Ceremonial Court Chain

Object Name: 
Ceremonial Court Chain

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Object Name: 
Ceremonial Court Chain
Place Made: 
Accession Number: 
Overall L: 71 cm; Blue Beads Diam: 1 cm; Pink Beads Diam: 2 cm
On Display
Web Description: 
玻璃朝珠 The hierarchical court system in China was developed over several dynasties, and by the seventh century, specifications on the use of color and patterns in silk had already been determined by the court office. In the 14th century, the use of insignia created a visible indication of the court hierarchy. With the arrival of the Manchu from northern China in 1644, the Qing dynasty began, and they assumed the court structure already in place. The Qing rulers added a complex system of rules regarding the dress of all involved in the court, from the highest-ranking officials to the civil servants, and they included punishments for breaking these regulations. Ceremonial court chains or beads were an important part of these formalized rules of dress during the Qing dynasty. While semiprecious stones were often found on the most elite chains, glass was another very precious material to the Chinese, and it was employed as part of these chains, both in combination with and in imitation of the semiprecious stones. The construction of the chains was similar to that of the prayer beads used by Tibetan Buddhists, but their use to display status was drastically different from the Tibetan precedent. The chain consisted of 108 primary beads, with four larger beads that demarcated four sections of 27 beads. There were also three strands of counting beads, hanging two on one side and one on the other, and a drop with a larger bead and pendant worn down the back as a counterweight to the chain. The illustrated example, while missing one of the larger pink crackle-type beads, exhibits the four divided sections of 27 beads. Each of the four external strands has stone drops, perhaps turquoise, with gilded metal caps and a flattened turquoise plaquelike stone on the counterweight. Combinations of other stones are used as spacers between the glass and larger beads, and a wrapped ribbon with a swastika design adorns the counterweight strand. When the Qing dynasty fell in 1911, these chains (along with the other foreign costumes), which had often been regarded as bindings placed on society by a foreign invader (the Manchu), quickly disappeared. The chains were often broken apart to be sold in parts.
Hussey, Nellie B., Source
Primary Description: 
Ceremonial Court Chain. Light blue glass beads, turquois, coral, pink crystal, red and grey blue fabric, white ivory; beadmaking and assembled. The chain: (a) 108 spherical blue beads, alternating with small flat discs of ivory; (b) three large crackled pink beads (should be four) flanked by lotus leaf forms of green turquois; (c) three (should be four) pendant chains of one perforated disc, three large crackled spherical pink crystal beads (originally ten), units of tiny white beads simulating pearls; four green jadeite (?) pendants with gilt caps; (d) four slender tubular forms of stitchery in red and white interspersed with openwork discs; (e) a long, central blue ribbon connecting one three-lobed colorless glass bead, bands of red and white stitchery with swastika motif, one large oval, green jadeite form flanked by half-beads of coral and a green jadeite pendant with gilt cap.
Corning Museum of Glass 2013-05-18 through 2014-01-05
For 30,000 years, mankind has crafted beads from natural materials. With the discovery of glassmaking in the second millennium B.C., glass began to be used for this same purpose. Glass beads are universal. They have been produced throughout the 35 centuries of glass manufacturing, and by nearly every culture in the world. The glass beads and beaded objects on view in this exhibition are arranged thematically, comparing the manner in which diverse cultures have utilized beads, frequently for the same purposes, but sometimes for unique reasons. These themes explore how glass beads adorn the body and our possessions; how they convey messages about power and wealth, and identify the stages of human life; how they serve ritual purposes, as well as decorate clothing and objects used in rituals; and how they have been employed across the centuries as a means of exchange, both commercial and cultural. Through the centuries, beads have been made using a variety of processes. Understanding how beads were made has allowed scholars to follow the transmission of beads and beadmaking techniques across the globe. Across time and around the world, glass beads have become a common element of mankind. Through their manufacture and function, they are one of the strings that bind humanity together. “Life on a String” celebrates this common bond while also revealing the distinctiveness of different societies through their use of glass beads to celebrate their unique cultural heritage.
Exhibition of East Asiatic Glass
Toledo Museum of Art 1948-10-03 through 1948-10-31
Glass Beads: Selections from The Corning Museum of Glass (2013) illustrated, pp. 50-51, no. 32; BIB# 134720