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Chinese Mandarin Squares


Chinese mandarin squares, emblems made of woven and embroidered silk, were worn by civil and military officials as signs of rank and status during the Mongol, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Mandarin squares exhibit a range of textile techniques, demonstrating the craft and skill that make them so unique.

Introduced during the occupation of China by Khubilai Khan and the Mongol dynasty (1280-1368), mandarin squares were also worn during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. By the 19th century, many new symbols had been introduced into the design of mandarin squares that their original meaning and purpose gradually began to fade.


Robe with encircled Mandarin Square
At that time, China was also selling mandarin squares to foreign tourists, and no general efforts were taken to collect and preserve these cultural marvels. As a result, few collections of mandarin squares remain in our time.



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