Royal and noble ranks of the Qing dynasty

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The Qing dynasty (1644–1912) of China developed a complicated peerage system for royal and noble ranks.

Rule of inheritance[edit]

In principle, titles are downgraded one grade per generation/inheritance (降等世襲).

  • Direct imperial princes with the Eight Privileges are downgraded for four generations, after which the title can be inherited without further downgrades.
  • Direct imperial princes without the Eight Privileges are downgraded until they reach Feng'en Jiangjun, which then becomes perpetual.
  • Cadet line imperial princes and lords are downgraded until they reach Feng'en Jiangjun, which can be further inherited three times before the title expires completely.
  • For non-imperial peers, the title can be downgraded to En Jiwei before becoming perpetually heritable.

Occasionally, a peer can be granted the "perpetual heritable" privilege (世襲罔替), which will allow the title to be passed down without downgrading. Throughout the Qing dynasty, there were twelve imperial princely families who enjoyed this privilege, and were known as the "Iron Cap Princes".

The noble titles are inherted through a system of loose primogeniture: the eldest son from the peer's first wife is usually the heir apparent, but inheritance by a younger son, a son of a concubine, or brother of the peer was not uncommon. Non-heir sons of imperial princes were entitled to petition for a lower title, according to his birth (by the chief consort, secondary consort or concubines) and his father's rank, than the one they would have received had they been the heir. Non-heir sons of other peers were also occasionally granted a lower title.

Whether imperial or not, the inheritance or creation is never automatic, and must be approved either by the Emperor, the Ministry of Personnel, or the Court of the Imperial Clan. Imperial princes, notably, must pass exams in equestrianship, archery and Manchu language to be eligible for titles.

Grading system[edit]

Yunji Wei ("Sub-Commander of the Cloud Cavalry") was originally a military rank created in the Sui Dynasty, it was later turned into a military honour in the Tang Dynasty, as part of the honour system (勳官). Qing abolished the separate military honour system and merged it into the nobility rank system, using Yun Jiwei as the lowest grantable rank of nobility, and the basic unit of rank progression.

For example, a Yun Jiwei who receives another grant of Yun Jiwei becomes a Ji Duwei. A Hou First Class plus Yun Jiwei is the equivalent of 23 grants of Yun Jiwei.

Titular names[edit]

Historically, Chinese noble titles were usually created with a fiefdom (食邑 shíyì), though the fief may only be nominal. Qing dynasty ended this tradition: with only a few exceptions, no fief was ever named. Instead, noble titles can be created without a name, or they may be bestowed a titular name (美號 meihào). These names are usually descriptive of the peer's merit, virtue, or the circumstance of his ennoblement.

Titular names were unique for imperial princes, while non-imperial peers' titular names may overlap. Following the Ming tradition, single-character names were reserved for Qinwang, while Junwang use two-character names. All other peers normally have two-character names, but may be granted up to four characters.

Since noble titles were primarily awarded for military service, the titular names predominantly describe martial virtues, e.g. 忠勇公, Zhongyong Gong, "Loyal and Brave Duke". But a particularly common titular name was 承恩公, Cheng'en Gong, "Duke Who Receives Grace", which was frequently granted to the Empress' family members.

Imperial clan[edit]

Eight Privileges[edit]

At the top of the imperial hierarchy, the highest six ranks enjoyed the Eight Privileges (Chinese: 八分; pinyin: bafen; Manchu: jakūn ubu). These privileges were: red carriage wheels, purple horse reins, heated carriages, purple cushions, gemstone mandarin hat crests, two-eyed peacock feathers on mandarin hats, using leather whips to clear paths, and employing eunuchs. (Peacock feathers, however, were prohibited for princes above beizi and direct imperial clansmen.)

The Eight Privileges entitled the prince to participate in state councils and share in spoils. But they were also bound to reside in the capital and perform services to the imperial court.

Male members[edit]

