Elegant and strikingly beautiful Chinese Civil Rank Buzi (pu zi) or ‘insignia badge’ (often referred to as ‘Mandarin Squares’); this example hand woven using couching, or the ‘couched-stitch’ method, a specific technique used to attach / overlay onto the silk background material the gold and silver encased gilt silk threads that make up the entire design here, save for only the appliqued red silk sun disc. (As can be seen from the close up photos, various coloured silk threads have been used for the couching and these help to accentuate the vibrancy of the square.) It is from the very late Qing / aka Ch’ing Dynasty, that is from not earlier than the later part of the late 19th century, and denotes a mid ranked civil official of the 5th Level. (There were nine ‘levels’ in both civil and military ranks and the specific bird or animal depicted in the badge indicated the wearer’s rank – various birds species were used exclusively for civil ranks, while various animal species were used exclusively for the military ranks). Here we have depicted a Silver Pheasant, as can be discerned by the five long ‘frilly’ tail feathers, which is the designation for a 5th Rank / Level Civil Official.
Buzi’s were generally made in pairs, one for the back and one for the front of a robe, and the badge for the front of the robe will always be split into two halves vertically to accommodate the centre opening of the robe. This badge, with no split down the centre, is therefore from the back of a robe, and as seen here, the maroon silk base square is backed by blue cloth.
The exclusive use of couched gold and silver encased gilt silk thread (save for the appliqued red silk sun disc), uncluttered design and elegant border point to the original owner being a person of both wealth and taste. There are some missing and lose gilt threads, otherwise it is in very good condition, unmounted and backed by a light blue cotton panel. Size is 24cm wide x 22.75cm high (9.5” x 9”), which is slightly smaller than normal for a Buzi, although not altogether uncommon for the very late Qing Dynasty when the Empire was falling into turmoil as the 1800’s drew to a close, and the once rigid rules that governed Chinese society were becoming more ‘malleable’. Altogether a strikingly beautiful well proportioned uncluttered piece of quality workmanship.