In principle, titles were downgraded one grade for each generation of inheritance.
Direct imperial princes with the Eight Privileges were downgraded for four generations, after which the title can be inherited without further downgrades.
Direct imperial princes without the Eight Privileges were downgraded until the rank of feng'en jiangjun, which then became perpetual.
Cadet line imperial princes and lords were downgraded until they reached feng'en jiangjun, which could be further inherited three times before the title expired completely.
For non-imperial peers, the title could be downgraded to en jiwei before becoming perpetually heritable.
Occasionally, a peer could be granted the privilege of shixi wangti (世襲罔替; shìxí wǎngtì; "perpetual heritability"), which allowed the title to be passed down without downgrading. Throughout the Qing dynasty, there were 12 imperial princely families who enjoyed this privilege. They were known as the "iron-cap princes".
The noble titles were inherited through a system of loose primogeniture: The eldest son from the peer's first wife was usually the heir apparent, but inheritance by a younger son, a son of a concubine, or brother of the peer was not uncommon. According to their birth (by the chief consort, secondary consort or concubines) and their father's rank, non-heir sons of imperial princes were also entitled to petition for a lower title 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 bestowement was never automatic, and had to be approved either by the Emperor, the Ministry of Personnel, or the Imperial Clan Court. Imperial princes, upon reaching adulthood at the age of 20, had to pass tests in horse-riding, archery and the Manchu language before they were eligible for titles. Imperial princesses, other than the Emperor's daughters, were usually granted titles upon marriage, regardless of age. Princesses' titles were also usually fixed after they were granted, and were not affected by changes in their fathers' nobility ranks.
Yunjiwei ("sub-commander of the cloud cavalry") was originally a military rank created in the Sui dynasty, but it was later turned into a military honour in the Tang dynasty as part of the xun guan (勳官; xūn guān) system. The Qing dynasty abolished the separate military honour system and merged it into the nobility rank system, using yunjiwei as the lowest grantable rank of nobility, and the basic unit of rank progression.
For example, a yunjiwei who received another grant of yunjiwei became a jiduwei. A first-class duke plus yunjiwei was the equivalent of 23 grants of yunjiwei.
Official rank (pin)
The Qing dynasty, much like previous dynasties, used an "official rank" system (品; pǐn). This system had nine numbered ranks, each subdivided into upper and lower levels, in addition to the lowest "unranked" rank: from upper first pin (正一品), to lower ninth pin (從九品), to the unranked (未入流), for a total of 19 ranks. All government personnel, from the highest chancellors to the lowest clerk, held an official rank ex officio, which determined their salary, uniform, privileges and order of precedence.
This pin system existed in parallel to the noble ranks detailed in this article. Many higher noble titles ranked above this system (超品; chāopǐn). And while some titles corresponded to a pin, they were considered equivalents of convenience rather than actual official ranks.
Historically, Chinese noble titles were usually created with a shiyi (食邑; shíyì; fief) each, even though the fief may only be nominal. The Hongwu Emperor of the Ming dynasty enfeoffed cadet branch princes and other nobles in different regions of China. The Qing dynasty ended this tradition; with only a few exceptions, no fief was ever named. No Qing prince was enfeoffed with territory. Instead, noble titles were created without a name, or were bestowed a meihao (美號; meǐhào; titular name). These names were usually descriptive of the peer's merit, virtue, or the circumstances leading to his ennoblement. The Dukes Yansheng kept their traditional fief in Shandong under Qing rule.
Titular names were unique for imperial princes, while non-imperial peers' titular names may overlap. Following Ming dynasty tradition, single-character names were reserved for qinwangs, while junwangs used two-character names. All other peers normally had two-character names, but may receive up to four characters.
Since noble titles were primarily awarded for military service, the titular names predominantly described martial virtues, e.g., zhongyong gong (忠勇公; zhōngyǒng gōng; "loyal and brave duke"). However, a particularly common titular name was cheng'en gong (承恩公; chéng'ēn gōng; "duke who receives grace"), which was frequently granted to the Empress's family members.
At the top of the imperial hierarchy, the highest six ranks enjoyed the "Eight Privileges" (八分; bafen; jakūn ubu). These privileges were:
Promotional books inscribed on jade, set of seals for correspondence, red carriage wheels, purple horse reins, right for reported entry, red walls of the residence, usage of corner lanterns, usage of leopard tail guns
Precious stones on the mandarin hat crests, clothes with encircled dragon patterns, usage of imperial porcelain tea sets, purple reins, red wheels, doornails on the gate, employment of guards.
