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.
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.
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.
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.
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 three years of mourning, Lee is 23 years old already. I decided to bring her back to the Imperial family-not as my father’s widow, but as MY consort. I know there will be a lot of discussions and objections, but I don’t really care about them. I am the Emperor and as long as I handle the states matter right, no one can question my reign.
I am bringing her back…She used to be my father’s Noble Consort, I want to give her something more than that, to show her that she will be having a better life with me. As I already have a wife, and she has become the Empress Consort, the highest position available now is Imperial Noble Consort. That would be the title for Lee. Finally she is my woman.
On the day of ceremony, she dresses up in the ceremonial attire. She reminds me of my mother who passed away decade ago. My mother used to be an Imperial Noble Consort of my father. She is wearing a Dianzi钿子, with phoenix pattern on one side, and flower patter on the opposite. Pearls, gems, jade..anything nice and luxurious I would give her to show everyone her status, and my love for her. The tassels move as she walks, making her even more demure and elegant. She can’t wear scarlet dress as she is not the Empress Consort. Her dress is bright yellow, the brightest yellow can be as she is the highest among all concubines.
Now she is my Imperial Noble Consort. It is like my dream come true. I respect my Empress Consort as well, she is kind and understanding, and she never show any objection in the new Imperial Noble Consort. But we were married because my father asked me to do so, not because I liked her. Anyway that is how marriage is usually arranged, by parents. Nevertheless, she will be kept as my Empress Consort, and I will provide Lee whatever I can to make her life no less than the Empress Consort.
I hope my Empress Consort and Imperial Noble Consort can get along well.
The following year, Lee is expecting our first child. I was over the moon!I almost wanted to immediately assign the kid as the successor, but I know I shouldn’t. This time, Lee gave birth to the child smoothly and the kid is kept safe after birth. I will not let Lee lose a son ever again.
In the Imperial household, having a son is like having a amulet, Lee’s status is unparalleled as my Empress Consort did not have any kid with me. Meanwhile, Lee has wide connection with the noble man in the court, as we planned before. We have been suppressing all the royal clans and promoting capable peoples who do not have strong family background.Meritocracy is more emphasized.
I have to admit that I can’t handle all the state affairs without Lee, although I am not supposed to let my concubine to learn about any court issues. She is more vigilant, decisive, and farsighted than me. She can always think of a comprehensive solution faster and better than me.
Lee has a best friend Ou, who was my father’s Xiunv but never get selected as a concubine. I allow her to visit Lee as she wishes, and sometimes stay over at Lee’s palace. Lee also has a servant from her family that has been with her since she first came to Palace. It is good that Lee has some real friends in this lonely and complicated place.
Another year passed, our son is one year old now. One day, Lee approached me and asked for a favor–she wants me to appoint marriage for her servant. I permitted her request and appoint her servant to a high rank Official’s son. Soon after which, her servant is sent out of the Palace to her new home. On the day of departure, Lee gave her a gold bracelet and some money personally. After that day, I have never seen her again. I never ask Lee why she wants to send the servant away, maybe she feels that the servant has done her duty and deserves a better life afterwards, or maybe asked Lee to do her the favor—I am not sure, as long as Lee is happy about it.
(what happened is that Lee realized her servant always dolls up whenever she knows that she is going to meet the Emperor. Slowly Lee found out that her servant secretly wants so attract Emperor’s attention and is fantasizing about becoming a concubine herself. Lee can not tolerate the servant’s betrayal so she request to send her out of the Palace. Marriage is just an excuse to kill the servant’s hope. Lee still shows mercy to the servant as she as accompany her so decade, and thus find her a good family)
Lee assists Empress Consort on daily affairs in the Imperial household. Although I continue to have new concubines from the triennial pageant, I never neglect Lee because of the new girls. As an emperor I have to take more concubines so to give birth to more children, and thus will have more choice in selecting my successor. It is a bless and a curse. I hope the rivalries between my children and my concubines next time wont be so cruel.
