Chinese Jewelry — History, Tradition, Culture, and Artifact

 

Chinese Rings in Ancient Culture — Informative Origin and Love Representative

Since the Neolithic era, the ring had been used as decoration, as well as protection of fingers from drawing bows.  

Turquoise Decorated Ring of Dawenkou Culture (around 4500 BC — 2500 BC)

Turquoise Decorated Ring of Dawenkou Culture (around 4500 BC — 2500 BC) — Shandong Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

In ancient China, an emperor would have an honorable queen and many imperial concubines in his palace. 

Hence, around Qin and Han Dynasties (221 BC — 220 AD), silver and gold rings were worn by the queen and imperial concubines, to implicitly show their "physical conditions".

If one was during 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 the left hand, and move it to her right hand after having spent the night with the emperor.

Gradually, this implicit method spread to nobles and officials, then to the civilians' world.

Meanwhile, rings that were mostly made of valuable materials, such as gold, silver, and jade, became awards to accomplished officials, and love token between couples. 

Since Southern Song Dynasty (1127 — 1279), the ring has become one of the most important betrothal gifts to the bride, till today. 

Puyi's Wedding Ring, Carved with Quotes "Wei Jing Wei Yi"

Last Emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912) Puyi's Wedding Ring, Carved with Quotes "Wei Jing Wei Yi, Yun Zhi Jue Zhong", From the Ancient "Book of Documents" (Shang Shu) — Palace Museum

Earring — From Self Introspection to Beautiful Decoration

Earring, or ear decorations, originated in the Neolithic era and used as decoration or amulet.

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 a good 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.

Jade Pendants on Royal Nine-tasselled Crown (Jiu Liu Mian) of Prince Zhu Tan, the Tenth Son of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang

Jade Pendants on Royal Nine-tasselled Crown (Jiu Liu Mian) of Prince Zhu Tan, the Tenth Son of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang — Shandong Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Gradually, this pendent earplugs spread from emperors and officials to scholars, then to women who would hang them on their hairpins.  

During Song Dynasty (960 — 1279), royal women started to pierce ears and wear earrings, especially those were made of valuable pearl and gold. 

Portrait of Emperor Zhao Gou's Queen, by Court Artist of the Song Dynasty

Portrait of Emperor Zhao Gou's Queen, by Court Artist of the Song Dynasty — Taipei Palace Museum

Until Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 — 1912), wearing earrings as decorative jewelry became popular, especially among women when many stunningly beautiful and invaluable relics were produced.