Finials on mandarin hats embellished with precious stones, usage of two-eyed peacock feather, surcoats with encircled dragon patterns, purple reins, right to enter the imperial palace by horse, leopard tail guns, separate manor in the capital, employment of officials and eunuchs.
Peacock feathers, however, were prohibited for princes above the rank of beizi and direct imperial clansmen. The "Eight Privileges" entitled the prince to participate in state councils and share the spoils of war. However, the prince was also bound to reside in the capital and render service to the imperial court. In 1816, the princes were forbidden from reporting matters via eunuchs. Thus, most of the princes employed officials as managers of domestic affairs. The range of tasks of those officials included convey of memorials on behalf of the prince. The supervisor of princely manor held lower 4 rank in 9-pin system.
Heshuo qinwang (ᡥᠣᡧᠣᡳ ᠴᡳᠨ ᠸᠠᠩhošo-i cin wang; 和硕亲王; 和碩親王; héshuò qīnwáng), 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 (世子; Shìzǐ; šidzi), meaning "heir son", refers to the heir apparent to a qinwang.
Duoluo junwang (ᡩᠣᡵᠣᡳ ᡤᡳᠶᡡᠨ ᠸᠠᠩdoro-i giyūn wang; 多罗郡王; 多羅郡王; duōluó jùnwáng), commonly simplified to junwang, translated as "Prince of the Second Rank" or "Prince of a Commandery".
Zhangzi (长子; 長子; zhángzǐ; jangdzi), meaning "eldest son" or "chief son", refers to the heir apparent to a junwang.
Duoluo beile (ᡩᠣᡵᠣᡳ ᠪᡝᡳ᠌ᠯᡝdoro-i beile; 多罗贝勒; 多羅貝勒; duōluó bèilè), 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. As beile is the best known Manchu, non-Chinese title, it is commonly used to refer to all Manchu princes.
Gushan beizi (ᡤᡡᠰᠠᡳ ᠪᡝᡳ᠌ᠰᡝgūsa-i beise; 固山贝子; 固山貝子; gùshān bèizǐ), 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 any of the Eight Banners. "Beizi" ("beise") is the plural form of "beile", but since 1636, "beile" and "beizi" were 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 (ᡴᡝᠰᡳ ᠪᡝ ᡨᡠᠸᠠᡴᡳᠶᠠᡵᠠ ᡤᡠᡵᡠᠨ ᠪᡝ ᡩᠠᠯᡳᡵᡝ ᡤᡠᠩkesi-be tuwakiyara gurun-be dalire gung; 奉恩镇国公; 奉恩鎮國公; fèng'ēn zhènguó gōng), translated as "Duke Who Receives Grace and Guards the State", simplified to "Duke Who Guards the State", also translated as "Defender Duke by Grace" or "Duke of the First Rank".
Feng'en fuguo gong (ᡴᡝᠰᡳ ᠪᡝ ᡨᡠᠸᠠᡴᡳᠶᠠᡵᠠ ᡤᡠᡵᡠᠨ ᡩᡝ ᠠᡳᠰᡳᠯᠠᡵᠠ ᡤᡠᠩkesi-be tuwakiyara gurun-de aisilara gung; 奉恩辅国公; 奉恩輔國公; fèng'ēn fǔguó gōng), translated as "Duke Who Receives Grace and Assists the State", simplified to "Duke Who Assists the State", also translated as "Bulwark Duke by Grace" or "Duke of the Second Rank".
The above six ranks are titles that enjoy the "Eight Privileges". The titles below do not enjoy the "Eight Privileges" and have no imperial duties.
Burubafen zhenguo gong (ᠵᠠᡴᡡᠨ ᡠᠪᡠ ᡩᡝ ᡩᠣᠰᡳᠮᠪᡠᡥᠠᡴᡡ ᡤᡠᡵᡠᠨ ᠪᡝ ᡩᠠᠯᡳᡵᡝ ᡤᡠᠩjakūn ubu-de dosimbuhakū gurun-be dalire gung; 不入八分镇国公; 不入八分鎮國公; bùrùbāfēn zhènguó gōng), translated as "Duke Without the Eight Privileges Who Guards the State", also translated as "Lesser Defender Duke" or "Duke of the Third Rank".
