Chinese rank insignia hat knobs

Made by Unknown (person) in China, Asia, 1890-1920.

Hats are an important accessory in Chinese dress and an official is seldom depicted not wearing his hat. The significance of the hat for military or civil officials is evident as the hat comes first in each set of regulations stipulating correct court dress.

Easily identified hat knobs originally made from semi-precious stones, were introduced in 1727 by the Yongzheng Emperor and were to be worn on official and public occasions. They were often referred to as ‘mandarin buttons’ in the West. Wit...


Hat knobs (5), rank insignia, metal / glass, maker unknown, China, 1890-1920

Five hat knobs for Chinese court officials hats made of coloured glass spheres in opaque red, opaque pink, clear glass, opaque white glass and plain gilt with decorative metal base and matching finial.


Hat finials were worn by officials on ceremonial occasions to signify rank and position at a glance and to avoid confusion on less informal occasions when insignia badges displayed on outer garments known as bufu, were not worn. A coloured sphere was fixed to the apex of the crown of the hat with a long metal screw which passed through a hole in the hat. The colour of the sphere denoted the rank and position of the court official. The nine types of hat knobs represent nine distinctive ranks and the position of the civil or military official.
Unknown (person) 1890-1920


The hat knobs are from a collection of diverse Chinese objects transferred from the Asian Studies Department, University of Sydney and possibly used as part of a teaching collection.
Asian Studies Department, University of Sydney


Gift of the Asian Studies Department, University of Sydney, 2007
3 April, 2007

Cite this Object

Chinese rank insignia hat knobs 2017, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 24 November 2017, <>
{{cite web |url= |title=Chinese rank insignia hat knobs |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=24 November 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
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