Lee told me I need to gain my father’s trust in a very discreet way, so that my siblings wouldn’t suspect anything or point their arrows to me. At the same time, I should show no interests in competing for the throne—until the very last moment where I supposed to act reluctant but no choice in accepting the grant. All is to protect me, and to ensure the plan is carried out smoothly.
At the end of every month, my father would meet me and test my study progress. I never liked that day as I always put little effort in things that I was not interested in. This month, as usual, my father came again. He brought along some of his states report and was going to question me about some current issues. Little did he know, that I have already memorized by heart all the answers of the possible questions, as Lee taught me. Lee also told me that these answers were not the perfect answers and that my father surely would have something to add on. However, these answers were good enough to impress my father of my progress without overdoing it. As expected, my father asked me about the flood in the south, and I replied him with what I memorized–lowering tax, send refugee supply, etc . He was very impressed, that I started to pay attention to states issues and started to have my opinions. Of course I didn’t, it all was Lee. And all these my brothers didn’t know.
The second time was my fathers birthday. Every year, all the princes would prepare a gift for father to wish him longevity. All along I have given the task to my servant and ask them to get the task done. This year, Lee was my adviser. I thought she was going to present something very expensive or rare, but she didn’t. She told me that a lot of things need to be considered. If we prepare a very expensive gift, it would be suspicious as I am not supposed to be so wealthy even though I am a prince, furthermore, as an Emperor, my father would not be lacking expensive things. If we present something is very rare, that means we have put a lot of effort in preparing the gift, which should not be the main focus of a prince as we are supposed to be studying and worrying about states issues. The gift must be of appropriate amount of effort, value, and most importantly, shows love to my father. In the end, Lee chose an unused item of my own—a jade flute. My father loves music as well, but not as much as I do. The jade flute was a treasure of mine although it is not very expensive. I had kept it nicely as my most favored item. Lee says giving my most favorite item to my father is the best way to show my love as a son to a father, this gift was definitely not a competition with my brothers, but my father would love it very much. As Lee had foreseen, my brothers have researched on my fathers hobbies and had presented the luxurious, rarest item they could find. But father seemed to be happiest when I present my humble gift. Lee said, nothing should be overdone. Meanwhile, my brothers regarded me as childish and naive.
Slowly, under the guidance of Lee, my father had increasing interests on me. I suppose he still wasn’t considering appointing me as the emperor to be, but things were promising. Meanwhile, Lee also helped the Noble officials gained my fathers trust, so they could participate more in important discussions and their opinions are heard. All was happening secretly until one year before my father’s passing away.
Father knew that his health was declining, and assigning the successor was of the top priority. Official Lin, who is an alliance of us, was giving suggestion to my father. My father surely wasn’t aware of what was happening among me, Lee and him. Official Lin advised my father the possibility of considering me as the successor, the reasons were similar to what Lee told me, that I was the only son of him that will let the brothers live peacefully for the rest of their life. And given that my knowledge and study has been improving, I should no longer be put out of the choices of candidates. That was, probably, the first time my father had this idea in his mind. That was the moment of change.
I did not know what Lee had told my father in the last one year, she must have done it so subtlety and carefully as women are not supposed to take part in any court affair. All I knew is that my father has kept his decision until the last moment of his life, maybe to prevent unnecessary rivalries among the brothers.
Everyone was kneeling outside my fathers bedroom, until his last breath. In the end, I became the new Emperor. So now I can save my brothers and most importantly, Lee…I suppose?
It is now the period for nation-wide mourning, people are to wear black and white clothes, and are not allowed to cut their hair, or organizing any type of celebration event. Lee is in her mourning attire as well, simple, minimal decoration, minimal makeup and accessories. Her accessories are all silver and white now-but she still shines in the crowd. According to customs, after the death of the Emperor, all concubines are to mourn for their husband and are to either become Buddhist nun, or stay lonely in the Palace for the rest of their life . However, I won’t let Lee be like that for long. After I consolidate my reign, I will bring her back… soon.