Burubafen fuguo gong (ᠵᠠᡴᡡᠨ ᡠᠪᡠ ᡩᡝ ᡩᠣᠰᡳᠮᠪᡠᡥᠠᡴᡡ ᡤᡠᡵᡠᠨ ᠪᡝ ᠠᡳᠰᡳᠯᠠᡵᠠ ᡤᡠᠩjakūn ubu-de dosimbuhakū gurun-be aisilara gung; 不入八分辅国公; 不入八分輔國公; bùrùbāfēn fǔguó gōng), translated as "Duke Without the Eight Privileges Who Assists the State", also translated as "Lesser Bulwark Duke" or "Duke of the Fourth Rank".
All of the above titles are chaopin (超品; chāopǐn), outranking official ranks. The ranks below are ranked first to fourth pin respectively. The first three jiangjun ranks are each further subdivided into four classes: first class plus yunjiwei, first class, second class, and third class.
Zhenguo jiangjun (ᡤᡠᡵᡠᠨ ᠪᡝ ᡩᠠᠯᡳᡵᡝ ᠵᠠᠩᡤᡳᠨ; gurun be dalire janggin; 镇国将军; 鎮國將軍; zhènguó jiāngjūn), translated as "General Who Guards the State", "Defender General", or "(Hereditary) General of the First Rank".
Fuguo jiangjun (ᡤᡠᡵᡠᠨ ᡩᡝ ᠠᡳᠰᡳᠯᠠᡵᠠ ᠵᠠᠩᡤᡳᠨ; gurun de aisilara janggin; 辅国将军; 輔國將軍; fǔguó jiāngjūn), translated as "General Who Assists the State", "Bulwark General", or "(Hereditary) General of the Second Rank".
Fengguo jiangjun (ᡤᡠᡵᡠᠨ ᠪᡝ ᡨᡠᠸᠠᡴᡳᠶᠠᡵᠠ ᠵᠠᠩᡤᡳᠨ; gurun be tuwakiyara janggin; 奉国将军; 奉國將軍; fèngguó jiāngjūn), translated as "General Who Receives the State", "Supporter General", or "(Hereditary) General of the Third Rank".
Feng'en jiangjun (ᡴᡝᠰᡳ ᠪᡝ ᡨᡠᠸᠠᡴᡳᠶᠠᡵᠠ ᠵᠠᠩᡤᡳᠨ; kesi-be tuwakiyara janggin; 奉恩将军; 奉恩將軍; fèng'ēn jiāngjūn), translated as "General Who Receives Grace", "General by Grace", or "(Hereditary) General of the Fourth Rank". This rank has no sub-classes. This title is not granted per se, but were given to heirs of fengguo jiangjuns.
Regardless of title and rank, an imperial prince was addressed as "A-ge" (ᠠᡤᡝ; age; 阿哥; À-gē), which means "lord" or "commander" in Manchu.
The following titles were granted to female members of the imperial clan:
Gulun gongzhu (固伦公主; 固倫公主; gùlún gōngzhǔ; gurun-i gungju), translated as "State Princess", "Gurun Princess" or "Princess of the First Rank". It was usually granted to a princess born to the Empress. "Gulun" means "all under Heaven" in Manchu.
Heshuo gongzhu (和硕公主; 和碩公主; héshuò gōngzhǔ; 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 (郡主; jùnzhǔ; hošo-i gege), translated as "Princess of a Commandery" or "Princess of the Third Rank". It was usually granted to the daughter of a qinwang. Also called heshuo gege (和碩格格) or qinwang gege (親王格格), lit. "lady of a prince of the blood". Daughters of qinwang also could be promoted to heshuo gongzhu or gulun gongzhu if they were adopted as emperor's daughters.
Xianzhu (县主; 縣主; xiànzhǔ; doro-i gege), translated as "Princess of a County" or "Princess of the Fourth Rank". It was usually granted to the daughter of a junwang or shizi. Also called duolun gege (多倫格格) or junwang gege (郡王格格), lit. "lady of a prince of a commandery". Could be promoted to junzhu in special circumstances.
Junjun (郡君; jùnjūn; beile-i jui doro-i gege), translated as "Lady of a Commandery" or "Lady of the First Rank". It was usually granted to a daughter born to a secondary consort of a qinwang or to the daughter of a beile. Also called duolun gege (多倫格格) or beile gege (貝勒格格), lit. "lady of a prince (of the third rank)". Could be promoted to xianzhu.
