Chinese court necklace-blue glass

Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1644-1912
18 x 1 x 43 x 50 in
Credit Line
Gift of Shirley Z. Johnson
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Jewelry and Ornament


China, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), Shirley Z. Johnson collection
Provenance research underway.

In Chinese, Qing court necklaces are called chaozhu; the common English names are "court necklaces," "court beads," "Mandarin necklaces," and "Mandarin chains." The necklaces were part of court dress for all at the court, including the emperor, members of the imperial family, and members of the civil service rank five and above, as well as for military officer's rank four and above. (The civil and military bureaus each had nine ranks). Wives were allowed to wear a matching necklace. 

Necklaces belonged to prescribed court attire that was codified in the eighteenth century with the emperor's issuance of formal regulations in Huangchao liqi tushi (Illustrated Regulations for the Ceremonial Paraphernalia of the Qing Dynasty), an eighteen juan monumental, illustrated manuscript laying down the 'proper' paraphernalia for the emperor and his court. The first edition was in 1759.

The design of the Qing necklaces was based on Buddhist praying beads (Buddhist rosary), which were seen in the preceding Ming dynasty, and which were sent to the Manchu court by Tibetan lamas as gifts. The necklaces may have carried a connotation of Buddhist piety early in the Qing, but by the eighteenth century when they became mandatory court attire, they were used to visually signal a wearer's place in the court hierarchy.

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.