The three years before my fathers death, Lee contacted me through one of her servants. After meeting her, she told me that she wants to form alliance with me, in fighting with other princes and Officials. It was totally unexpected as I am the least possible person to be appointed as the new emperor. My father had never put hope on me as an emperor, neither did all my siblings. Furthermore, I myself had no ambition in the throne, or any intention to fight with my brothers. I was just weak, carefree, non-self driven..basically, I was still a kid inside. I did not know what Lee saw in me.
She looked so pale and unwell, the only same thing she had was that Zan簪 from her family. She dressed up very simply and low-profile. ” Li Hong”, she called me by name. It was the first time she actually talked to me face to face. I knew I only had a crush on her, it was nothing serious–in fact, it was not supposed to be happen. and I had no idea if she knows about it.
“Li Hong, I know you probably do not remember who I am” Of course I did, how not to remember her.”I had plan that is daring, and dangerous. I am telling you this because I trust that you are a kind and good kid, and I know you always wanted the best for all people. I am not forcing you into this plot, you can reject me if after hearing the plan you feel strongly against it.” She looked into my eyes,”We are going to make you the next emperor, I know you might have hundreds of questions in your mind now, but let me explain to you. You can be no less familiar with the infighting for throne and power. Your brothers are not like you, they crave for the title, and will eliminate anyone threatens their authority. Which is why if, anyone of your brother becomes the next emperor, he will kill the rest competitors. Your father probably is worrying about what would happen after his passed down his throne, that is why he never openly decide who is the crown prince.”
“HOWEVER, you are different. Your brothers never see you as a competitor, because they never expect you to fight against them for the throne, they see you as a little brother in the family. Your father did not see you as a future emperor so far, that is why you can survive and live peacefully for so many years in the palace.” She then stepped backwards and asked me firmly”Think about, if you are the future emperor, will you ever kill any of your brothers?” I shook my head, she continued, “The possibility of your brothers usurping the throne is much lower as well because they still have the brotherhood with you in their hearts.”I could not find any word to reply her at that moment, and I didn’t know what I wanted to say. So she carried on, “Of course, only you and me is not enough to even start the fight. My family is not a strong backing, and you have never expand your connection in the court. Currently, the politics is greatly controlled by the royal clans, Empress Dowager and relatives. We cant rival with them for now. We can only develop our own partisan. We can start from the minority group in the court that get into politics through hardworking, studying and Imperial examination. They are capable people who are always suppressed by the royal clans, and thus can never climb to high positions in the court. If we form alliance with this group of people, they will be loyal to you, and if we ever get power, it is beneficial for the nation’s future as the royal clans will not have the monopoly over politics anymore.”
“But I DON’t WANT TO BE THE EMPEROR.” I replied her, “I know nothing about politics, about states affairs, and my father never put hope on me. How to convince him, I cant’t even convince myself.”
“Then it is time for you to start learning! You are the son of the Emperor and you can never escape the obligation. You are expected to be outstanding and well taught in politics. If your country is in crisis you are supposed to step out and contribute. You don’t want to see your brothers kill each other do you?”
Maybe she was right, but I still had no confidence in all these, or maybe I was just not ready to be involved in the rivalry.
She seemed to know what I am thinking, so she added”You don’t need to worry about how to deal with or impress your father, I will teach you. In the mean time, I need to gain back his attention, so it is more reliable for the noble mans to form alliance with me and you. A favored Noble Consort with a prince, that would convince them. AND…” She came closer to me, “It was the only way I can survive in the Palace. You want to save ME, don’t you?”
Well, I found myself in no position to reject her. I did want to save her, I liked her so much. I did not really care about the throne or even the country, but I cared about her.
