Jade is a gem form in nature. It is rare and precious, beautiful and long lasting. Long time ago, it was used only by the high class people or the royal family. It was considered as symbol of the power, prosperity, health and moral qualities as the intelligence, bravery, fairness, purity and kindness...
Jade bracelet with architectural decoration, Nguyen Dynasty's royal collection, VNMH, 19th – 20th century
In the Nguyen dynasty (1802 - 1945), the making and using of jade was very popular in the Hue Royal Family. Jade was made for any wares used for the King and the royal family, or the ritual and worshipping items and decoration, especially jewelry.
Silver earring with gemstone, Royal collection of the Nguyen Dynasty, VNMH, 19th - 20th century
Mũ xung thiên (King's cap), royal collection of the Nguyen dynasty, VNMH, 19th - 20th century
The most favorite jade jewelry is the jade pendant. There were two types of jade pendant. Firstly, the jade pendant was made of a set of jade plaques and used as a necklace itself. The style and decoration was the ancient Han Viet art style combined with the contemporary art style. The decorative subject was almost dragon - a symbol of power, and the bat - considered as happiness and virtue. This kind of necklace was used only for the king and the prince.
Belt ornamental plague in the shape of two servants of Bodhisatva,
Royal collection of the Nguyen Dynasty, VNMH, 19th - 20th century
Jade pendant with the shape of a bat decoration, Royal collection of the Nguyen Dynasty, VNMH, 19th - 20th century
Jade pendant in the shape of two heads of dragon, Han - Viet style, VNMH, 19th - 20th century
Another one was used as a single pendant of a necklace or hung on the clothe flap. It has various subjects of decoration represented for different symbols. The dragon shape symbolized for the power, the butterfly was for the eternality, the balm-cricket was for the revitalization, the bat was for the happiness, the fish was for the prosperity, the duck was for the marriage, the peach was for the long living, the lotus was for the purity etc...
The jade in the shape of a snail, royal collection of Nguyen Dynasty, VNMH, 19th – 20th century
Jade also was used as ornament for the clothes or cap or belt worn by the King. It was also inlaid to other gold or silver jewelry.
Jade pendant in shape of a peach, royal collection of Nguyen Dynasty, VNMH, 19th – 20th century
Jade pendant, royal collection of Nguyen Dynasty, VNMH, 19th – 20th century
The cap for the kings of the Nguyen dynasty has two kinds: mũ bình thiên and mũ xung thiên. Mũ bình thiên was worn by the king at occasion of Nam Giao Ceremony. There was a flat and rectangular plate on the top of the cap. The face and the back of the cap decorated 12 fringes of pearls or gold, as represented for 12 months of the year. The cap was also inlaid with jade or diamond. Mũ xung thiên was used more frequently when the King hosted the affairs or the emissary or at the royal ritual ceremonies. It was a cap that had two dragonfly's wing shape raised upward. It was decorated with many 5 claw dragons, tiger face, the sun, cloud patterns and inlaid with diamond, ruby, jade and gems
Fish shape jade pendant, royal collection of Nguyen Dynasty, VNMH, 19th – 20th century
Balm-cricket shape jade pendant, royal collection of Nguyen Dynasty, VNMH, 19th – 20th century
Lotus and duck shape jade pendant, royal collection of Nguyen Dynasty, VNMH, 19th- 20th century
Jade pendant in a shape of a bat, royal collection of Nguyen Dynasty, VNMH, 19th – 20th century
The Nguyen dynasty regulated strictly on the material, color and decoration for the clothing of the king, the royal relatives and the officers. It could be verified through the plaque worn on the belts. The high quality or the expensive or the cheaper would match to the position of the owners. However, despite the senior or high position the officer was, he could not use the jade. For example, the first ranking officer's belt could wear the plaque made of tortoise shell and with gold-bronze plated. The belt's plaque of the third ranking officer was made of silver. Others were made of horn and silver-bronze plated. Only the King could use the jade for his belt's plaque.
The jade used to make jewelry for the royal family of Nguyen dynasty included two types of jade, soft jade (nephrite) and hard jade (jadeite). The jade material was supplied domestically and even imported so it was diversified regarding the material and color. The jade jewelry was processed by the Royal factory that gathered the best craftmen of the country. It represented for the technique and the art of the jewelry making and containing the cultural and art values generated by the Vietnamese people in the Nguyen dynasty.
EN: Tran Trang