  • Heshuo Qinwang (simplified Chinese: 和硕亲王; traditional Chinese: 和碩親王; pinyin: héshuò qīnwáng; Manchu: hošo-i cin wang), commonly simplified to qinwang, translated as "Prince of the First Rank" or "Prince of the Blood". "Heshuo" ("hošo") means "four corners, four sides" in Manchu.
    • Shizi (Chinese: 世子; pinyin: Shìzǐ; Manchu: šidzi; "Heir Son") refers to the heir apparent to a qinwang.
  • Duoluo Beile (simplified Chinese: 多罗贝勒; traditional Chinese: 多羅貝勒; pinyin: duōluó bèilè; Manchu: doro-i beile), means "Lord", "Prince" or "Chief" in Manchu, commonly simplified to beile, and translated as "Prince of the Third Rank", "Venerable Prince", or "Noble Lord". "Duoluo" ("doro") means "virtue, courtesy, propriety" in Manchu. It was usually granted to the son of a qinwang or junwang. Because Beile is the best known Manchu, non-Chinese title, it is commonly used to refer to all Manchu princes.
  • Gushan Beizi (simplified Chinese: 固山贝子; traditional Chinese: 固山貝子; pinyin: gùshān bèizǐ; Manchu: gūsa-i beise), commonly simplified to beizi, and translated as "Prince of the Fourth Rank", "Banner Prince" or "Banner Lord". "Gushan" ("gūsai") means "banner" in Manchu, a reference to either of the Eight Banners. "Beizi" ("beise") is the plural form of "beile", but since 1636, "beile" and "beizi" are used to refer to two different ranks of nobility.

The four ranks above were granted solely to direct male-line descendants of the emperor. These titles below were granted to cadet lines of the imperial clan.

  • Feng'en Zhenguo Gong (simplified Chinese: 奉恩镇国公; traditional Chinese: 奉恩鎮國公; pinyin: fèng'ēn zhènguó gōng; Manchu: kesi-be tuwakiyara gurun-be dalire gung), translated as "Duke Who Receives Grace and Guards the State", simplified to "Duke Who Guards the State", also translated as "Defender Duke by Grace".
  • Feng'en Fuguo Gong (simplified Chinese: 奉恩辅国公; traditional Chinese: 奉恩輔國公; pinyin: fèng'ēn fǔguó gōng; Manchu: kesi-be tuwakiyara gurun-de aisilara gung), translated as "Duke Who Receives Grace and Assists the State", simplified to "Duke Who Assists the State", also translated as "Bulwark Duke by Grace".

The above six ranks are titles that enjoy the Eight Priviledges (入八分). The titles below do not enjoy the Eight Priviledges (不入八分) and have no imperial duties.

  • Burubafen Zhenguo Gong (Chinese: 不入八分镇国公; pinyin: Bùrùbāfēn zhènguó gōng; Manchu: Jakūn Ubu de Dosimbuhakū Gurun be Dalire Gung), translated as "Duke without the Eight Priviledges Who Guards the State", also translated as "Lesser Defender Duke".
  • Burubafen Fuguo Gong (Chinese: 不入八分辅国公; pinyin: Bùrùbāfēn fǔguó gōng; Manchu: Jakūn Ubu de Dosimbuhakū Gurun de Aisilara Gung), translated as "Duke without the Eight Priviledges Who Assists the State", also translated as "Lesser Bulwark Duke".

All of the above titles rank above the court degrees (超品). The ranks below are ranked first to fourth degree respectively. The first three Jiangjun ranks are each further subdivided into four grades: First Class plus Yun Jiwei, First Class, Second Class, and Third Class.

  • Fengguo Jiangjun (Chinese: 奉国将军; pinyin: fèngguó jiāngjūn; Manchu: Gurun be Tuwakiyara Janggin), translated as "General Who Receives the State" or "Supporter General".
  • Feng'en Jiangjun (Chinese: 奉恩将军; pinyin: fèng'ēn jiāngjūn; Manchu: Kesi-be Tuwakiyara Janggin), translated as "General Who Receives Grace" or "General by Grace". This rank has no sub-classes. This title is not granted per se, but were given to heirs of Fengguo Jiangjun.

Regardless of title and rank, an imperial prince can be addressed as Age (阿哥), Manchu for "Lord" or "Commander".

Female members[edit]

The following titles were granted to female members of the imperial clan:

  • Gulun Gongzhu (simplified Chinese: 固伦公主; traditional Chinese: 固倫公主; pinyin: gùlún gōngzhǔ; Manchu: gurun-i gungju), translated as "State Princess", "Gurun Princess" or "Princess of the First Rank". It was usually granted to a princess born to an empress. "Gurun" means "all under Heaven" in Manchu.
  • Heshuo Gongzhu (simplified Chinese: 和硕公主; traditional Chinese: 和碩公主; pinyin: héshuò gōngzhǔ; Manchu: hošo-i gungju), translated as "Heshuo Princess" or "Princess of the Second Rank". It was usually granted to a princess born to a consort or concubine. "Heshuo" ("hošo") means "four corners, four sides" in Manchu.
  • Junzhu (Chinese: 郡主; pinyin: jùnzhǔ), translated as "Princess of a Commandery". It was usually granted to the daughter of a Qinwang.
  • Junjun (Chinese: 郡君; pinyin: jùnjūn), translated as "Lady of a Commandery". It was usually granted to a daughter born to a concubine of a Qinwang or the daughter of a Beile.
  • Zongnü (Chinese: 宗女; pinyin: zõngnü), translated as "Clanswoman". This is not a granted title, but the honorific given to all daughters of a jiangjun and other untitled princesses.