So the plot began…And I had the mission to impress my father. I was not as smart as Lee, she seemed to be planning about a lot of things, and I only need to do what she asked me to do.
Soon Lee had gain back my father’s interests. I guess it was not hard for her, as she was still so pretty and attractive, as long as she dolls up and try to please, I believe no man won’t fall prey. She was still the Noble Consort Lee, but everyone knew she can be an Imperial Noble Consort if she ever opens her mouth to my father.
the images in the story is mainly to make the article less boring. They are all from Chinese drama Empresses of the Palace, happened in Qing Dynasty. The costumes and accessories is applicable for my story’s background.
Chapter 2–The Empresses
When it comes to Imperial household there is always rivalries and fights for power. I do not know what exactly happened to all of the ladies but along the years there are people died, there are people missing, and of course, there are new born babies’ sudden death as well. I never think it is a bless to be born in such family, but I have no choice.
When the new Noble Ladies join the family, they probably will learn to survive in a hard way. Father is always busy with her states affairs and he seldom visits his ladies. The competition of who giving birth to a son faster and whose son is smarter is never ending. I know my brothers are competing with each other for father’s attention as well, but i am so not into all these drama. I just want to do the things I like, drawing, reading, and I don’t really care about the throne. Maybe that is why my brothers are not hostile to me, they treat me more like real siblings than competitors.
It seems that Noble Lady Zhao has privileges and she was the first who get summoned by my father among the new concubines. The next day I saw a lot of servants going to her palace with rewards granted by my father, as well as the gifts from other ladies. She is probably the one will get promoted soon. If I were my father, I would summon Lee instead, she is so much prettier than Zhao. But who knows, things can happen and nothing is for sure. A few days later, Noble Lady Zhao is promoted to Dame Zhao, one level up.
A few months later, I saw something happened when I walk pass the Imperial Garden. It seems that Dame Zhao is punishing some servant for dirtying her dress. Spoilt girl, she is so pretentious nowadays, even though she is only a Dame. She ordered the servant to slap herself nonstop, until her face is totally red and swollen. I know I should not interfere all these so I quickly leave the scene. The next day I heard that Dame Zhao was confronted by Empress Consort Wu, who is the in charge of all affairs in Imperial household, including the concubines. I guess Dame Zhao is messing up with the wrong person, the servant she punished was under Empress Consort Wu. What happened to her I am not sure, I only know that from that day on wards my father has never summoned her ever again, and grandma does not give her more attention, probably giving up on her as she has no basic knowledge in dealing with the Palace.
Meanwhile, Lee has been pretty quiet. I have not seen her for months since the selection day. Until my father’s birthday celebration, she appeared again. She dressed in dancing attire and dances so gracefully. Father was very attracted by her. Soon after that day, she was promoted to Dame Lee. I have not personally talked to her nor do I know her characters, but she has always been quiet instead of outspoken. Maybe that is why she has not gathered much jealousy although her beauty makes her outstanding.
A few years have passed and I am 17 now. Dame Lee has become Consort Lee. Moreover, she is expecting a baby. Everyone knows that once she gives birth to a boy, she will sson become a Noble Consort, which places her only lower to Empress Consort, as father has no Imperial Noble Consort. She looks more matured now, the last time i see her, she has less flowers on her head. Instead, she has more golden accessories, everything is bigger and heavier. She is not the little girl anymore, she carries the status and power. Nonetheless, she is still wearing the Zan she brought from home.
However, the peace proved short-lived. Shortly after the birth of the new prince, he died an unnatural death. I have seen this a few times, but I feel heartbreaking seeing Lee crying over her son everyday. I did not know what is the cause of the death, or who murdered the kid. He is just a victim of the power rivalries. My father has many sons, and has lost many as well. I can’t say he is not sad over the death, but he probably is used to all the ‘accidents’ here. As for Lee, that is her first child, she was almost mad. Slowly father has lost his interests in Lee as she is unable to recover from the incident. Lee was never promoted to Noble Consort by my father. That is the sadness of being an Emperor’s concubine. You might get all the attention quickly, but you might lose it very fast as well. Emperor is never short of pretty girls who made themselves available to him, if one can’t catch up the pace, she will be left behind and forgotten.
