21 Classification of Traditional Chinese Jewelry

21 Classification of Traditional Chinese Jewelry

Jewelry refers to decorative items worn on the body, including hairpins, earrings, necklaces, rings, bracelets, etc., which are widely made of precious metals and gemstones. Jewelry is commonly used for body decoration and also has the meaning of displaying social status and wealth.


It is difficult to accurately trace when humans began wearing jewelry. However, we can imagine that humans have had an inseparable relationship with it since they began to realize the importance of decorating and beautifying themselves. The earliest form of jewelry can probably be traced back to the distant Paleolithic era.


From the materials found from the Paleolithic era worldwide and the materials from modern primitive tribes, it can be seen that the early forms of body adornment mainly consisted of necklaces, waist ornaments, arm ornaments, wrist ornaments, and head ornaments, among which necklaces and waist ornaments were the main forms. They were largely decorated around the body's reproductive area. Apart from the ability of these parts to support the wearing of objects, extensive research shows that this choice also has another purpose.


The color and pattern on the animal's body is also a form of body adornment, natural body adornment. The head ornaments, necklaces, chest ornaments, tail ornaments, etc. of male birds often undergo regular changes and displays during the breeding season, and these decorations have a great effect on attracting the opposite sex. A large amount of biological materials have confirmed that the attractive decoration of animals has a great advantage in the process of sexual selection. Human body tattoos are a similar form of body adornment, and human body decoration is an extension of the qualitative change of natural decoration on animals.


[Traditional Chinese Jewelry Forms]


[Ji (笄)]


Ji is an ancient hairpin used to fix hair and crowns, and is the precursor to the hairpin and hair clasp. In ancient times, both men and women kept long hair, and Ji was used by both sexes to secure their hair or headdresses. Starting from the Zhou Dynasty, a girl who turned fifteen was considered an adult and could be married, and this was called "reaching Ji." If she was not married by the age of twenty, she still had to hold a Ji ceremony, in which an older woman would comb the girl's hair into a bun and insert a Ji into it, which would be removed after the ceremony.


[Zan (簪)]


Zan is the development of Ji, also used to fix the hair, with decorative patterns added to the front, carved into shapes of plants (flowers and grass), animals (phoenixes, peacocks), and auspicious objects (ruyi), etc. It can be made of precious materials such as gold, jade, ivory, and tortoiseshell, and the craftsmanship has become more and more refined, including engraved flowers, hollowed-out flowers, and coiled flowers.


[Chai (钗)]

Chai is a type of hairpin made by crossing two Zan together. It is used to tie up the hair and can also be used to secure a hat on top of the hair. There are many methods of inserting hairpins, including horizontal, vertical, diagonal, and even inserting them from the bottom up. The number of hairpins used is not fixed, with some people using two, one on each side, while others use several, depending on the needs of the hairstyle. The most commonly used number is twelve, with six on each side.



Buyao is a hairpin or hair clasp with dangling beads or jewels at the top, which was worn by ancient women as a decorative item inserted on the side of the temple hair, while also serving to fix the hair bun. The general form is phoenix, butterfly, winged, or hanging with tassels or pendants. When walking, the gold jewelry will sway with the movement of walking, appearing lifelike. It is named after its swaying motion while walking.



Dian is a flower-shaped decorative item made of gold, silver, jade, shell, and other materials.


It is used to embed precious metals and gems in objects as decoration.

In ancient times, it was a type of hair accessory with gold inlayed flowers. Hairpins were used to tie up hair, while the dian was inserted directly into the tied hair bun to serve as a decoration.



Bianfang is a special large hairpin used by Manchu women to adorn their headdresses. Its shape and function are similar to the flat hairpin used by Han women to secure their hair. During the Qing dynasty, noble women who styled their hair in "two heads" or "big wings" would use bianfang to connect the real and false hairpieces and hold their hair in place, while also serving as a decorative item.


【梳篦 shū bì】

Shubi, also known as "combs," is one of the eight major hair accessories used in ancient China, along with hairpins, hair buns, hair clasps, and hair ornaments. It was once a precious item used exclusively in the imperial palace, hence the name "palace comb." In ancient times, combs were essential hair accessories, especially for women, and they became a popular trend for wearing combs and hair accessories.