Xianjun (县君; 縣君; xiànjūn; gūsa-i gege), translated as "Lady of a County" or "Lady of the Second Rank". It was usually granted to a daughter born to a secondary consort of a junwang or to the daughter of a beizi. Also called gushan gege (固山格格), lit. "lady of a banner", or beizi gege (貝子格格), lit. "lady of a prince (of the fourth rank)".
Xiangjun (乡君; 鄉君; xiãngjũn; gung-ni jui gege), translated as "Lady of a Village" or "Lady of the Third Rank". It was usually granted to the daughters of dukes with eight privileges or daughters born to a secondary consort of beile. Also called gong gege (公格格), lit. "lady of a duke".
Zongnü (宗女; zõngnǚ), translated as "Clanswoman". This is not a granted title, but the honorific given to all daughters of dukes without eight privileges and jiangjuns, as well as all other untitled princesses. However,
Daughters born to a secondary consort of a beizi are called wupinfeng zongnü (五品俸宗女), "clanswoman with stipend of the fifth pin".
Daughters born to a secondary consort of a feng'en zhenguo gong or feng'en fuguo gong are called liupinfeng zongnü (六品俸宗女), "clanswoman with stipend of the sixth pin".
Comparison of titles for imperial princesses
Primary princess consort
Secondary Princess consort
Above the ranks
Imperial Consort (down from Imperial Noble Consort)
Efu (ᡝᡶᡠ额驸; 額駙; éfù), also known Fuma (驸马; 駙馬; fùmǎ), translated as "Prince Consort". Its original meaning was "emperor's charioteer". It was usually granted to the spouse of a princess above the rank of zongnü. The efus were separated into seven ranks corresponding to the rank of the princesses the efu married. Efus who married gulun gongzhus and heshuo gongzhus held ranks equivalent to the beizis and dukes respectively. The remaining efus had equivalent official rank from the first to fifth pin.
An efu retained his title and privileges as long as the princess remained his primary spouse – even after her death. However, if an efu remarried or promoted a consort to be his primary spouse, he lost all rights obtained from his marriage to the princess.
The following title were granted to consorts of imperial princes:
Primary consort (嫡福晋, difujin) also (元妃, pinyin:yuanfei) or great consort (大福晋, pinyin: da fujin, amba fujin), was given to the main wives of imperial princes above the rank of junwang. Imperial dukes' wives were entitled "furen" (literally: lady) or "qi” (妻子, sargan). The primary consort of crown prince was given a title “huang taizifei" (皇太子妃). Primary consorts of emperor's sons could also be entitled "huangzifei" (皇子妃). The title “crown prince's consort" was equivalent to Imperial Noble Consort, while "imperial princess consort" was equivalent to Noble Consort. The title "yuanfei" or "great consort" was granted to primary consorts of Nurhaci and Hong Taiji and equivalent to empress. Primary consorts were selected by receiving ruyi scepter.
Secondary consort (侧福晋, pinyin: cefujin, ashan-i-fujin) was granted to secondary wives of imperial princes above the ranks of junwang. Secondary consort of crown prince was given a title "huang taizi cefei" (皇太子侧妃). Secondary consorts of emperor's sons could also be entitled "huangzi cefei" (皇子侧妃). Secondary consort was selected by receiving embroidered fragrant pouch.
Mistress (格格, pinyin: gege), little consort(小福晋, pinyin: xiao fujin, ajige-i-fujin), concubine (妾, qie) or (庶福晋, pinyin: shufujin) was granted to concubines of imperial princes, dukes and generals. A mistress of crown prince was entitled "huangtaizi shufei" (皇太子庶妃), while a mistress of imperial prince was honoured as "huangzishufei" (皇子庶妃).If the prince had more than one mistress, they could be granted honorific names derived from their birth clans names. Mistress was selected by receiving 100 taels.
If the princess consort divorced a prince or died, the second princess consort held a title of "step consort" (继福晋, pinyin: jifujin). Divorced princess consorts were stripped of their privilleges and returned to their maiden manors. Dead primary consort of the emperor could be posthumously honoured as empress, ex. Lady Niohuru, primary consort of Minning, Prince Zhi of the First Rank was honoured as Empress Xiaomucheng, Lady Sakda, primary consort of Yizhu was honoured as Empress Xiaodexian. The same rule was for primary consort of the imperial prince who died before the marriage, e.g. Lady Nara, primary consort of Yongkui, Prince Li of the First Rank.
