Beautiful Chinese Buzi (pu zi) or ‘insignia badge’ (often referred to as ‘Mandarin Squares’); this example having the design entirely hand woven using the ‘couched-stitch’ method, a specific technique used to attach / overlay larger threads onto the background material. That is, the ‘thick’ gold encased gilt silk threads that make up the entire design here, save for the blue silk eye of the bird, are not stitched / woven into the black cotton backing, but layered on top of it and then attached by ‘couch’ stitching onto that black background (this ‘couch stitch’ method can be seen anchoring / attaching the larger threads in the close up photos). The square is from the very late Qing / aka Ch’ing Dynasty, in this case probably from the very last decade of the 1800’s or even the first decade of the 1900’s, and save for the eye of the bird, which is embroidered in a beautiful blue silk, the design is made entirely of the gilt silk threads.
The ‘dots’ at the end of the two main tail feathers of the bird point to it being a Paradise Flycatcher and if so denotes a civil official of the 9th 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). While the bird dominates the center field, in each corner is a different floral design (the top right almost looking like hanging grapes), and on each corner of the outer border is embellished a bat, signifying good luck and happiness, while several untying knots and two flowers fill the rest of the border. Unusual is that this square shows no sun disc, and while this is rather rare, is not unheard of, especially as the dynasty came to a close. 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 center opening of the robe. This badge, with no split down the center, is therefore from the back of a robe.
There are some missing and lose gilt threads, and fraying around the edges of the square, otherwise it is in good condition, unmounted and backed by a light blue cotton panel. The size is 22cm wide by 21cm high (approximately 8.5″ x 8.25″), 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 well proportioned uncluttered piece of fine workmanship.