Princesses' consorts[edit]

  • E'fu (simplified Chinese: 额驸; traditional Chinese: 額駙; pinyin: é'fù, translated as "Prince Consort") or Fuma (simplified Chinese: 驸马; traditional Chinese: 駙馬; pinyin: fùmǎ), originally meaning "emperor's charioteer"). It was usually granted to the spouse of a princess above the rank of Zongnü. The E'fu are separated into seven ranks corresponding to the rank of the princess he married. E'fu of Gulun and Heshuo Gongzhu rank above the court degress, equivalent to beizi and dukes respectively. The remaining E'fu have equivalent court degrees from the first to fifth degree.

Others[edit]

At the beginning of Qing dynasty, prior to the formalization of the rank system, there were also non-standard titles used, such as:

Non-imperial nobility[edit]

Standard non-imperial titles[edit]

The following are the nine grades of the peerage awarded for valour, achievement, distinction, other imperial favour, and to imperial consort clans.

  • Gong (Chinese: ; pinyin: gōng; literally: "duke" Manchu: gung), often referred to as Min Gong (Chinese: 民公; pinyin: mín gōng; literally: "commoner duke") to differentiate from the imperial Guo Gong. Translated as "Duke" or "Non-imperial Duke".

The above three ranks are all rank above the court hierarchy (超品). The four following ranks were all evolved from leadership ranks in the Manchu banner army, originally called Ejen (額真, Manchu "Master", "Lord") and later Janggin (章京, Manchu "General", from Chinese jiangjun).

All of the above ranks are sub-divided into four grades; in order: First Class plus Yun Jiwei, First Class, Second Class, and Third Class.

  • Ji Duwei (simplified Chinese: 骑都尉; traditional Chinese: 騎都尉; pinyin: jídūwèi; literally: "Master Commandant of Cavalry"; Manchu: baitalabura hafan), rough equivalent of an officer of a chivalric order. This grade is subdivided into two classes: Ji Duwei plus Yun Jiwei, and simply Ji Duwei.
  • En Jiwei (simplified Chinese: 恩骑尉; traditional Chinese: 恩騎尉; pinyin: ēnjíwèi; literally: "Knight Commandant by Grace"; Manchu: kesingge hafan), rough equivalent of an esquire. This title was not granted per se, but bestowed on the heirs of Yun Jiwei without the privilege of perpetual inheritance.

Pre-standard non-imperial titles[edit]

At the beginning of Qing Dynasty, during Nurhaci's and Hong Taiji's reigns, the noble ranks were not yet standardized. There were several titles created that did not fit into the above system, mostly for defected Ming leaders. These titles were similar to the titles used in the Ming dynasty, and lack the Manchu nomenclature and the grade system introduced later.

  • Wang (Chinese: ; pinyin: wáng; Manchu: wang), "Prince", created for Yangguli and several Ming defectors. The relation between Wang and Junwang is unclear: in both Ming and Qing traditions, single-character titular names were reserved for Qinwang, while Junwang received two-character titular names, but these Wang were created with both single and two-character titular names. Both Wu Sangui and Shang Kexi were promoted from Wang to Qinwang, but no Wang was ever promoted to Junwang or vice versa.
  • Chaopin Gong (Chinese: 超品公; pinyin: chaopingōng; literally: "duke above grades"), "High Duke", a unique rank created for Yangguli, before he was furher elevated to Wang. This title ranks just below beizi and above all other dukes.
  • Gong (Chinese: ; pinyin: gōng; literally: "duke"; Manchu: Gung; "Duke"), Hou (Chinese: ; pinyin: hóu; Manchu: ho; "Marquess"), and Bo (Chinese: ; pinyin: ; Manchu: be; "Count"), similar to the later standard titles, but created without subclasses (不言等, bùyándeng).

Additionally, there were banner offices that later evolved into hereditary noble titles. Despite being used as noble titles, these offices continued to exist and function in the banner hierarchy. To distinguish the noble titles from the offices, they were sometimes called "hereditary office" (世職) or "hereditary rank" (世爵).

