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.
Extant examples of Kangxi-period civil rank badges are very rare. The present badge is made even more rare by the elegant cloud-patterned gauze ground, as opposed to the gold-couched ground more frequently seen on badges of the same period. For three Kangxi-period gold-couched-ground 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; the example decorated with a silver pheasant illustrated by B. Jackson and D. Hughes, Ph.D., Ladder to the Clouds, Berkeley, California, 1999, p. 229, no. 15.010, and later sold in these rooms, The Imperial Wardrobe: Fine Chinese Costume and Textiles from the Linda Wrigglesworth Collection, 19 March 2008, lot 28; and the example decorated with a peacock, also sold in these rooms, 21-22 September 1995, lot 535.