Palace maids from prince's residence could be promoted in case of princess consort's death or in case when they had children with a prince, ex. Wang Yuying, Yongxuan's servant was promoted to secondary consort. Remaining spouses could be promoted to higher positions in special circumstances, ex. lady Wanyan, Yongcheng's unranked spouse was given a title of secondary consort.
If imperial prince ascended the throne, his primary consort was named as empress, secondary consorts were named as noble consorts, consorts or concubines and mistresses were granted titles from first class female attendant to concubine or consort and given honorific names.
Princess consorts held titles according to their husbands. If the prince was demoted, princess consort could be treated appropriately. After the demotion of prince, princess consort returned her regalias to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. If the prince was born in a non-iron cap cadet line, his future title depended on the position of his consort. Nevertheless, they addressed themselves as "qie". On the other hand, princess consort was mainly addressed as "fujin" or "furen" according to the title of her husband. All princess consorts regardless of rank were listed in imperial genealogy (Jade Tables).
Princess consorts could wear chaofu befitting imperial consorts on solemn ceremonies, but were prohibited from wearing yellow-grounded robes. The crown of princess consort had peacocks instead of phoenixes and no tiers on the finial. Princess consort wore jifu with roundels of dragons matching patterns on the surcoat of her husband and tiara with phoenixes. Imperial duchesses wore jifu with medallions of flowers like imperial consorts below the rank of noble lady.
Comparison of imperial titles for women
Imperial princess consort
Imperial clanswomen rank
Above the ranks
Imperial Noble Consort
Princess Imperial (长公主)
Princess Consort of the First Rank/Imperial Princess Consort
Duchess without eight privilleges of the First Rank
Duchess without eight privilleges of the Second Rank
Wife of imperial general
from 1 to 6
At the beginning of the Qing dynasty, prior to the formalisation of the rank system, there were also non-standard titles used, such as:
Da beile (大贝勒; 大貝勒; dà bèilè; amba beile), translated as "Grand Beile", assumed by Daišan during the tetrarchy, and by Huangtaiji prior to his ascension.
Zhang gongzhu (长公主; 長公主), translated as "Grand Princess", "Chief Princess", "Elder Princess" or "Princess Imperial", was granted to various daughters of Nurhaci and Huangtaiji. Title could be granted to eldest daughter of the Emperor or Emperor's sister.
Da zhang gongzhu (大长公主), translated as "Grand Princess Imperial", was never used in hierarchy, but could be granted to Emperor's paternal aunt. The only holder of this title was Gurun Princess Yongmu, daughter of Hong Taiji by Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang and aunt of the Kangxi Emperor
Standard non-imperial titles
The following are the nine ranks of the peerage awarded for valour, achievement, distinction, other imperial favour, and to imperial consort clans.
Gong (公; gōng; 'duke'; gung), often referred to as min gong (民公; mín gōng; "commoner duke") to differentiate from the imperial guo gong[zh] (国公; guó gōng; "imperial duke"). Translated as "Duke" or "Non-imperial Duke". The title jun gong[zh] (郡公; jùn gōng; "commandery duke") existed from around the Cao Wei period until the early years of the Ming dynasty, along with xian gong[zh] (县公; xiàn gōng; "prefecture duke").
Hou (侯; hóu; ho), translated as "Marquis" or "Marquess".
Bo (伯; bó; be), translated as "Count".
The above three ranks are chaopin (超品; chāopǐn), outranking official ranks. The four following ranks were all evolved from leadership ranks in the Manchu banner army, originally called ejen (額真; "lord" or "master" in Manchu) and later janggin (章京; "general" in Manchu).
Zi (子; zǐ; jinkini hafan), translated as "Viscount".
Nan (男; nán; ashan-i hafan), translated as "Baron".
Qingche duwei (轻车都尉; 輕車都尉; qīngchē dūwèi; adaha hafan), translated as "Master Commandant of Light Chariot", roughly equivalent to a commander of a chivalric order.
All of the above ranks are sub-divided into four classes; in order: first class plus yunqiwei, first class, second class, and third class.
Jiduwei (骑都尉; 騎都尉; jídūwèi; baitalabura hafan), translated as "Master Commandant of Cavalry", rough equivalent of an officer of a chivalric order. This rank is subdivided into two classes: jiduwei plus yunjiwei, and simply jiduwei.