Some other concubines have given birth to princes and princess, and are promotes to higher status. Lee was forgotten by my father. She looks like a woman who has lost faith in her husband and life. The good thing is, she is attracting less attention from other concubines and people do not see her as a competition anymore. She has a more peaceful life now. Father never put her into the Cold Palace, she still has her freedom in the Palace.
3 years later, my father, the Emperor, passed away at the age of 45. Stress has worsen his health, and finally he could not fight with it anymore. I love my father very very much, and I believe many of my sibling brothers do as well. I know some of them have been hoping for the day to come so they can become the next emperor. But I never wish something like this to happen. I only want my father to stay with me. Father has his testament indicating who to become the new emperor—-and it is me!
I won’t say that I have no idea about this, because in the past three years, a lot of things were going on, between me and Lee, between my brothers, between the concubines…I know I will be the new emperor, although myself has no crave for the power. I did it because I love my brothers, and because of Lee.
This article will be briefly divided into the story if Cixi, and the development of Qing hairstyle. However, I could not find resources that clearly linked Cixi’s ranking with her hair style or accessory changes..So you may want to skip the lengthy text of Cixi story if you are just interested in the development of hairstyle.
Empress Dowager Cixi, of Manchu Yehenara clan, was a Chinese Empress Dowager and regent who effectively controlled the Chinese government in the late Qing Dynasty for 47 years, from 1861 until her death in 1908.
She was selected as an imperial concubine of Emperor Xianfeng (reign 1850-1861) in her adolescence. She gave birth to a son, Zaichun in 1856, who later became Emperor Tongzhi(reign 1861-1875) after the death of Emperor Xianfeng, and she thus became the Empress Dowager. Cixi ousted a group of regents appointed by the late emperor and assumed regency, which she shared with Empress Dowager Ci’an(The Empress Consort of Xianfeng). After the death of Emperor Tongzhi in 1874, Cixi and Ci’an continue to attend and monitor state affairs behind the screen(Chinese Custom for Empress Dowager to guide young Emperors) for the new Emperor Guangxu(reign 1875-1908).1881, Empress Dowager Ci’an passed away, Cixi thus became the only Empress Dowager who is controlling the emperor.
In 1898, Emperor Guangxu and Xici had conflicts over the Hundred Days’ Reform, Cixi rejected the, as detrimental to dynastic power and placed Emperor Guangxu under house arrest for supporting radical reformers. Since then, Cixi became the only authority in the court. Although Cixi’s main intention is to protect his country and the Qing Dynasty, she has underestimated the power of foreign invasion and have compromised too much to keep the vulnerable peace. China was on the phase of changing from Dynastic reign to modern China, politics became very complicated and western countries was aiming at China. 1900, the Eight-Nation Alliance invaded Beijing, Cixi together with Emperor Guangxu, escaped to Xi’an. Cixi attempted to create new reform campaign. in 1908, Cixi passed away in Beijing, one day after the death of Emperor Guangxu.
1851: 秀女Xiunv, the contestant for beauty pageant selecting Emperor Xianfeng’s concubines.
1852: 贵人Noble Lady, Sixth Pin, in the nine ranking system. She was given the title “Noble Lady Lan”. Among other chosen candidates were Noble Lady Li of the Tatala clan(Later Consort Li), and Concubine Zhen of the Niohuru clan(later Emperor Xianfeng’s Empress Consort).
1854, 懿嫔 Dame Yi, or Imperial concubine Yi. fifth Pin, one rank higher than Noble lady.
1856, 懿妃 Consort Yi, fourth rank, one rank higher than Dame. She was elevated to this position after giving birth to Zaichun, Emperor Xianfeng’s only surviving son, on 27th April 1856.
