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A Qing dynasty rank badge for a civil official of the Sixth Rank, depicting an egret. Royal Ontario Museum.
  • Chinese: 補子 (bǔzi)

Buzi, also known as chest badges, rank badges, or mandarin squares, were embroidered squares worn on the robes of scholar-officials in Ming and Qing Dynasty China, indicating the wearer's court rank. Such badges were also worn by officials in Joseon Dynasty Korea, where they were known as hyungbae, beginning in 1454,[1] and in the Ryûkyû Kingdom, up until 1663, when they were abandoned in favor of a system of colored court caps.[2]

Badges for civil officials typically featured a pair of birds, one in flight and one on the ground. This represented the yin-yang dualism present in all things, including the dualisms of masculine and feminine, and of civil and martial. The symbols ranged from the noblest of birds, a pair of cranes soaring above the clouds, on the badge of a First Rank official, down to ground-pecking quails or orioles on the badges of officials of the Ninth Rank.

Military officials' buzi bore images of animals or mythological beasts, such as lions, bears, panthers, or qilin. A select few officials bore badges featuring images of flying fish or a python, indicating a status above First Rank. Finally, Imperial Censors wore badges bearing images of the xiezhi, a mythical creature said to be able to smell lies, or immorality.


  • Ray Huang, 1587: A Year of No Significance, Yale University Press (1981), 53-54.
  1. "Rank Badges (Hyungbae)," gallery labels, Metropolitan Museum of Art.[1]; "Badge," gallery label, Pacific Asia Museum.[2]
  2. Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion, Volume 6: East Asia. Oxford University Press (2010), 423.