Yunqiwei (云骑尉; 雲騎尉; yúnjíwèi; tuwašara hafan), translated as "Knight Commandant of the Cloud", rough equivalent of a knight bachelor.
Enjiwei (恩骑尉; 恩騎尉; ēnjíwèi; kesingge hafan), translated as "Knight Commandant by Grace", rough equivalent of an esquire. This title was not granted per se, but bestowed on the heirs of yunjiweis without the privilege of perpetual inheritance.
Pre-standard non-imperial titles
At the beginning of the Qing dynasty, during Nurhaci's and Huangtaiji's reigns, the noble ranks were not yet standardised. There were several titles created that did not fit into the above system, mostly for defectors from the Ming dynasty. These titles were similar to the titles used in the Ming dynasty, and lack the Manchu nomenclature and the noble rank system introduced later.
Qinwang (亲王; 親王; qīnwáng; cin wang), "Prince of the Blood", created for Wu Sangui and Shang Kexi.
Wang (王; wáng; 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 qinwangs, while junwangs received two-character titular names, but these wangs 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.
Beile (贝勒; 貝勒; bèilè; beile), "Lord", "Prince" or "Chief" in Manchu. It was the generic title of all Manchu lords during the Ming dynasty. Under the Qing dynasty, this title was generally reserved for imperials, but was retained by the princes of Yehe after their submission to Nurhaci.
Beizi (贝子; 貝子; bèizǐ; beise). Normally reserved for imperials, it was uniquely created for Fukang'an, before he was further elevated to junwang.
Chaopin Gong (超品公; chāopǐngōng; 'duke above ranks'), "High Duke", a unique rank created for Yangguli, before he was further elevated to wang. This title ranks just below beizi and above all other dukes.
Gong (公; gōng; 'duke'; Gung; "Duke"), Hou (侯; hóu; ho; "Marquess"), and Bo (伯; bó; 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" (世职; 世職; shì zhí) or "hereditary rank" (世爵; shì jué).
Gūsa ejen (固山额真; 固山額真; gùshān é'zhēn), meaning "master of a banner", later Sinicised to become dutong (都統; dūtǒng), meaning "colonel";
Evolved into zongbing (总兵; 總兵; zǒngbīng), meaning "chief commander";
Then into amba janggin (昂邦章京/按班章京; ángbāng zhāngjīng/ànbān zhāngjīng), meaning "grand general";
Then into jinkini hafan (精奇尼哈番; jīngqíní hāfān), meaning "prime officer";
Which was finally Sinicised to become zi (子; zǐ), meaning "viscount".
Meiren-i ejen (梅勒额真/美淩額真; 梅勒額真/美凌額真; méilè é'zhēn/měilíng é'zhēn), meaning "vice master", Sinicised to become fu dutong (副都统; fù dūtǒng), meaning "vice colonel";
Evolved into fujiang (副将; 副將; fùjiàng), meaning "vice general";
Then into meiren-i janggin (梅勒章京; méilè zhāngjīng), meaning "vice general";
Then into ashan-i hafan (阿思尼哈番; ā'sīní hāfān), meaning "vice officer";
Which was finally Sinicised to become nan (男; nán), meaning "baron".
Jalan ejen (甲喇额真; 甲喇額真; jiǎlā é'zhēn), meaning "master of a sub-banner", Sinicised to become canling (参领; 參領; cānlǐng), meaning "staff captain";
Evolved into canjiang (参将; 參將; cānjiàng), meaning "staff general", or youji (游击; 游擊; yóujī), meaning "vanguard" or "skirmish leader";
Then into jalan janggin (扎兰章京; 扎蘭章京; zhālán zhāngjīng), meaning "general of a sub-banner";
Then into adaha hafan (阿达哈哈番; 阿達哈哈番; ā'dáhā hāfān), meaning "chariot officer";
Which was finally Sinicised to become qingche duwei (轻车都尉; 輕車都尉; qīngchē dūweì), meaning "master commandant of light chariot".
Niru ejen (牛录额真; 牛錄額真; niúlù é'zhēn), meaning "master of an arrow" (an "arrow" was a basic unit of a banner army), later Sinicised to become zuoling (佐领; 佐領; zuólǐng), meaning "assistant captain";
Evolved into beiyu (备御; 備御; bèiyù), meaning "rearguard";
Then into niru janggin (牛录章京; 牛錄章京; niúlù zhāngjīng), meaning "general of an arrow";
Then into baitalabura hafan (拜他喇布勒哈番; bàitālābùlè hāfān), meaning "adjutant officer";
Which was finally Sinicised to become ji duwei (骑都尉; 騎都尉; jì dūweì), meaning "master commandant of cavalry".
