Classification of the Qing Dynasty Double Dragon Orders (2009-08-13)

The issuance of the Qing Dynasty Double Dragon Orders likely began on March 11th, 1861, following the establishment of the foreign ministry, and required the approval from the Emperor. The evolvement of the Double Dragon Orders is divided in three periods: the early version of the Double Dragon Order awarded between 1862 and 1881; the first type of the Double Dragon Orders awarded between 1881 and 1896; and the second type of the Double Dragon Orders awarded between 1896 and 1911.

The early version of the Double Dragon Orders awarded between 1862 and 1881 are now extremely rare and are with very limited documentations. Based on the engravings, the early version orders are within the first three classes (Figure 1). Those with the same format but without engravings are speculated to belong to the fourth and fifth classes (Figure 2). The classification of the early version Double Dragon Orders is different from those issued in the later periods (the later ones have their classes engraved in Manchurian). However, the early version orders are embedded with gemstones of three different colors – red, blue, and white – which likely represent the first, second, and third class respectively. The use of gemstone color for the purpose of classification has been seen in the insignia of the late Qing Dynasty’s modernized military.

Figure 1: The early type Double Dragon Order, second class, second grade, gold medal (Click image to enlarge.)

Figure 2: The early type Double Dragon Order, third grade, silver medal (Click on image to enlarge.)

There were specific requirements and blueprints for the appearance and classification of the first type Double Dragon Orders awarded between 1881 and 1896. The differences in shape between the first, second and third class orders are displayed in Figure 3. However, the grade differentiation is based on each specific class. Figure 4 illustrates various grades among the first class orders as issued by foreign ministry. From the blueprint and from actual orders, the differences between various grades of the first class medal can be easily differentiated: 1) the first difference is in the position and the number of flame; 2) the second difference is in the indication of grades written in Manchurian (the same Manchurian writings also apply to second and third classes). Figure 5 illustrates the blueprint for various grades of the second class orders. From the blueprint, one could easily differentiate the grades by looking at: 1) the difference in the design of the cloud-shaped edges; 2) the difference in the last right Manchurian word indicating the grade of the order. Figure 6 illustrates the blueprint for various grades of third class orders. The same method of classification of the second class orders can be applied to classify the third class orders. The fourth and fifth classes Double Dragon Orders are not further classified into specific grades (Figure 7).

Figure 3 (left): Double Dragon Order of the first type, first class, third grade, in gold (Large size) (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 3 (middle): Dragon Order of the first type, second class, third grade, in silver (Large size) (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 3 (right): Double Dragon Order of the first type, third class, first grade, in gold (Large size) (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 4 (Click on images to enlarge).

Figure 5 (Click on images to enlarge).

Figure 6 (Click on images to enlarge).

Figure 7 (Click on images to enlarge).

There were also specific requirements and blueprints for the appearance and classification of the second type Double Dragon Orders awarded between 1896 and 1911. The unique design of the first class first grade order can be easily recognized by the presence of coiled dragon on the order and sash badge. The unique design of the first class second grade order is the line of embedded pearls surrounding the coral in the centre (Figure 8). The unique design of the first class third grade order is the small pearls embedded in each cloud (Figure 9). The sash badges of the second and third grades are the same in the sense that they both have a six-petal flower design (Figure 10). Figure 11 illustrates the various grades of the second type second class orders. Figure 12 illustrates the sash badges of the second type second class orders. The main point in distinguishing the various grades of the second class orders is to observe the decorative design patterns surrounding the coral in the centre of the orders. Usually the first grade has a five-petal flower design pattern surrounding the coral in the centre. The second grade has a T-shaped pattern, whereas the third grade has a m-shaped pattern. The sash badges of the first grade and second grade are similar in the sense that they both have the same blue flower pattern on the outside, whereas the third grade has a unique blue wedge pattern on the outside. Figure 13 illustrates the second type third class orders, which do not come with sash badges. Other than the blue gemstone in the centre, various grades of the third class orders can be distinguished in the same way as the second class orders. Figure 14 illustrates the second type fourth and fifth classes. These can be easily distinguished based on their unique shapes.

Of course, there are many other special double dragon order designs that were custom made for specific occasions. These special designs are not discussed in this article for the time being.

Figure 8: The second type Double Dragon Order, first class, second grade (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 9: The second type Double Dragon Order, first class, third grade (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 10: The second type Double Dragon Order, first class, third grade sash badge (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 11 (left): The second type Double Dragon Order, second class, first grade (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 11 (middle): The second type Double Dragon Order, second class, second grade (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 11 (right): The second type Double Dragon Order, second class, second grade (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 12 (left): The second type Double Dragon Order, second class, first grade sash badge (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 12 (middle): The second type Double Dragon Order, second class, second grade sash badge (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 12 (right): The second type Double Dragon Order, second class, second grade sash badge (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 13 (left): The second type Double Dragon Order, third class, first grade (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 13 (middle): The second type Double Dragon Order, third class, second grade (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 13 (right): The second type Double Dragon Order, third class, second grade (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 14: The second type Double Dragon Order, fourth class (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 15: The second type Double Dragon Order, fifth class (Click on image to enlarge.)

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2 Comments

Filed under Chinese Orders

2 responses to “Classification of the Qing Dynasty Double Dragon Orders (2009-08-13)

  1. I own the medal in figure 3 (far right). My great-grandfather was a Hungarian diplomat to China. Our family has several of these, as well as some color prints of the medals.

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