Huasheng is an ornate flower-shaped accessory worn on the head by ancient Chinese women. It is a splendid headdress and a magnificent accessory.



Ma'e, also known as headbands, hairbands, hair clasps, brow bands, or brain wraps, is a type of headpiece worn by Han women, which was particularly popular during the Ming dynasty. It is a headband tied on the forehead and decorated with embroidery or beads.


【花钿 (diàn) 】

Huadian is a type of flower ornament worn on the face by women in ancient times. It comes in three colors: red, green, and yellow, with red being the most common. It is made of gold or silver and shaped like a flower, covering the face. It was a popular accessory during the Tang dynasty and came in various shapes, including plum blossoms, birds, fish, and ducks, which were all exquisite and innovative.


【Er Dang(珥珰)】

Er Dang, commonly known as earrings, was called "Er" or "Dang" in ancient times. Earrings are the oldest and most popular type of ornament worn by the Chinese people, and they remain popular today.


【Jade Jue(玉玦)】

Jade Jue is the oldest jade ornament in China, with a circular shape and a notch. In ancient times, it was mainly used as an earring and pendant. It is said that wearing jade had two meanings for ancient people: to show decisiveness and to symbolize the act of cutting off.



Necklaces are a common decoration in primitive societies, and many necklaces from the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods have been unearthed.


【Ying Luo(璎珞)】

Ying Luo is a decorative item made of pearls and jade that was used primarily as a necklace in ancient times. Originally used as a decoration for ancient Indian Buddha statues, it was later introduced to China along with Buddhism. During the Tang Dynasty, it was imitated and improved upon by fashionable women, becoming a type of neck adornment. It has a relatively large shape and is the most luxurious type of neck accessory.



Wearing a brooch can often add the finishing touch to an outfit, especially when the clothing design is simple or the colors are plain. Adding a brightly colored brooch can immediately liven up the entire ensemble and create a sense of liveliness.


【Waist adornment(腰饰)】

Mainly includes jade pendants, belt hooks, belt rings, belt plates, and other waist-hanging objects. The materials are mostly precious metals set with gemstones or jade. In ancient China, waist adornments were mainly jade pendants, which were decorative objects made of jade that were worn around the waist. Jade pendants were a must-have accessory for nobles or officials in ancient times.



An ancient Chinese ornament. Various jade pendants of different shapes are threaded together with colored thread to form a string that is tied around the waist, originally used to weigh down the hem of a skirt. When walking with Jinbu, the sound produced should be rhythmic and balanced. If the rhythm is disorderly, it would be considered impolite, and the ancients paid great attention to this.


【Armlet (臂钏)】

Why such affection? Coiling dual golden rings on the arms. The ornament worn on the wrist is called a bracelet, while the one worn on the arm is called an armlet. One type of armlet is the silver armlet with the pattern of three vajra pestles, also known as the coiled armlet of gold, which has a lively and flexible appearance.

This is a type of decoration that ancient Chinese women wrapped around their arms. It is made by coiling a strip of gold or silver into a spiral shape, with varying numbers of coils, usually between three and eight coils, but sometimes up to twelve or thirteen coils.



A bracelet is a circular ornament worn around the wrist. Structurally, it can generally be divided into two types: one is a closed circular ring, mostly made of jade; the other has a clasp or several chain links, mostly made of metal. According to the production materials, it can be divided into gold bracelets, silver bracelets, jade bracelets, gemstone-set bracelets, and so on.



People in China have been wearing rings for about 4,000 years. According to existing records, it has many different names, such as "shouji," "yuezhi," "quhuan," "daizhi," and "zhijian." Among these names, "zhijian" is the most frequently used and has been used for the longest time. It wasn't until the Ming Dynasty that the term "jiezhi" gradually became more common.


【Finger guards指甲套】

Finger guards, also known as nail guards or finger protectors, have been around for a long time. This fact is often overlooked. However, they became very popular in the Qing Dynasty, especially among the imperial concubines, and their styles became more intricate.


The tradition of Chinese women growing and adorning their nails with finger guards has a long history. The earliest finger guard that can be seen now is the Han Dynasty gold finger guard unearthed in the Lao Heshen area of Jilin Province. It is rolled up from thin gold sheets and spirals upwards, and its thickness, length and shape can be adjusted freely. It is simple and practical.



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