Comparison of non-imperial nobility titles
Military official rank equivalent
General Zhufang (驻防将军)
Minister of War (兵部尚书)
Qingche duwei (轻车都尉)
Hunting grounds supervisor in Rehe (热河围场总管)
Minister of Imperial Stables (上匹院卿)
Jiduwei (骑都尉; 騎都尉; jídūwèi)
Assistant captain (左领)
Leader of imperial bodyguards (侍卫班领)
Yunjiwei (云骑尉; 雲騎尉; yúnjíwèi)
Fifth rank controller of Amur river transport (黑龙江水手管)
Enjiwei (恩骑尉; 恩騎尉; ēnjíwèi)
Supervisor of imperial tombs (陵园管)
Duke Yansheng (衍圣公; 衍聖公; Yǎnshèng Gōng; "Duke Overflowing with Sagacity), granted to the heirs of the senior northern branch of Confucius in Qufu.
Duke Haicheng (海澄公; Hǎichéng Gōng; "Duke East of the Sea"), granted to Ming loyalist Zheng Keshuang, the once independent king of the Taiwan-based Kingdom of Tungning who surrendered to the Qing Empire in 1683, and his heirs.
Duke Cheng'en (承恩公, Chéng‘ēn Gōng, "Duke Who Receives Grace"), granted to fathers and brothers of empresses. This title had 3 subclasses.
First Class Duke Zhongyong (一等忠勇公,Yīděng Zhōngyǒng Gōng, "Duke of Loyalty and Courage"), granted to Fuca Fuheng for Xinjiang campaign.
Count Zhongcheng (忠誠伯; Zhōngchéng Bó; "Count of Loyalty and Sincerity"), granted to Feng Xifan, a former Ming loyalist official in the Kingdom of Tungning.
Marquis Jinghai (靖海侯; Jìnghǎi Hóu; "Marquis Pacifying the Sea"), granted to Shi Lang and his heirs.
Hereditary Magistrate of Guogan County (世袭果敢县令; 世襲果敢縣令; shìxí Guógǎn xiànlìng), granted to Ming loyalist Yang Guohua (楊國華/杨国华), the ruler of the Kokang region in present-day Myanmar.
Mingfu (命妇, Mìngfù; "noblewoman") was granted to wives of officials, non-imperial aristocrates and collateral clanswomen. Also, mothers of imperial consorts were granted a title of "mingfu" according to the rank held by her daughter as well as sisters of imperial consorts and fujins. Noblewomen were divided into 7 ranks according to the rank of her husband and her daughter, if her daughter was an imperial consort. If the title held by mingfus' husbands was divided into subclasses, they could be treated equally. Mingfus holding rank equivalent to wives of imperial generals conducted court ceremonies, ex. promotions of imperial consort, weddings of princes and princesses (if they married into Manchu or Han family) and rites, while lower rank ladies attended to them.
Mingfu, whose husband was granted a title above the rank system (Duke, Marquis or Count), was treated similarly to imperial duchess, but enjoyed less privileges than imperial clanswoman. Collateral Gioro ladies were treated as mingfu from 1st to 3rd rank. Noblewomen were addressed as "furen" ("Madam") regardless of rank.
Wives of officials who received nobility title, were ranked according to the rank held by their husbands and could be further promoted. Sometimes, mingfus were given honorifical names, ex. Tatara Meixian, primary spouse of Niohuru Lingzhu, was styled as "Madam of Gaoming" by Kangxi Emperor personally.
Sisters of imperial consorts, who weren't members of imperial family (primary consorts or imperial consorts) were given a title of mingfu and receive a title according to the position of their husbands.
Mingfu retained her title even after divorce if her sister or daughter was imperial consort.
Wives and mothers of dukes and aristocrats, who received pre-standard titles could be addressed as "fujin" – a title typical for imperial princess consort. For example, mother of Fuk'anggan, lady Yehenara was mentioned and addressed as "fujin", as a mother of Prince Jiayong of the Second Rank (嘉勇郡王). Fukang'an's wife, lady Irgen Gioro was also addressed as "fujin". Their names were not listed in Jade Tables.
