Rare Chinese MILITARY RANK Buzi (pu zi) or ‘insignia badge’ denoting a military rank of the 5th Level, hand woven on gauze (which suggests it was for a summer robe) from the late Qing – aka Ch’ing – Dynasty (i.e. the later part of the 1800’s / 19th century). 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 bear, which is the designation for a 5th rank military officer (note: the bear is often erroneously mistaken for the similar looking lion – which denoted the 2nd military rank – but it can be differentiated by lacking the lions characteristic long, and especially curly, mane). Buzi’s were generally made in pairs, one for the back and one for the front of a robe, and as robes opened at the centre front, one of the pair of badges will always be split in two to accommodate the opening. This badge, with the split down the centre separating the two ‘sides’, is therefore from the front of a robe and is – save for the bear and sun disc – individually stitched where the warp and weft of the gauze backing cross,. This example has 865 tiny silk stitches per square inch (13,454 per square decimetre), while the bear and sun disc have been appliqued separately over the silk stitching. In the main upper field, using various coloured silk threads, these tiny stitches have been used to render the shape of the Eight Precious Things that have been incorporated from Buddhist symbology (although one of the eight is partially covered by the appliqued sun disc). Clockwise from lower left; the Conch Shell, the Lotus Flower, the Vase, the Canopy, the Wheel Of Law, the Parasol (partially covered by the appliqued sun disc), the Untying Knot and the Fish. The main outer border is of inter-spaced bats and circular shou designs, symbols of prosperity and longevity stitched into the gauze.
Conserved and mounted (and currently in a frame behind glass) the size on the Buzi itself is 29cm x 28cm / with the frame 36.25cm x 38.25cm (approximately 11.5in x 11in / with the frame 14.25in x 15in)
NOTE: Military rank insignia Buzi’s are much rarer than civil ones as many if not most military men destroyed their rank badges – so as not to be identified as such and hence persecuted – after the revolution that overthrew the Imperial Qing Dynasty in 1911/12. As the civil ranks were incorporated into the new system of government they had no need to destroy their badges and is therefore why more of the civil rank insignia’s have been preserved and are hence the type more frequently seen on the antiques market.
For a similar example of a 5th rank bear on gauze Buzi see photo bottom page 197 in the highly recommended book dedicated to Buzi’s entitled ‘Ladder To The Clouds’ by Beverly Jackson & David Hugus.