  • Gūsa Ejen (固山額真) "Master of a Banner", sinicized as Dutong (都統), "Colonel"
    • Evolved into Zongbing (總兵), "Chief Commander"
    • Then into Amba Janggin (昂邦章京 or 按班章京), "Grand General"
    • Then into Jinkini Hafan (精奇尼哈番), "Prime Officer"
    • Which was finally sinicized as Zi (子), "Viscount"
  • Meiren-i Ejen (梅勒额真 or 美淩額真) "Vice Master", sinicized as Fu Dutong (副都统), "Vice Colonel"
    • Evolved into Fujiang (副將), "Vice General"
    • Then into Meiren-i Janggin (梅勒章京), "Vice General"
    • Then into Ashan-i Hafan (阿思尼哈番), "Vice Officer"
    • Which was finally sinicized as Nan (男), "Baron"
  • Jalan Ejen (甲喇额真) "Master of a Sub-Banner", sinicized as Canling (参领), "Staff Captain"
    • Evolved into Canjiang (參將), "Staff General", or Youji (游擊), "Vanguard" or "Skirmish Leader"
    • Then into Jalan Janggin (扎蘭章京), "General of a Sub-Banner"
    • Then into Adaha Hafan (阿達哈哈番), "Chariot Officer"
    • Which was finally sinicized as Qingche Duwei (輕車都尉), "Master Commandant of Light Chariot"
  • Niru Ejen (牛錄额真) "Master of an Arrow" (an arrow is a basic unit of the banner army), sinicized as Zuoling (佐領), "Assistant Captain"
    • Evolved into Beiyu (備御), "Rearguard"
    • Then into Niru Janggin (牛錄章京), "General of an Arrow"
    • Then into Baitalabura Hafan (拜他喇布勒哈番), "Agitant Officer"
    • Which was finally sinicized as Ji Duwei (騎都尉), "Master Commandant of Cavalry"

Notable titles[edit]

Civil titles[edit]

With a few exception, the above titles were in principle created only for military merits. There were also titles for civil officials.

While there were a few Manchu civil titles, but the most important civil titles followed the Han confucian tradition, derived from high bureaucratic offices that evolved into sinecures. E.g. Tai Bao (太保, "Grand Protector"), Shao Shi (少師, "Junior Preceptor"), Taizi Tai Fu (太子太傅, "Grand Tutor of the Crown Prince").

These titles were non-heritable.

Ranks of vassal and tributary states[edit]

The Qing court also grants titles to princes of its vassal and tibutary states, mainly in Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet.

The ranks roughly mirror those of the imperial clan, with a few differences:

  • Han (Chinese: ; pinyin: hàn; literally: "Khan"; Manchu: han), ranks even higher than Qinwang, and ranks only below the Emperor and the Crown Prince in the Qing hierarchy. Sometimes also called Han Wang (汗王). The Emperor also uses the title of Da Han (大汗, "Great Khan") instead of Emperor in communiqués to the steppe states.
  • Vassal princes do not have the Eight Priviledges, therefore there are no distinction between dukes with or without the Eight Priviledges. There are only two ducal ranks: Zhenguo Gong and Fuguo Gong.

The Taiji and Tabunang are equal in rank, and both subdivided into 5 degrees: Jasagh, First Class, Second Class, Third Class, and Fourth Class. Jasagh ranks above court degrees, while the rest are equivaent of first to fourth court degrees.

Under the tusi system, Qing also recognized various local tribal chieftainships of ethnic minority tribes. This was mainly applied in the mountain regions of Yunnan, but also in western and northern borderlands.

The vassal titles are generally inherited in perpetuity, without downgrading.

Other honours and privileges[edit]

In addition to systematized rank titles listed above, there were also other honorific titles and privileges, mostly non-heritable:

