Rank Badges with Decoration of Two Cranes among Clouds
Joseon dynasty (1392–1910)
end of 19th–early 20th century
Silk embroidery on silk damask
9 1/4 x 8 in. (23.5 x 20.3 cm)
Seymour Fund, 1953
Not on view
In 1454 the Joseon court adopted a system of insignia of rank for civil and military officials based on that of China’s Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Square silk badges with embroidered birds or animals were worn on the front (hyung) and back (bae) of official costumes. They are clearly differentiated from the round badges embroidered with a dragon (called bo) worn by the king and the crown prince on the front, back, and shoulders of their court attire.
In addition to being ornamental, rank badges served as visible status markers in a society that observed strict social and political hierarchies. They initially were permitted for wear by civil and military officials of the third rank or higher, but their use eventually was broadened to all nine ranks of government. Regulations on the specific animal imagery and correlating ranks evolved over the course of the Joseon dynasty. In general, the crane was reserved for civil officials and the tiger for military officials.