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Three Interesting facts about Chinese Hulu Earrings

Apr 3, 2019

The naturalism has been popular in the Chinese jewelry design since the ancient time. This is closely linked to Chinese culture of respecting nature and even imitating nature elements. Hulu is one of the most popular images in Chinese jewelry, especially in earrings of Song (960-1297) and Ming(1368-1664) Dynasty. We would like to share three interesting facts about Hulu earrings with you today.

Fact 1: Earrings were not popular before Song Dynasty (960-1297)

In the ancient period, Chinese people believed that it was important to preserve the natural status of their body as possible, as Confucius said that:

Our bodies - to every hair and bit of skin - are received by us from our parents, and we must not presume to injure or wound them. 

Actions such as cutting hair (yes, you are not mis-reading), piecing ears were seen as not respectful to what have been given from your parents. This was why before Song Dynasty, even accessories such as bracelets, necklaces, rings were commonly seen for people’s body decoration, earrings were not often. This was more obvious in the Han culture, in which Confucianism was the mainstream. However, things changed in Song and Ming Dynasty, when Cheng–Zhu School became the main philosophy of the society, and when women were less respected than the previous dynasties. Cheng–Zhu School advocated that women and men should differentiated from each other from social status, behaviors and “dress code”, etc, by asking women to wear earrings was one of symbolic results that women had less control about their own bodies.

Queen Mingxiaoren of Ming Dynasty in Hulu Earrings 

Fact 2: Hulu Means Good Luck and Fortune

Hulu is one of the most popular elements in earring in the Ming dynasty, as people believed it would bring good luck and fortune.  “Homophonic” is an often played “game” in Chinese culture. To use items with similar sound of good meanings words for luckiness is very normal. Hulu was one of the typical examples of such culture. Hulu 葫芦in Chinese are consisted with two charters, Hu葫 and Lu芦. Hu 葫 in Chinese sounds like Fu 福, meaning good luck. Lu芦 in Chinese is the same sound as the charter 禄,which means fortune.  Hulu together contains the good meaning of “Good luck and fortune”.

Vintage Jewelry of Hulu Shape,Ming Dynasty

Fact 3: Gold/ Silver Filigree Technique Applied in Jewelry Partly Because People Admired “ Ingeniously “ Art Skills in Ming Dynasty

In Ming dynasty, ingeniously (奇巧) was in people’s favor taste of art pieces. A famous example is the Nut Boat, which was a sculpture on a nut (see the photo below). Filigree art was exactly the art style that meet people’s expectation of “luxury” and “ingeniously”, by its precise and elegant appearance, which explained more or less why such skill reached its peak in Ming dynasty. The advantage of such technique is it can make a very complicated and detailed shape but with very light weight. Many of the hulu earrings were empty in the middle and you couldn’t imagine how much efforts the crafters put in these master pieces.

The Nut Boat of Ming Dynasty

Filigree & Jade Earrings , Ming Dynasty

Even though now it is not anymore the case for the meanings behind women’s earrings, , it is interesting to look back the history. We women can now even use earrings as a window to show the independent spirit. What keeps the same is that Hulu will always bring us good luck.


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