A complete hanfu look is certainly not complete without fine jewelry to match. In the course of ancient history, traditional Chinese jewelry naturally evolved, graceful and luxurious, or refined and small.
In this article, we will reveal through the order of dynasties, the fashion secrets in ancient traditional Chinese jewelry boxes.
Let's see those periods of "China-Chic" how fashionable.
Wei, Jin and North and South Dynasties: A Fashion Trend from Abroad?
The poem "Ballad of Mulan" contains the line: "She combs her hair by the window and, before the mirror, fastens golden yellow flowers."
This "yellow flowers (Hua Hunag, 花黄)" refers to the makeup of women in the Wei and Jin dynasties, which was inspired by Buddhism.
Due to the popularity of Buddhism, the Buddha-nature of gold brought inspiration to women, so although the "flower yellow" in makeup may have been a little exaggerated, but it does reflect the characteristics of Buddhism at the time, as well as the pursuit of exoticism.
Of course, the rise of the introduction of Buddhism to the fashion circle brought not only makeup, with the matching jewelry also with a clear Buddhist style.
In terms of production materials, although gold and silver remained as the main carrier of jewelry, they did not really glow with the bright colors of the real thing due to technological limitations.
The various kinds of jewelry that were introduced to the Central Plains along with Buddhism were more eye-catching than gold and silver, and Liuli (琉璃) was one of them.
There is no doubt that ancient people were good at drawing inspiration from all kinds of things, and Buddhism also brought many creative elements to the craftsmen.
The "Ren Dong pattern (忍冬纹)", "lotus pattern" and various "Rui Niao (瑞鸟)" patterns that were popular during the Wei, Jin and North and South Dynasties all have their origins in Buddhism.
At the same time, the Wei, Jin and North-South dynasties also inherited the tradition of the previous dynasties, which favored high buns, and the bigger the hair, the better.
However, the amount of human hair was limited, so in order to make the bun full and high, they had to use wigs and sometimes add another padding.
So, the fake bun also became a kind of jewelry at that time.
Tang Dynasty: The material and wearing are aspiring to freedom?
Every exquisite Tang Dynasty pretty girl's jewelry boxes to all have a small comb.
But the comb here is different from the ordinary comb, it has a special name: Shu Bi (梳篦).
Shu Bi actually did not originate in the Tang Dynasty, but its development in the Tang Dynasty was absolutely unprecedented. In addition to a large number of Tang Dynasty burial items that have been excavated, the variety of Shu Bi is also worth talking about.
Perhaps related to the open social culture of the Tang Dynasty, they not only used gold, silver and wood as materials, but also various kinds of onyx, crystal and jade as the choice for making Shu Bi.
Women in the Tang Dynasty liked to put a few of these small combs in their hair buns, and according to the beauty-loving nature of Tang Dynasty ladies, the exposed comb backs were exquisite since.
In addition to the various inlays, most of the combs came with delicate relief carvings.
Women of the Tang Dynasty also liked to put big and many flowers in their hair buns, Shao Yao (芍药) and Moutan peony were in their consideration.
Song Dynasty: Light Makeup & Luxury Crown
The women of the Song Dynasty were more partial to the simplicity of makeup, which can more naturally enhance the beauty of the skin tone temperament.
However, even if the makeup is light, the ladies of the Song Dynasty in the crown is a lot of effort, and the crown process is very complex and sophisticated.
Now preserved objects, gold and silver wire as the basis, inlaid with excellent quality beads and emeralds, and then hollow carved ornaments of the crown is not a few.
Most of the costumes in the TV drama "Serenade of Peaceful Joy (清平乐)" have an ancient style, and the crowns worn by the courtesans on formal occasions are also reproduced through records and ancient paintings.
From it, we can easily find that the Song crown is not only exquisite in style, but also large in overall appearance. Of course, most of the private accessories of the Song Dynasty were mainly fresh and small.
The crown was not only popular in the palace, but also in the folk.
After the crown became popular among the folk, a fashionable cook wove wire and bamboo gabions into the prototype of a crown, covered it with gauze and painted it with wax, and made a Tuan crown.
Ming Dynasty: Exquisite gold and silver jewelry
Regardless of the choice of materials or craft style, the Ming Dynasty jewelry completely subverted the "natural color" of the Song Dynasty aesthetic.
Unlike modern people, the Ming Dynasty jewelry materials love gold and silver. However, in the hands of Ming craftsmen, gold and silver were not cheesy at all, but more graceful and luxurious.
Through the process of Lei Si (累丝), the gold and silver jewelry of the Ming Dynasty had a complicated structure and three-dimensional shape, but it could save materials well and make the jewelry lighter, and get rid of the bulky and vulgar.
In addition to Lei Si, Chui Ye (锤揲) process, in which sheets of gold and silver were pounded on a template and extended into shape, was also the main way of jewelry making in the Ming Dynasty. Unlike Lei Si, the finished product of Chui Ye is also more rounded and fuller.
According to the fashion trend of the time, the patterns on jewelry were mainly composed of plants and animals with beautiful symbolic meanings.
Although some are delicate and some are simple, the main veins of gold and silver are found on most of the pieces.
Qing Dynasty: The cruel story behind the fashion?
In various Qing court dramas, we can see an iconic accessory: Qi Tou (旗头).
Compared with the crown of Song, the Qi Tou was more used in the Qing court and attended more occasions, so it can be said to be a must for grooming. And its style is also a wide range.
But there is another style of jewelry that reached its peak in the Qing Dynasty: Dian Cui (Tian-tsui, 点翠).
Tian-tsui did not originate in the Qing Dynasty, though it got the most rapid development in the Qing Dynasty. It could be seen on almost all gold and silver jewelry on major occasions.Even women of the time were proud to own a piece of Tian-tsui jewelry.
As a traditional Chinese jewelry-making process, Tian-tsui is the most unique and memorable one. Unlike the luster of metal, Tian-tsui is not only brightly colored, but also has a feather-like luster and flow.
The artisans also love to set stones on Tian-tsui jewelry, which makes the jewelry more luxurious.
Although Tian-tsui is beautiful, the process of making it is very difficult. The process of getting feathers from live kingfishers has also been criticized.
Every piece of traditional Chinese jewelry that has been passed down to this day is very shocking, but it is not just the beautiful appearance, the long history and culture and the ancient craftsmanship is the real charm in the national trend.
Reference: Ink Aesthetics
More about traditional Chinese jewelry & accessories can be found here:
I am glad that in our modern times, we can create materials for jewelry making or decorative accents to details of hanfu accessories. And the alternative materials are more durable, too.
I personally watch this following video often. https://youtu.be/qhIKSN88H1o
I thought birds tend to shed their feathers during different times of the year. Couldn't people gather the spent feathers and use them in decoration or jewelry? I know peacocks lose feathers as they age. Same with parakeets.
You are right, in fact, it is argued that Tian-tsui does not exactly need the feathers of a live bird. And it is stored for a very long time in a proper way of preservation.
However, the way of taking the feathers of live kingfishers by mutilating them under the guise of superior or inferior quality exists, and is not a small number. Luckily, in 1933, the last Tian-tsui workshop finally closed. Modern alternatives have been found, and this cruel practice no longer exists.
Honestly, I'm not sure if closing whole shops are the way to go. I once saw a mink coat maker - in which minks used to be slaughtered and farmed cruelly - resorted to local dead mink donations, instead of closing the shop and ending the culture. But well, it's already done.