1857, 懿贵妃Noble Consort Yi, the rank placed her only second to the Empress Consort among the women within Emperor Xianfeng’s household. Unlike many of the other Manchu women in the imperial hosuehold, Cixi was known for her ability to read and write Chinese. This skill granted her numerous opportunities to help the ailing emperor in the governing states affairs in daily basis. Occasionally, Emperor Xianfeng had Cixi read palace memorials for him and leave instructions on the memorials according to his will. As a result, Cixi became well-informed about state affairs and the art of governing from the ailing emperor.
1861, 圣母皇太后Empress Dowager Cixi. After the death of Emperor Xianfeng in 1861, Cixi’s son Zaichun, Emperor Xianfeng’s only son, ascend to throne and became the new Emperor Tongzhi. As she is the birth mother of the Emperor, she is regarded as Empress Dowager, together with Xianfeng’s Empress Consort Ci’an, who became Empress Dowager Ci’an慈安太后. Both Empress Dowagers are to cooperate in harmony and help the young Emperor to grow and mature together, according to Xianfeng’s wish. Xianfeng also appointed “Eight Regent Minister” to direct and support the future Emperor. However, tensions between the two Empress Dowagers grow as time passes by, and in the competition of power.
1874, Emperor Tongzhi passed away, Cixi appointed the new emperor Guangxu光绪皇帝. Empress Dowager Ci’an passed away in 1881.
1898, 慈禧太后Empress Dowager Cixi. Cixi put Emperor Guangxu under house arrest after his attempt to push Hundred Days’ Reform. After which, Xici became the supreme power of Qing government and started her monopoly. Although from the title of “Empress Dowager”, it did not change since 1861, her power increased greatly after her ‘co-worker’ Ci’an’s death and the house arrest of Guangxu.
As we can see from the chronicle, Xici’s status in the imperial household rose extremely fast. In ten years(1851-1861), she was elevated from a xiunv with no rank, to Empress Dowager, the highest position for women in Qing Dynasty system.
However, Cixi lived in a socially unstable period of time in Chinese History, Qing Dynastic power was threatened and interfered by western invaders as well as the reformers within China. The title of Empress Dowager became less powerful as political situation changed. Qing court was under a series of unequal treaty with foreign countries, and has became a puppet regime.
Compared to Wuzetianhttps://oss.adm.ntu.edu.sg/tzhao002/emperors-wife-hierarchy-part-1-wu-zetian/, Cixi was at a time that China has declined power, while Wu Zetian was building a stronger nation. Both are of equal status by name, however in real, Xici was not as powerful in international aspect. 1905 AD, Sun Zhongshan and his peers established Zhonghua Minguo(Republic of China). Qing Dynasty ended in 1912, with its last emperor Puyi.
Now let’s look at the accessories of Qing Dynasty.
Cixi, like any other girl, pay a lot of attention on her grooming. Even at older age, she still indulged in dolling up herself. Cixi lived in late Qing Dynasty, compared to early Qing, China became much wealthier after Qianlong’s reign(1735-1796). Thus in late Qing Dynasty, the accessories, especially for imperial household, were more luxurious and flamboyant.
One popular hairstyle during Qing Dynasty is 两把头Two Side Bun. This hair style is demure and convenient to incorporate hair accessories onto it. This hairstyle splits hair to two sides, then bun up at the top of the head.
However, as China became wealtheir in mid Qing Dynasty, under Emperor Qianlong’s reign, the original small two side bun is insufficient for women to pile up all kinds of jewelries on their heads. The hair bun became fragile and would collapse at one touch. Thus, a new type of hair accessory emerged–扁方bian fang.
Bianfang is like a very long 簪zan(hair pin), and its flat in shape. Women used Bianfang to bun the excessive hair that could not hold the weight of accessories or the weight of hair itself. It upports the hair and allow more accessories to be added on.
