Chinese Jewelry — History, Tradition, Culture, Types, Techniques, Symbolism, and Artifacts
Chinese jewelry culture encompasses history, development, traditional crafts, materials, classifications, and design.
It combines rich history, intricate craftsmanship, and profound cultural significance.
Delicate rings, exquisite earrings, stunning necklaces, and artsy bracelets – each ornament tells a story, crafted with precision and imbued with symbolism.
These pieces transcend mere accessories, becoming carriers of profound meanings.
Jade Decorated Filigree Gold Hairpin of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644) — Hubei Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Chinese Rings in Ancient Culture — Informative Origin and Love Representative
Since the Neolithic era, the ring has been used as decoration and to protect fingers from drawing bows
Turquoise Decorated Ring of Dawenkou Culture (around 4500 BC — 2500 BC) — Shandong Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
If one were in menstruation or pregnant, she would wear a gold ring on the left hand to imply that she's inconvenient to serve the emperor.
When someone was available, she would wear a silver ring on her left hand and move it to her right hand after spending the night with the emperor.
Gradually, this implicit method spread to nobles and officials, then to the civilian world.
Meanwhile, rings that were mostly made of valuable materials, such as gold, silver, and jade, became awards to accomplished officials and love tokens between couples.
Starting from the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 — 1279), the ring has become one of the essential betrothal gifts to the bride.
Earring — From Self-Introspection to Beautiful Decoration
Earrings, or ear decorations, originated in the Neolithic era and were used as decorations or amulets.
No later than the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC — 256 BC), two little jade pendants were hung on crowns and hats to be used as earplugs when they needed to rest.
Soon, the earplugs were regarded as a representative of self-discipline and introspection, a highly required characteristic in Chinese culture, for being an excellent way to avoid hearing and believing anything before careful consideration.
At the same time, they were also reminders of being humble and willing to listen to brilliant suggestions.
Gradually, these pendant earplugs spread from emperors and officials to scholars, then to women hanging them on their hairpins.
During the Song Dynasty (960 — 1279), royal women started to pierce ears and wear earrings, especially those made of valuable pearls and gold.
Chinese Bracelet and Armlet — Ritual Origin and Art on Wrists
Chinese bracelets originated in the Neolithic era when people wore round-shaped decorations on wrists and arms, which were used to exorcise evils, pray for good luck, or be beautiful.
Later, in the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC — 256 BC), it was officially set to use Jade Bi (Yubi) to worship heaven and Jade Cong (Yucong) to offer sacrifice to the earth.
Jade Bi and Cong, both round shapes and carved with exquisite patterns, were believed to be the prototype of today's Chinese bracelets and armlets.
Jade Cong of Liangzhu Culture (around 3300 BC — 2000 BC) — Shanghai Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Gradually, besides invaluable jade, more materials were applied to make bracelets and armlets, including gold, silver, gem, stone, etc.
Because of their auspicious meaning and significant importance, bracelets have been used for centuries as the keepsake of love and betrothal gifts in China.
Besides, different bead bracelets have also been popular, worn by both men and women as a symbol of believing in Buddhism or praying for good luck.
Chinese Necklace and Collar
Since the Neolithic period, people have started to wear things on their necks to keep records or serve specific functions in worship ceremonies.
Gradually, different necklaces have been used as decorations and representatives of one's social status or religion.