Double Dragon Order of the Late Qing Dynasty (2009-08-12)

The Double Dragon Order is the first official government medal implemented in China. The first ever documented order was the Order of the Double Dragon second class first grade, early type in gold (Figures 1, 2). It was awarded to a Briton named James Bevan Edwards (Figure 3) in 1864 during the Tongzhi period.

Figures 1 to 3: The Double Dragon Order (in gold) awarded to James Bevan Edwards (Click on images to enlarge.)

In 1864, James Bevan Edwards joined the regiment under Colonel Gordon’s command and participated in the battle against the Taiping Rebels in Changzhou. He was awarded the Order of the Double Dragon second class first grade for his exceptional service. These earliest version of the Double Dragon Order is categorized into three classes, each class embedded with a different colour gemstones (red, blue, white), which are speculated for distinguishing the three classes. There are other orders with a similar format but the classes are not engraved and specified. These other orders are believed to be of lower grade. Further investigation into the Qing dynasty archives is needed to verify the categorization of these early versions of the second class order.

The first documented version of the Double Dragon Order regulations was released by the Qing government’s foreign ministry on December 19th, 1881. These regulations specified the detailed requirements for the Double Dragon Order, such as name, classification, appearance, licence, production, and agenda of the awarding ceremony. These orders are commonly known as the first type Double Dragon Orders (Figures 4 to 6).

Figures 4 to 6: First type Double Dragon Orders (Click on images to enlarge.)

During that era, the Double Dragon Orders were only awarded to foreigners. And when Qing government officials visited western country, they would have many different versions of the Double Dragon Order custom made. The countries that are known to have produced the Double Dragon Order include Russia, Germany, Austria, Belgium and France (Figures 7 to 10).

Figures 7 to 10: Double Dragon Orders custom made in western countries (Click on images to enlarge.)

On February 11th, 1897, the Qing government’s foreign ministry granted to change the Double Dragon Order into a star shape, and to no longer embroider a dragon shape on the sash. The ministry then released the revised regulations regarding these changes. The Double Dragon Orders made since then are commonly known as the second type Double Dragon Orders (Figures 11, 12). At this time, Qing government officials would still have most of the orders custom made in western countries (Figures 13 to 16).

Figures 11 & 12: Second type Double Dragon Orders (Click on images to enlarge.)

Figures 13 to 16:Second type Double Dragon Orders custom made in western countries (Click on images to enlarge.)

Until August 1908, the early versions of the Double Dragon Orders were only awarded to foreigners. At the request of the foreign ministry, the Qing government began awarding the orders to government officials who were on official visits to foreign countries.

It can be said that the Double Dragon Orders are China’s milestone in opening itself to foreign countries, in building the country’s dignity, and in reaching out to the rest of the world. Therefore, to this date, they are still deeply valued by Chinese and foreign medal collectors.

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