Bianfang is a reflection of status in Qing Dynasty. It is also a symbol of becoming an adult for girls back then, just like 笄ji. Different occasions requires different types of Bianfang, people pf different background wears differently as well.
For example, during funerals wife mourning for her husband, she needs to style her hair in a very loose and effortless way, with a small bone bianfang on her hair. If it is the funeral for father or mother in law, then the woman should place a silver or white copper bianfang horizontally on her head.
For royals and rich families, the material and design of bianfang can be very precious and exquisite. Emperor’s concubines and other noble ladies would purposely reveal the two ends of bianfang, as that is the most elaborated part, to attract attention. Sometimes there will be tassels at the ends of bianfang. Wearing bianfang restricts the movements of head, neck, and shoulder, together with cheongsam and elevated shoes, making the ladies look very demure when walking.
For Manchu girls, the symbolic hairstyle, as we can see from many dramas and movies, is 旗头 Qi Tou, direct translate as flag head.
Interestingly, the elaborated, exaggerated Qi Tou is only developed at the very late stage of Qing Dynasty, after the death of Emperor Xianfeng(the husband of Cixi). Before that, hairstyle was kept simple and small, at special occasions Empress and other imperial household ladies would wear some Chai or the most, 钿子Dianzi.
Women would decorate with some hair accessories such as chai钗 and some flowers. As Bianfang helps to stabilize, there was a trend that more accessories were put onto hair. However, it got out of control as all ladies wanted to show off and be pretty. It went until the extend that Emperor Xianfeng had to officially gave an instruction to the ladies in the Forbidden City that the dressing code should be simple and non-exaggerated, maximum of only two flowers can be worn on hair. If three is worn, there will be punishment accordingly. Xianfeng believed that it is a good tradition and culture to be thrifty even in imperial families. As such, the hairstyle was not out of control at Xianfeng’s reign.
However, after Emperor Xianfeng passed away, the fashions and pursuit of hair started again
And to satisfy their ego and ambition of piling up hair accessories, the Qi Tou became larger and larger.
And it became SOOOOO big that real hair could not satisfy the appetite. So, what the ladies did is, instead of using real hair, they just simply put a black board on the hair bun, to substitute real hair, holding more and more accessories.
as we can see from the above image, Qi Tou has developed to such a exaggerated stage, almost like someone from Beking Opera.
Although Emperor Xianfeng has regulated the use of hair accessories, Cixi herself was a girl that pay a lot of attention to grooming, and I guess that is why after Xianfeng’s death, Cixi came into power and she probably brought back all the fashion and trend of dolling up. As a saying I read somewhere, in hereditary monarchy, where one person has the monopoly, the character of the person is the character of the nation. So I guess Cixi more or less is responsible the development of Qi Tou..
One bizarre thing, although Qi Tou looks so flamboyant and so showing-off, it is actually not restricted to social status. Because in Chinese Manchu tradition,Qi Tou is a casual hairstyle, and should be worn with only casual dress.No matter what social status you are, you can wear it. For formal occassions, ladies should wear Dianzi 钿子 as shown earlier. However, the influence of western culture diluted many of Chinese traditions and Cixi herself sometimes would ‘mix-match’ Dianzi with casual dress, (intentionally or unintentionally we are not sure), and Qi Tou could be seen as a more fashionable accessories, so end up the tradition was not strictly followed. It is said that Qi Tou was seen with formal dress in late Qing Dnasty as well. At the point of time, I guess all the traditions and customs are interrupted by the complicated political situation and people’s pursuit of new things.
What we can say is, for sure, people of better wealth and status are able to afford better hair accessories with more precious material, like gold, high quality jade, ruby, pearls, etc. Empress Dowagers and Empress Consort are able to wear phoenix pattern, abundant of gold, while commoners or abandoned concubines simply couldn’t afford.
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.
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.