Chinese Pendant Accessories
Jade Pendant — Yu Pei
Jade Culture is an important, special component in Chinese Culture.
Since the Neolithic, jade articles were believed as a medium to communicate with the deity and heaven, which made jade a significant part of grand worship ceremonies in ancient cultures like Hongshan, Yangshao, Liangzhu, Longshan, etc.
Unearthed Jade Dragon of the Hongshan Culture (Around 4000 BC — 3000 BC) — National Museum of China
Thousands of years later, since the Xia (2070 BC — 1600 BC) and Shang Dynasty (1600 BC — 1046 BC), as the representative of honorable morals and etiquettes, such as gentleness, benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom, integrity, and loyalty, etc., jade articles were widely worn by noble classes, and the jade pendant was one of the most popular types in the history.
In ancient China, a decent person would always wear something made of jade, except that something severe or sad happened. During that era, the jade pendant was more of a presentation of status and noble morals, for both men and women.
Gradually, jade pendants spread to the civilians' world but still had strict standards among different classes, in regard to shape and size. For example, dragon and phoenix-shaped jade articles were strictly and only used in royal families.
Jade is believed could bring people good luck, and protect its owner from bad things. It is said that jade will be inspirited and could protect the owner if it has been worn by humans for years.
Also, if a jade accessory, which has been worn by its owner for years, suddenly has a crack or gets broken, this means it had resisted a horrible encounter for its owner already.
Nowadays, jade decorations are still quite popular in China. However, jade-made bracelets, rings, and necklaces are much more prevalent than pendants.
Longevity Lock — Chang Ming Suo
“Chang Ming” means Longevity in Chinese, and “Suo” is the lock.
It has been an important amulet for kids for thousands of years in China. People believe that the Chang Ming Suo can lock the kid’s life and souls inside so that it can protect them from evils and bad luck.
Hence, Chang Ming Suo, the Longevity Lock, is usually made of valuable materials, like silver, gold, and jade, with lucky words and patterns carved on.
Though with slight differences because of geography, the lock is usually given by a newborn’s close relatives from older generations, on a chosen day of a baby’s Birth Celebration.
When the kid safely grows up to 12 years old, the Longevity Lock would be considered having finished its “mission" and is allowed to be put away.
Until today, an exquisite Chang Ming Suo is still one of the most popular gifts in China for a newborn.
Decoration of Clothes — Jin Bu
Jin Bu consists of a series of strings of jade, silver, or gold accessories; it is worn on one’s waist, usually by women, to press the hemline.
When Jin Bu firstly appeared thousands of years ago, it was only worn by the nobles.
If someone wearing it behaves in discourtesy, like walking too fast, the loud sound of Jin Bu could be a reminder of manner and elegance.
If one behaves in a good manner, the sound of her Jin Bu would be quite melodic and pleasant.
Gradually, Jin Bu became more of beautiful decoration for women from all classes and was no longer a measurement of women's etiquette and elegance. Hence, more materials were included to make a Jin Bu.
Sachet — Xiang Nang
People put flowers and herbs with their favorite fragrance in an exquisite bag and worn them on one’s waist, hung on bed or carriage.
Centuries later, sachet, the Xiang Nang, became popular among all people. More materials like jade, gold, silver, or fabric with fancy embroidery, were applied.
Meanwhile, more formulas to produce fragrance, or to prevent and cure certain diseases, were spread in the next millenniums.
As an important personal necessity, sachet was a Keepsake of Love in Chinese culture. In ancient times, women usually would make a sachet with exquisite embroidery, and give it to their beloved ones.
Nowadays, the sachet is still popular, which could be hung in one’s car or room, as a beautiful and fragrant pendant decoration.
Fancy Hanging Bag — He Bao
He Bao is a pouch that can be hung on one’s waist, in which people can put small or important things, like coins or seals.
It originated around the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC — 403 BC) and became popular a few hundred years later.
The pouch He Bao was originally made of furs and gradually replaced by other types of fabrics. Meanwhile, exquisite embroideries, including lucky patterns, poems, auspicious words, were added on He Bao.
However, use color, material, and pattern still followed the strict hierarchy.
In history, He Bao was a good gift to express the affection of a woman, by giving a handmade He Bao to her beloved one. Now, it is more used as decoration.
Belt Hook — Dai Gou
Originated around 5,000 years ago, the belt hook was used mostly by male nobles, to tie robe, and to represent one’s status.
Belt Hook (Dai Gou) was made of bronze, jade, gold, silver, or iron, with sophisticated decorations and extraordinary carving skills.
Since the Warring States Period (403 BC — 221 BC), Dai Gou popularized among civilians as well, as an important part of people’s costumes, though still followed strict hierarchy.
A few centuries later, Dai Gou gradually became an exquisite decoration.
Makeup on Forehead — Hua Dian
Around 1600 years ago, a plum petal fell on the forehead of Princess Shouyang and left a red flower-shaped mark. Everyone found this mark quite beautiful, so this forehead decoration became popular and spread nationwide very soon.
Hua Dian was usually pasted on a woman’s forehead and sometimes on the cheeks or hair. It has many colors and shapes and is made of different kinds of materials, of which the red flower shape was the most frequently used one.
In the make-up procedure, firstly, they cut materials, like gold foil or paper, into a specific shape; then a type of glue (made of fish is the best) is used to paste it.
After the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) was ended, Hua Dian gradually stepped out of women’s cosmetic cases. Today, however, with more people started wearing traditional Chinese costumes, Hua Dian is regaining more attention.
Symbol of Status — Sword
Since the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC — 256 BC), wearing a sword became the representative of one’s bravery, courage, power, decency, chivalry, and social status.
However, at that time, only nobles could wear them; weight, size, and patterns of swords were strictly followed the feudal hierarchy. Civilians, however, could not wear swords, except in wars.
In a peaceful era, some people’s swords didn’t even have edges; however, wearing a sword with sophisticated decorations was still many people's necessities.
Nowadays, the sword is still a popular decoration that people would hang in their rooms, or use as a tool to adjust one’s Fengshui.
Ancient Lighter — Huo Lian
Huo Lian has been used to hit the flint and make a fire in Chinese history until matches and lighters were introduced in the recent century.
People used it to light fire or firearms or to smoke tobacco. Therefore, Huo Lian was one of the necessities for most men in their daily lives.
Turquoise and Coral Decorated Gilt Huo Lian of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912) — Taipei Palace Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
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