The types and development of ancient Chinese accessories

The types and development of ancient Chinese accessories

Ancient Chinese people wore accessories on their heads, forming a unique headwear culture in China. Below, I will elaborate on the most primitive jewelry of ancient China, which can be traced back to the distant Stone Age. From the evidence collected from the Paleolithic era around the world and the information obtained from modern primitive tribes, it can be observed that the early forms of body adornment mainly included necklaces, waist ornaments, arm ornaments, wrist ornaments, headwear, and a few others, with necklaces and waist ornaments being the main forms. The colors and patterns found on animals also serve as body adornments, known as natural adornments. The decorative headgear, necklaces, chest ornaments, tail ornaments, and others on male birds often undergo regular changes and displays during the breeding season, and these decorations have significant effects in attracting the opposite sex. A large amount of biological evidence confirms that attractive adornments in animals have significant advantages in the process of sexual selection. Tattoos on the human body are a similar form of body adornment, and human body adornments are an extension and qualitative change of natural adornments in animals. The earliest body adornments discovered in the late Paleolithic era worldwide, whether animal teeth, feathers, or stone beads, all have a notable characteristic: smooth, regular, small, and aesthetically pleasing. This characteristic further demonstrates the important psychological motivations of adornment, self-display, and attracting the opposite sex. Therefore, it is scientifically sound to consider that the origin of body adornments stems from the innate aesthetic sense rooted in physiological instincts. The function of "beautification of the human body" derived from these motivating factors is the most primitive and fundamental function of jewelry.



Classification of ancient accessories:

笄 (Ji): A type of hairpin used in ancient times to hold up the hair or secure a hat.
簪 (Zan): Derived from the Ji, it is a long pin used by ancient people to fasten hair or crowns, usually made of metal, bone, jade, and other materials.
钗 (Chai): A type of accessory formed by the crossing of two hairpins, used to hold the hair or secure a hat.
华胜 (Hua Sheng): Also known as flower ornaments, they are floral-shaped accessories worn by ancient women, usually placed at the temples or on the forehead.
步摇 (Bu Yao): Accessories attached to hairpins or hair clasps worn by ancient women.
钿花 (Dian Hua): Decorative flower-shaped ornaments made of gold, silver, jade, shells, and other materials.
扁方 (Bian Fang): Special large hairpins worn by Manchu women when styling their hair in a Qitou, similar in form and function to the flat hairpins worn by Han women.
凤冠 (Feng Guan): The most luxurious and exquisite headwear for ancient women, often featuring dragon and phoenix motifs.



Development of ancient Chinese accessories:

In primitive society, people began to appreciate beauty and adorn themselves using shells, flowers, bird bones, and more. During the Shang and Zhou dynasties, bone hairpins with bird or animal head patterns, as well as jade and bronze hairpins, emerged.

In the Han dynasty, there was a wide variety of gold, silver, jade, and pearl accessories, further enriching people's adornments. The Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern dynasties saw the introduction of wigs, which further promoted the development of accessories. At this time, precious gemstones like rubies and sapphires started to be inlaid on gold and silver ornaments, and the most luxurious hair accessory was the "Bu Yao."

During the prosperous economy and cultural development of the Sui and Tang dynasties, women in ancient China were known for their exquisite dressing. The characteristics of their accessories were large, abundant, and full. Hairpins, such as flower hairpins, became increasingly large, almost equivalent to hair ornaments. They took the forms of phoenixes, capricorns, flowers, birds, and floral patterns. Matching sets of hairpins had identical flower patterns but faced opposite directions. In the Tang dynasty, more attention was given to the floral designs on the top of hairpins. Hairpins were more prevalent than hair clasps during this period.

In the Liao and Song dynasties, hairpins and combs remained prominent, and there was an increase in hairpins adorned with flowers. In the northern Liao state, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets flourished.

The Ming dynasty represented a splendid era for ancient Chinese accessories, showcasing extravagance. In the middle and late Ming dynasty, with the development of the economy, people's pursuit of beauty changed. Gold and silver jewelry with jade and precious gemstone inlays (although the inlay techniques were relatively crude) became popular. However, the highlight of the Ming dynasty was the delicate craft of flower silk jewelry, characterized by its soft and light nature. Flower silk jewelry enhanced the beauty of gemstones (inlaid with rubies, sapphires, pearls, coral, turquoise, and lapis lazuli). The shape of the stones was not emphasized, but the designs varied from simpler styles for the common folk to more complex ones for the nobility.

In the Qing dynasty, accessories became more individualistic and showcased a strong national style, influenced by the love for the nation. In the early period, hairstyles involved coiled hair, while the later period saw the popular "da la chi" hairstyle (a wire framework made according to the size of the head and tail, covered with cloth and adorned with jewelry and jade). Gilded ornaments, silver-fired blue jewelry, cloisonné accessories, lacquerware accessories, and glass (artificial glass) emerged during the Qing dynasty. The techniques of plating and inlaying also developed, reaching their pinnacle with the "dian cui" technique (which appeared as early as the Han dynasty). The colors of the head ornaments did not exceed four. As the desire for beauty prevailed among ancient women, a wide variety of accessories continued to evolve. Ancient accessories were diverse and complex, extending beyond the common styles of hairpins, hair clasps, bracelets, and rings seen today.
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