  • There were various Mongol/Manchu/Turkic titles, granted mainly to non-Han vassals and officials. Bitesi, Baksi, Jarguci were civil honours, while Baturu, Daicing, Cuhur were military honours. Jasagh is granted to vassals with autonomous power, while Darhan is a hereditary title divided into 3 classes. These titles were mostly awarded to Manchus and Mongols in early Qing, and gradually fell out of use as the court became increasingly sinicized.
  • The privilege of wearing feathers on the mandarin hat (翎羽, lingyu)
    • Peacock feathers (花翎, hualing) were usually worn by imperial princes, princes consort, imperial bodyguards and some high officials. Exceptionally, peacock feathers may be granted as a special honour. Two-eyed and three-eyed feathers were very rarely bestowed—only seven peers ever received the three-eyed feathers, while two dozens received the two-eyed feathers.
    • Blue feathers (藍翎, lanling) were usually worn by household officials of the imperial and princely houses. Like peacock feathers, blue feathers may be granted as a special honour, usually to officials of the sixth court degree and below.
    • Although a badge of honour, the feathers also symbolized bond servitude to the Emperor. As such, direct imperial clansmen and imperial princes ranked beile and above were prohobited from wearing feathers.
  • The privilege of wearing the yellow jacket (武功黃馬褂子, wugong huang maguazi, "Yellow jacket of martial merit"). This is usually the uniform of imperial bodyguards, it can be bestowed as the Emperor's personal favour. A rare honour in early Qing, it was diluted through excessive grants in late Qing. The jacket may only be worn in the Emperor's presence.
  • The privilege of wearing imperial girdles (to both the recipient and his issues):
    • The yellow girdles (黃帶子, huang daizi) was normally reserved for direct imperial clansmen (宗室, zongshi), but may be granted to collateral imperial clansmen, known as Gioro (覺羅, jueluo) as an honour. The yellow girdle entitles the wearer to be tried by the Court of the Imperial Clan, rather than the general or banner courts.
    • The red girdles (紅帶子, hong daizi) was normally reserved for collateral imperial clansmen, or Gioro, as well as demoted direct imperial clansmen. Non-imperials may be granted the Gioro surname and be adapted into the imperial clan, thus the privilege of wearing the red girdle.
    • The purple girdles (紫帶子, zi daizi) was normally reserved for demoted Gioro. Uniquely, the family of Dahai, the "saint of Manchu" and the inventor of the Manchu script, was granted the privilege of wearing purple girdles, to symbolize his family as the "second clan of Manchu (inferior only to Aisin Gioro)".
  • Enshrinement in the Imperial Ancestral Temple (配享太庙, peixiang Taimiao). Granted to deceased peers (and sometimes also their wives), therefore a privilege for all his descendants. They were worshipped alongside the imperial ancestors, and their descendants had the privilege of sending representatives to participate in the imperial ancestral rituals. Imperial and Mongol princes were housed in the east wing of the temple, while the others were housed in the west wing. This was an extremely high honour, granted only 27 times throughout the dynasty's history. Zhang Tingyu was the only Han subject to ever receive this honour, while Heling was the only person to have this honour revoked.
  • Bestowal of Manchu, noble or imperial surnames (賜姓, cixing). Occasionally, a non-Manchu subject would be granted a Manchu surname, or a Manchu would be granted a more prestigious surname, or even the imperial surname "Gioro", thus adopting into the imperial clan.
  • Promotion in the banner hierarchy:
    • A non-bannerman can be inducted into the banner system.
    • A Han bannerman (漢軍八旗, hanjun baqi, Manchu nikan gūsa) may be elevated into a Manchu banner (滿洲八旗, manzhou baqi, Manchu manju gūsa).
    • A bannerman from the lower banners (plain red, bordered red, bordered white, plain blue, and bordered blue banners) can be elevated into the upper banners (plain yellow, bordered yellow, and plain white) (抬旗, taiqi). This was especially common for the imperial consorts and her clansmen.
  • Court beads (朝珠, chaozhu). The court beads were part of the court uniform; the length of the beads normally corresponds to the courtier's court degree. When a courtier kowtows, the beads must touch the ground. Longer court beads can be granted as a special favour regardless of the courtier's court degree. This was often granted to elderly courtiers to relieve them of the physical hardship of kowtowing.

Etymology of Manchu titles[edit]

With a few exception, most Manchu titles ultimately derived from Chinese roots.

  • Han, used by the Emperor himself and a few Mongol lords, is obviously borrowed from Mongolian Khan, Khaan or Khagan. In Manchu, however, the word is written slightly differently for the Emperor and other Khans.
  • Beile is usually considered indigenous Manchu titles, evolved from earlier Jurchen Bojile, which may ultimately be derrived from the Turkic title Bey or Beg or even Chinese Bo.
  • Beise was originally the plural form of beile, but later evolved into a separate title.
  • Janggin derrived from the Chinese word Jiangjun (將軍, "General"). In Manchu, however, Janggin evolved into a nominal title distinct from the military office, which is translated in Manchu as Jiyanggiyūn.
  • Taiji or Tayiji derrived from Chinese Taizi (太子, "Crown Prince"). In Chinese, it was used exclusively by heirs of imperial, royal or princely titles. But in Mongolia, the Genghisids have long used it as a distinct title.
  • Tabunang was originally the title given to a Mongol prince consort who married a Genghisid princess. It was granted to Jelme, and his descendants continued to use this title.
  • Fujin (福晉), is a consort of a prince ranked beizi or above. This word evolved from Chinese Furen (夫人, "lady", "madame" or "wife"), but was reserved for high-ranked ladies. Furen was used by lower-ranked married ladies.

See also[edit]