will, and inform me afterwards the issue. She has guided me about states affairs even before I became the emperor anyway.
Everything goes well until one day, a devastating news came to me—my Empress Dowager had a sudden death. There was no signs, i was till talking to her last week. The Imperial doctor says she died of disease. Although there was not much love between me and her, she has always been a good wife and a good Empress Consort. She made no mistakes and has always been supportive of me. What I can do for her now is giving her a decent funeral, and take care of her family.
The death of Empress Consort Wong leaves the position empty, and as everyone expects, Lee is soon promoted to the new Empress Consort. She has what it takes to be in that position, furthermore, she has given birth to my only son. No one can doubt her status.
As former Empress Consort just passed away, the ceremony for the new Empress Consort Lee’s titling is kept simple. Nevertheless Lee still has her phoenix crown as custom. The gold phoenix is so huge compared to her slim figure, as if it is pressing her down. Lee has reached 31 years old. She walks slowly but steadily in her heavy costume. her Bianfang is embed with coral. She looks powerful—and she IS. Sometimes I feel she is more powerful than me, she is the one connecting with the officials and suppressing the royal clans. She is the one telling me the policies I should implement for the best of my country. Sometimes I feel she is the real Emperor, I am only her assistant. Maybe all these years I never change, I am still the young prince who cares no more than my paintings and music, and my loved ones.
Few months later, a servant came to me and report that she saw something the night before Empress Consort Wong’s death. She says that she accidentally saw Ou, Lee’s best friend, secretly put something into Empress Consort’s food. She wasn’t sure what she put but after that night, Empress Consort Wong died a sudden death. She was so scared that she would be involved so she has kept the secret until now.
Can’t deny that the idea came to my mind after the death of Wong, but I chose not to believe. Even if it was Lee who poisoned Wong, I can’t afford to punish her now as I need her to assist me in states affairs, and the country can’t afford to lose two Empress Consort in few months.
However…Since the servant has come to report, I have to do something about it. I can’t declare war with Lee, and I don’t want to. AI still love her although she is not the Noble Lady Lee I knew anymore. I need to keep the peace between us.
After some thoughts I decide to take investigation of the incident, which is just a disguise in my plan. I then blame everything on Ou, who ‘wants to help her best friend on her own will, while Lee has no idea about her plot’. I gave her death punishment. I know Lee would be heartbroken–but she won’t object my decision as she knows it is the only way to keep her safe. Ou, on the other hand, is truly a good friend of Lee and has taken all the responsibilities on herself. So I decide to take care of her family after her death. Before her last day, she takes down her necklace and gives it to Lee, as a memento for her.
Instead of saying the country is under my reign, I’d rather say it is Lee’s reign. She has organized everything so orderly and nicely. The royal clans have submitted countless memorials to point arrows at her, but without her, I can’t lead the country well. Maybe after my death, she will guide the young emperor as well, or even take full control…Still I can’t order her death because I need her to fight with the royal clans and some other Officials who are trying to control the young emperor. The power need to be balanced…Until one day the new emperor is capable enough to handle all the issues on his own.
But for now, she has the power, and my love, to keep her status safe and sound.
After all the research I finally start to write my own cheesy story about Emperor, Empress and concubines. I would narrate the story in the perspective of the SON OF THE EMPEROR who later ascend to throne after his father’s early death. It makes sense as he would be someone witness all what happened. It is gonna to be a brief story, compared to the 60-episode Chinese drama, but would be sufficient to present all the jewelries in the collection. Story can be altered depending on my final designs.
However this is just the draft so a lot of things I have not made up my mind such as the names of the concubines, emperors, etc.
Before starting the main part, here is some background of my story. The hierarchy of the concubines of Emperor follows the late Qing Dynasty system(Top down):
皇后Queen Consort x 1
皇贵妃 Imperial Noble Consort x 1
贵妃Noble Conosort 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
Girls selected from the triennial beauty pageant will start from the title of Noble Lady, skipping the Attendant and Repliant. The contestant of the pageant, before being selected, is called Xiunv秀女.
