In the mid-seventeenth century under pressure from the Manchu to institute their own style of court attire, the placement of rank badges changed from display on court robes to a surcoat worn over them. The shape of buzi, or insignia badges, became more exactingly square. This shift to an outer garment necessitated dividing the front badge vertically to accommodate the front opening of the surcoat. Although not sanctioned by legislation, wives and children of courtiers often wore garments ornamented with rank badges.
Most mid- and late-seventeenth century badges have a background of couched gold-wrapped thread. On early Qing badges, such as this example, the metallic thread outlines each motif in concentric patterns. The rock has been embroidered with peacock feather filament-wrapped threads and the major motifs are worked in a variety of satin and surface stitches using silk in three strong colors: red, blue and green. This style is derived from early 17th century Ming dynasty embroidery traditions. See J. E. Vollmer, Silks for Thrones and Altars: Chinese Costumes and Textiles from the Liao through the Qing dynasty, Paris, 2003, no. 21, pp. 50-1. By the late Kangxi reign the concentric patterns of couched gold thread are replaced by straight horizontal lines of couched metallic thread.
For two other examples of Kangxi embroidered rank badges, see the badge decorated with an egret included in the exhibition, Heavens' Embroidered Cloths, One Thousand Years of Chinese Textiles, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 23 June 1995 - 17 September 1995, p. 295, no. 100, and the example decorated with a peacock sold in these rooms, 21-22 September 1995, lot 535.