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Mandarin Court Necklace

The “chao zhu” is a court necklace that was worn by high-ranking Chinese officials. Based on Buddhist prayer beads, this necklace was introduced during the Qing Dynasty rein of Emperor Shunzhi, a devout Buddhist.

Like the prayer beads, these necklaces contain 108 beads, separated into groups of 27 by larger beads called “Buddha heads.” Three strings of ten beads separated into groups of five hang around the neck – two on one side, and one on the other. This signifies the gender of the wearer: women would wear the set of two strings on the right side, while men wore it on the left. At the nape of the neck hangs a ribbon connecting a pendant in the center and a large bead at the end, acting as a counterweight.

While chao zhu is usually made from precious and semiprecious stones, this piece is all ceramic. The dark blue 108 beads are intricately hand carved, and the other blue beads are also made by hand.


Circa: 19th century

Origin: China

Material: ceramic, cotton string

Condition: Very Good, missing two beads

Dimensions: 28" length, 46" including counterweight

Inventory number: JL3831



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