Chapter 1-Emperor’s new concubines
Every 3 years there will be a nation-wide beauty pageant to select new concubines for the Emperor. The indirect relatives of imperial family, as well as the families of government officials are required to send their daughters when they reach the age of 13. This year, the daughter of official Lee is 13, and thus, is sent to the Palace for the selection. Lee’s mother feels so anxious and reluctant to leave her daughter, as she knows the intense rivalries in the Palace can torture her daughter for the rest of her life. Lee has unparalleled beauty for her age, and mother is sure that her daughter will be selected as Emperor’s concubine. However, my father(the Emperor) is already 38 years old this year–older than Official Lee. Thinking of daughter becoming the concubine of someone that is 25 years older than her, the mother can’t stop sobbing.
Lee, however, shows more excitement than anxious. She has heard so much about the luxurious life inside the Palace. the endless jewelries and delicacies. She wants to be part of it, she wants all the attentions and respect. She has no idea about how she is going to achieve it, she only knows that she will gain what she wants one day.
On the day of departure, Lee’s mother gave her a 簪zan, telling her that she is going to become a lady soon, not a little girl anymore. This Zan has very simple design, as Lee’s family is not well off, and Lee’s mother hopes that Lee can always remember her root and her family.
Finally, 秀女Xiunv Lee is sent to the Palace, together with the daughters from other families. Lee’s mother has also appointed a girl servant for Lee, to take care of her. Among other families there is Xiunv Ou, who is the best friend of Lee. And Xiunv Zhao, who is the daughter of first rank official Zhao, and is a spoilt princess of the wealthy family. Although she was only a 13 years old Xiunv, she can afford to give tips to a lot of servants in the Palace, so as to build up her network. Like Lee, Zhao’s mother also gives her a piece of jewelry. However, hers is much more delicate and expensive-looking, with dangling tassels–a Buyao步摇.
All the Xiunvs were settled in a small courtyard, each is assigned with one room and one servant. Of course, Zhao gets the best room and the most obedient servant. So their life in the Palace starts. None of them have met my father (the Emperor), and all are excited about it.
The first time i see these girls is at the Imperial Garden. They are around the same age as me. I can’t tell which xiunv is from which family, but it doesn’t matter to me, because only those are selected will be my father’s concubine—my step-mother, although as I said, we are at same age.
Soon the selection day arrives. The selection is always very straight forward. Grandma, the Empress Dowager, will hint my dad on who to select. She always favors the girls from her own clan, or from her relatives family. As for the girls from her opponents’ family, they never get selected in the pageant, ending up all becoming the servants in the Palace. That is why, rumor says that those family always send fake daughters to the pageant, so their real daughters will not suffer and become servants for decades. If Xiunvs are not selected by the Emperor, they will be released out of the Palace only after 25-30 years old.
I get to witness all these because grandma wants me to learn about the customs. As expected, Xiunv Zhao is selected first. She is from Official Zhao’s family, certainly she will become my father’s concubine–Official Zhao is so close to grandma. Xiunv Zhao–Or Noble Lady Zhao now, has presentable look. However her attitude is so arrogant. But I guess no one can do anything about it, she has her father, and my grandma as backing, even my father doesn’t like her much, she will have her place in the family.
After the first Noble Lady is selected. the rest is more flexible for my father. As long as they are not from the opponent’s family, my grandma will close one eye. So normally the prettier ones are selected. My father picked this girl, I did not know her name at that time, but she is stunning. Her beauty stands out in all the Xiunvs. On her hair there is a simple Zan with minimum decorations. Later I learnt that she is from Official Lee’s family. After her there is another girl selected, which I did not pay attention to. I am mesmerized by Lee’s beauty, so much that I hope they were selecting girls for me, not my father. I always wonder why father needs so many concubines, he did not have time to meet all of them. I guess some of the step-mothers have not seen my father for years. The Palace is immense, and lonely. I see nothing fun being a concubine, especially when she is not favored by my father. It is just a sad life.
All the Xiunvs beings elected are now Noble Ladies, and they get to move into better place, with better attires and some more accessories. The nect time I see them, they are wearing flowery Chai and Huasheng. Lee is so pretty with her new look, even she was not given the best items. Nevertheless, their Palace life begins and so does my story with Lee.
The hierarchy of Emperor’s wife can be very complicated across Chinese History. During different Dynasties,the titles of the hierarchy can be very different. Some Dynasties have very sophisticated rankings and categories while others have simplified systems. The rankings of the wives can be equal to political status in the Imperial Court, although they are not allowed to interfere political affairs. Different rankings receives different salaries, daily supplies, accommodations, and the number of servant, etc. And of course, their attire and accessories can be quite different.
For detailed information about the hierarchies across different dynasties(if you are interested), refer to this linkhttp://baike.baidu.com/view/97819.htm(Chinese) or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranks_of_imperial_consorts_in_China(English). Even I am a Chinese and I learnt about Chinese History, I still find the information overwhelming and hard to digest at one go. So let’s try not to swallow everything. Instead, I prefer to select more typical dynasties or historical figures as the guideline.
Speaking of the most famous women that rise from bottom to the top in power, there are only few to take note on, and each of them are from different dynasties. In fact many Chinese Dramas and movies have depicted their stories, with some imaginations and fantasies. There is one thing we need bear in mind, that all the stories we know about ancient Chinese and stories are derived from historical documentations, which is very limited and simplified in ancient Chinese language. A story can be as short as one sentence. So there are a lot of guessing, imagination, and ‘retouching’ on that one sentence to give an intriguing and complete story. We can only say that historians are trying their best to stick to the truth of history, but no one can be 100% sure about what happened in details hundreds thousands years ago.
What I believe is, art creation itself demands imagination and innovation. It is not a textbook for history student or scholars. As long as it does not go against the overall history, a little bit of ‘retouching’ can add fun to the design. Just like no movie is completely real even it says ‘based on a true story’. With this idea in mind, let’s look at the few famous women that rose from bottom to top power(as the emperor’s wife)–Wu Zetian(The Chinese Empress) and Cixi, the Empress Dowager. I chose these two women because they are no doubt the most famous two ladies, and their stories happened during Tang Dynasty and Qing Dynasty respectively, where the system for choosing the wives of Emperor are comparably refined. In addition, both of them not only rose to the top position for women but also, their power was higher than men at then.
The Story of Wu Zetian 武则天
Wu Zetian is also known as the Empress Consort Wu, Empress Wu, was a Chinese sovereign who ruled unofficially as empress consort and empress dowager and later, officially as Empress Regnant during the brief Zhou Dynasty(684-705), which interrupted the Tang Dynasty(618-690&705-907). Wu was the only Empress Regnant of China in more than four millennia.
She was the concubine of Emperor Taizong(reign 626-649)。 After his death, she married his succesor-his ninth son, Emperor Gaozong(reign 649-683), later officially became Gaozong’s Empress Consort(皇后),The highest ranking of all the wives, in 655. She had considerable political power even prior to her Empress Consort title. After Gaozong’s debilitating stroke in 660, Wu Zetian became administrator of the Court, a position equal as Emperor, until 705.
Her rankings and titles through out the years:
Wu Zetian was born in a rich family, in 624 AD
才人Cairen:637 AD, 14 years old, became the concubine of Taizong, title 才人 cairen, ranking of one of consorts with the fifth rank(五品 fifth Pin) in Tang’s nine-rank system for Imperial officials, nobles, and consorts.
Buddhist Nun: Emperor Taizong died in 649, while Wu did not have any son of his, she had to be permanently confined to a monastic institute after emperor’s death, according to Tang’s custom.
昭仪 Zhaoyi：652 AD, Wu was 27 years old. The son of Gaozong, who became the Emperor after his father’s death, decided to bring Wu back to the palace as his concubine(Although Gaozong was effectively Wu’s step–son) and gave her the title of Zhaoyi, which is the highest ranking of thenine concubines of second rank(二品2nd Pin). Wu progressly gained more and more influence over the governance of the empire throughout Emperor Gaozong’s reign, and eventually she effectively was making the major decisions. She was regarded as ruthless in her endeavors to grab power and was believed even to have killed her own daughter to frame Empress Consort Wang(and later, her own eldest son Li Hong), in a power struggle.
皇后Empress Consort: 655 AD. After the power struggle and rivalries against Empress Consort Wang and Consort Xiao, Wu finally became the new Empress Consort of Gaozong. Later this year, former Empress Consort Wang and Consort Xiao were killed on orders by the new Empress Consort Wu after Emperor Gaozong showed signs of considering their release from arrest. During her years as Empress Consort, she actively gained allies and eliminated officials who had opposed her ascension.
天皇天后Imperial Emperor and Empress：660 AD, Emperor Gaozong suffered from illness and began to have Empress Consort Wu make rulings on petitions made by officials. It was said Wu had quick reactions and understood both literature and history, and therefore, she was making correct rulings. Thereafter, her authority rivaled Emperor Gaozong’s. Slowly, Gaozong became aware of Wu’s increasing power however, he could not stop Wu effectively.
皇太后Empress Dowager：683 AD. Emperor Gaozong passed away, his son with Wu, Li Xian, ascend to the imperial throne, became Emperor Zhongzong. Wu thus became the Empress Dowager, title for the mother of Emperor. However, Zhongzong only had a short 6 weeks of reign. As he showed signs of disobeying Empress Dowager Wu, Wu deposed him and replaced him with her younger son, Li Dan, becaming Emperor Ruizong.
Although Li Dan carried the title of Emperor, Wu was the actual ruler, both in substance and appearance. She did not even follow the customary pretense of hiding behind a screen or curtain, and in whispers issued commands for the nominal ruler to formally announce(垂帘听政). Ruizong never moved into the imperial quarters, appeared at no imperial function, and remained a virtual prisoner in the inner quarters.
称帝 Empress Regnant：690 AD. Wu had Emperor Ruizong yield the throne to her and established the Zhou Dynasty(武周), with her named as the ruler. She gave herself the title 圣神皇帝(Supreme Imperial Emperor).Traditional Chinese order of succession sis not allow a woman to ascend the throne, but Wu Zetianwas determined to quash the opposition and the use of the secret police did not subside, but continued, after her taking the throne.
Removal and Death: by 705AD, Wu became seriously ill. In Febrary, Wu passed her throne to Li Xian, Emperor Ruizong. Ruizong honored her with the title of Empress Regnant Zetian Dasheng(则天大圣皇帝). On 3rd March, Tang Dynasty was restored, ending the Zhou. Wu passed away on 16th December 705,and pursuant to a final edict issued in her name, was no longer referred to as Empress Regnant, but instead as Empress Consort Zetian Dasheng(则天大圣皇后).
Let us look at the attires of Wu Zetian at her different stage of life.
When she was only 14, as a contestant in beauty peagent 秀女, she has very simple hairstyle, with two buns on each side of the head, called 双环重髻 the double loop bun, usually used by unmarried girls, with minimal hair accessories. The hair accessory is Chai钗 (refer to previous post about traditional Chinese hair accessories link:https://oss.adm.ntu.edu.sg/tzhao002/tag/chinese-hairstyle/).
After she was selected by Emperor Taizong and entitled Cairen, ranking fifth Pin, she has better ans slightly more hair accessories. Her hairstyle also changed. Her hair was splited into two sides and shaped like two loops on top of head, called 双环望仙髻 the ‘double loop fairy-watching bun’. This is a very popular style during Tang Dynasty. Her hair accessories now have not only Chai钗， but also Dian 钿, and tassels that resemble Buyao步摇.
When she was called back from Buddhist Temple and became the concubine of Gaozong, she was entitled 昭仪 Zhaoyi, 2nd Pin. It was a great leap in hierarchy. At this stage, her accessories are much more elaborated and luxurious.
In the first picture, her hairstyle is called 盘桓髻 Linger Bun, with all her hair gathered at the top first, then linger upwards, with a flat top. Then decorated with 篦Bi infront(the comb-like accessory), Chai钗(long pin with decorations) and Buyao步摇(pin with tassels) at sides, and some Dian钿(decorative flowery pin).
In the second picture, the hairstyle is same as Cairen style, the ‘doule loop fairy-watching bun’. However, there are more accessories, making her more demure, wealthy-looking, and high class.
The makeup in first picture is also a typical style during Tang Dynasty. It is called 梅花妆 the plum flower makeup, with plum flower motif at the middle of forehead.
Generally at Zhaoyi stage, her accessories are elaborated and flowery, colorful, and still has the youthfulness.
After she took down all her enemies and became the Empress Consort of Emperor Gaozong, her attire became even more flamboyant.
Her hairstyle is called 回鹘椎髻(literal translate as Hui Hu spine bun)
Hair accessories are excessive on her head. Chai, Dian, Buyao, Dian, Huasheng(forehead accessory), mostly golden in color, with some coral. The material are more costly, the amount of material used increased drastically. Also. Phoenix pattern are more obvious. Red and Yellow is the main colors. In addition, only the wife, not concubine, can wear scarlet color, as shown in the picture below.
Finally, she became the Empress Regnant, or the female Empress.
The hairstyle is called 高髻 high bun. the hair accessory is becoming more unisex, with less flowers and a throne same as previous male Emperors, with gold Chai at sides. Gold is the main color, giving the impression of supreme power. As she was already at the age of 67, her accessories are not as flowery and colorful anymore. She is matured ans experienced in handling all affairs of states and life. She did not need to dress prettily to impress any Emperor as she herself is the highest power. She only need to dress LIKE A BOSS.
There are many other hairstyles in Tang Dynasty, I cannot count and introduce one by one. The general trend is the higher position the person is at, the more elaborated one’s accessories will be. The color of gold and red is a symbol of power, and can only be used at certain position. Also, the use of phoenix and dragon pattern is very strictly classified.
Before I start my article, here is an eye-opening video of different marriage traditions of varies ethnic groups in China. China has 56 ethnic groups, among which 91.59% are Han, and the rest 8.41% are people of the other 55 ethnic groups(according to the Fifth National Population Census of the People’s Republic of China in 2000). Different ethnic groups have different customs. In Chinese history, the ethnic group of the ruling party accounts for the etiquette across the country. For example, during Qing Dynasty, the ruling family is Man ethnic group(满族), thus the costume style and accessory style, as well as the customs they practice all go according to Man traditions.
Video source: YouTube channel no009<Documentary-Amazing Marriage Customs-China Anthropology 101> Published on 25th October 2013
To stick to my topic of jewelry, let’s look at the accessory aspect of these wedding traditions.
5’15”–“Usually bride’s veil is lifted after the ceremony, but here the bride uncovers her face before the ceremony starts. That is when the bride and the groom first set eye on each other.”The red veil is a tradition and rule in ancient China, which also contains the element of surprise–although back then it probably wasn’t the main purpose.
33’14”–The Ainis of Xishuangbanna, is a branch of Hani ethnic group. 34’35”–Their costumes are designed to show off their most important features. They use silver, ribbon and lace, as well as nature objects such as flower seeds, shells, and even beetles. The girls will process the beetles before wearing them on hair. When girl reaches the age of 18, she wears yellow cap; married girls wear black caps.(Use accessory to represent their status and identity)
1:09’30” when Ethinc group Miao(苗族) girls and guys are looking for partner, the boys will blow Sheng(芦笙), a traditional music instrument, while the girls dance around them. If a girl likes a boy, she will put her necklace onto the his Sheng. Miao people adore and are professional in silver jewelries because the region is abundant in silver. Even to date, many Chinese people and tourist of other countries visit Miao district and purchase silver accessories. During wedding day, Miao girls wear a great amount of silver jewelries on them, usually the more the merrier, to show the good blessing.
However, Miao is only a minority ethnic group in China. Majority of the Chinese nowadays are Han people, which traditionally uses gold jewelries, red wedding gowns, etc, as we seen in many Chinese movies and drama.
Nowadays there are still some jewelry related traditions in Chinese wedding.
For example, in Cantonese traditions, there is hair combing ceremony(梳头shutou). Hair combing session expressed the bless of female family members to the couple:
一梳、梳到尾(First combing, blessed to be together to the end)
二梳、百年好合(Second combing, blessing for a hundred years of harmony in your marriage)
三梳、子孙满堂(Third combing, be blessed with a houseful of children and grandchildren)
四梳、白发齐眉(Fourth combing, be blessed with longevity)
A sweet dessert soup containing pink glutinous-rice balls(汤圆pinyin: tangyuan, Cantonese:tongyuhn) is served after the hair combing ceremony to wish the couple a complete and sweet marriage.
In Teochew traditions, 四点金si dian jin(four pieces of gold)is an important part of betrothal gift to the bride. Usually the four pieces of gold jewelries are necklace, a pendent or ring, a pair of earrings and a bangle. It is selected by the groom’s mother and is presented to the bride durng the tea ceremony(when the groom arrives at bride’s house to fetch her).Usually, the design of the Si Dian Jin is cloud patterns, phoenix, dragon, and some suapicious floral designs, indicating that the groom and bride are heavenly couple like dragon and phoenix (龙凤配)。
Si Dian Jin id the name of a traditional architecture style, a four-pointed curved roof found in traditional homes. The jewelries symbolizes a blissful union in a secure home.
Gold jewelries with red wedding gowns create a very vivid, vibrant and auspicious atmosphere in Chinese wedding. Red is for joyful occasions in the culture, and gold is a symbol of wealth, fortune. In fact gold jewelries are still so popular during wedding in modern China, as a way to respect to customs, also a way to show off wealth. In some part of GuangDong province in China, “Golden Bride” has become increasingly popular. On the wedding day, the bride is adorned with excessive gold jewelries such as necklaces, bracelets, bangles, rings, ankle chains, etc. From far the bride would look like a girl made of gold, thus is called “golden bride”. Besides showing off the wealth, this also symbolizes “locking up” the bride so the bride will not run away and will be obedient in the groom’s family.
As we can see here, the gold bangles are wore as necklece on the bride. The accessories are not meant to make the bride visually beautiful anymore, it is a mean to show wealth, to attract auspicious vibes, even the jewelries may not make the girl look objectively prettier or elegant. The family just pile up everything they can onto the girl, to make her look burdened, clumsy, as they believe this is good for the marriage.
The double joy“囍”
The double joy character is so iconic and recognizable that one sight you know it is a Chinese style wedding. You can find countless different designs of the double joy on internet. During Chinese New Year, Chinese families paste inverted “福(good vibes)” in and outside their house. During Chinese weddings, Chinese families paste 囍. Although it is not a piece of jewelry in wedding, it could be cooperated into the elements of jewelries.
SINGAPOREBRIDES.com https://singaporebrides.com/articles/2000/11/combing-the-hair-and-other-chinese-wedding-traditions/ last access 1st September 2016
Weddingplannersingapore.net http://weddingplannersingapore.net/wedding-planning-101/traditional-chinese-wedding-guide/hair-combing-ritual-shang-tou/ last access 1st September 2016
Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_pre-wedding_customs last access 1st September 2016
Gold, dragons, phoenix, all these elements can clearly show the sense of “Chinese”. However, it also shows some cliche, and may not be suitable for younger generation. Take myself as an example, I would not wear a gold accessory with dragon and phoenix because it makes me look outdated, old-fashioned, and overly mature. If I want my designs to be accepted by younger generation who pursuit fashion and style, the jewelry must not look “old”. It can have the elements of traditional Chinese style but it should not look totally traditional–in other words, it should express tradition in a modern way. All the wedding jewelries and Si Dian Jin available now in jewelry shops are meant to be worn during wedding, not as a fashion accessory, which is a challenge that I want to overcome.
Here is some jewelry brand and design that I personally like. They may not be very relevant to the idea of traditional Chinese style but they can give me inspirations on jewelry designs, sensual designs, and how jewelries can make the owner pretty, elegant, or sexy, instead of just being a beautiful jewelry itself. The act of wearing the jewelry pieces can bring both the jewelry and the person alive. I admire how they combine different texture or material together, each brand has its own unique style and characteristics, and how they complement user’s overall aura.
I am really in love with how Suzanne Kalan uses asymmetrical and organic shapes to make delicate and think-out-of-box kind of designs.
Delfina Delettrez is very quirky, the jewelry incorporate daring motifs such as eyes, lips, skeletons, to instantly add characteristics to the wearer, and add fun elements to plain outfit.
Jennifer Meyer has amazing details in her designs. Although the designs are simple and small, they are extremely elegant and sexy. Very fine diamond paved pendant with turquoise instantly attract people’s attention. The striking color of the natural material combined with gold gives a high class yet casual feeling.
Ippolita makes great use of different gems and its intriguing light reflection characteristics. The designs are so fancy because of the transparency of the stones, and the range of colors in one design. Weither is contrasting color or similar tones, they are all so well combined to please one’s eye. The precious gem and their light transparency make the jewelry “breathable”, visually light, and gives the atmosphere of delight.
Fine curvy lines with micro paved diamond simply makes an haute-couture, high-fashion kind of statement. The design is so delicate that it maximize the elegance and sexiness of human body. The design is also very visually light, emphasizes all the desirable female traits. Of course, diamonds are girls’ best friends.
Stephen Webster have wild and brave designs. The designs always take inspirations from fairy tales, animals, plants, and the designer is not afraid of using bold colors. It has Disney Story collections, sea creature collections. The designs are very recognizable, with designers’ great master over colored stones, the ombre designs are so well paved that you almost cant realize that they are individual embed stones. Every his design looks like having a story to tell.
KAVANT & SHARART-http://kavantandsharart.com/
I like how the designer plays the idea of void, making use of the empty space to create the lightness and tension for the jewelry. This is very prominent when the jewelries are worn, as can see from the image below, the jewelry “floats” on fingers and ears, in a very elegant and demure way. The smooth and sexy curves of the designs also make it very appealing on and off human body.
Kimberly McDonald’s jewelries are simply mesmerizing. Geode, Opal, Calcite, Aquamarine…All the fancy colored natural stones with their organic shape, sit inside the ‘halo’ of micro diamond, it is the amalgamation of disorder and order, natural and artificial. Moreover, the diamond halo sometimes are of different sizes, definitely gives me some surprise. There is some playfulness in the design, and something that is so attractive that makes me cant take my eyes off the pieces. It is almost like there is a universe in each of its jewelry.
Irene Neuwirth plays a lot with colors and opals. It has some designs that are similar with Kimberly McDonald. However, Irene Neuwirth can be more youthful. One of the iconic designs is its color gradient necklaces.
Jacquie Aiche is pure sexiness. The jewelries are so small but they speak so loud. A little bit goes a long way. Just a little details glorifies the beauty of skin and body, the subtle sparkles creates mystery and sophisticated aura.
Qeelin is a great example of the combination of eastern elements witrh western material. Diamond is obviously not something traditional Chinese jewelry uses. However, designer uses micro pave method and put diamond onto traditional Chinese motifs, objects, such as lion-dance lion, bells, Chinese coins, Chinese lock, hulu(gourd), Chinese Zodiac. Although the subject matters are very traditional, the overall design is still versatile and fashionable, maybe due to it’s small size and the not-over-yellowish-gold color. This brand is now very popular in China and among celebrities, as it is very recognizable, youthful, playful and shows our Chinese identity.
YUN YUN SUN–http://www.yun-yun-sun.com/
Aimee Sun, Yun Yun Sun, is a Taiwanese Socialite and entrepreneur. She started her jewelry lines as a hobby and designs very interesting, unique pieces. My favorite collection is her Nonsense collection, as show below. She make many different sentences directly into necklace, ring, and earring. The sentences and words are far from formal. There are many necklaces from other designers says”hello””Happiness” or some popular slogan, but those are so cliche and commonly seen. I always want something more “me”, more naughty, more playful and makes deeper impression on people. This is the collection where I found myself, find something that can represents me, not everyone. I have purchased dozens of her jewelry from nonsense collection and they do attract a lot of attentions and fun from my friends. More importantly, Yun Yun Sun uses Chinese words and sentences, which is rarely seen in any jewelry design. This brings out my Chinese identity efficiently. The Chinese sentences such as “不要一直偷看我(don’t keep peeping at me)”“有奶有脑(boobs and brain)”“我怎么可以这么美(How can I be so beautiful)” are the best statement of Chinese identity and personal characters, because obviously, the use of Chinese language and humor is all written in the small pieces.
All jewelry pictures above are from yun-yun-sun.com
Design is not copying, but design always needs inspiration. I wish I can take inspiration from modern designers and create something, as I mentioned many times, traditional yet fashionable and wearable…Although I am still currently overwhelmed by so much information and still finding my entry point..