Close friends and servants of imperial consorts who weren't members of ruling clan could receive a title of mingfu and rarely could be addressed as "gege". Although Sumalagu,a confidant of Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang, was entitled as mingfu, grand empress dowager Xiaozhuang addressed her as "gege" (imperial princess).
Differently to imperial clanswomen, mingfus wore crowns with three bejewled plaques and finial consisting of one coral, silk bandeaus with embroidered golden dragons chasing after a flaming pearl and blue-grounded chaofu on solemn ceremonies. Lower- ranking ladies could not wear surcoats with roundels of flowers and auspicious symbols unlike imperial duchesses and clanswomen. Collateral clanswomen could wear surcoats with rampant four-clawed dragons above the magnificent sea-waves pattern (lishui) and white caishui (pointed kerchief fastened to the robe like a pendant). Wives of officials wore sleeveless vest matching Mandarin square of her husband and Ming Dynasty style tiaras, as depicted on ancestral portraits.
Comparison of titles of noblewomen
Title of imperial consort
being a daughter of noblewoman
Imperial title equivalent
Wife of zhenguo jiangjun
Imperial Noble Consort
Wife of fuguo jiangjun
Wife of qingche duwei
Wife of fengguo jiangjun
Wife of jiduwei
Wife of feng'en jiangjun
Wife of yunjiwei
Wife of enjiwei
Wife of 7th rank official
First-class attendant/ Second class attendant
Civil and honorary titles
With a few exceptions, the above titles were, in principle, created for only military merits. There were also titles for civil officials.
While there were a few Manchu civil titles, the most important civil titles followed the Han Chinese Confucian tradition, derived from high bureaucratic offices or imperial household offices that evolved into honorary sinecures. These were sometimes granted as special privileges, but also often as a practical means of conferring official rank promotion without giving specific responsibilities. Examples of such titles were taibao (太保; "Grand Protector"), shaoshi (少師; "Junior Preceptor"), taizi taifu (太子太傅; "Grand Tutor of the Crown Prince"), furen (夫人, "Madam"/“Lady") and dafu (大夫; "Gentleman"). These titles were non-heritable.
In addition, there were also honorary and hereditary titles granted to religious and cultural leaders, such as:
The Qing imperial court also granted titles to princes of its protectorates and tributary states, mainly in Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet. The vassal titles were generally inherited in perpetuity without downgrading.
The ranks roughly mirrored those of the imperial clan, with a few differences:
Han (汗; hàn; 'Khan'; han), ranked higher than qinwang, and ranked only below the Emperor and the Crown Prince in the Qing hierarchy. Sometimes also called hanwang (汗王; hánwáng; "Khan-King"). The Emperor also used the title of dahan (大汗; dàhán; "Great Khan") instead of Emperor in communiqués to the Central Asian states.
Vassal princes who did not have the "Eight Privileges". There were no distinctions between dukes with or without the "Eight Privileges". There were only two ducal ranks: zhenguo gong and fuguo gong.
Instead of the jiangjun ranks, the vassal lords held these titles:
Taiji (台吉; 臺吉; táijí; tayiji), for members of the Borjigin clan.
Tabunang (塔布囊; tābùnáng; tabunang), for descendants of Jelme.
The taiji and tabunang are equal in rank, and both subdivided into five classes: jasagh, first class, second class, third class, and fourth class. Jasagh is chaopin, above official ranks, while the rest were equivalent to the first to fourth pin.
In addition to systematised 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 was granted to vassals with autonomous power, while darhan was a hereditary title divided into three classes. These titles were mostly awarded to Manchus and Mongols in the early Qing dynasty, but gradually fell out of use as the court became increasingly Sinicised.
The privilege of wearing feathers on the mandarin hat; this privilege was known as lingyu (翎羽; língyǔ):
Peacock feathers (花翎; huālíng) were usually worn by imperial princes, prince consorts, imperial bodyguards and some high-ranking 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 (蓝翎; 藍翎; lánlíng) 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 pin and below.
Although a badge of honour, the feathers also symbolised bond servitude to the Emperor. As such, direct imperial clansmen and imperial princes ranked beile and above were prohibited from wearing feathers.
The privilege of wearing the yellow jacket (武功黄马褂子; 武功黃馬褂子; wǔgōng huángmǎ guàzǐ; "yellow jacket of martial merit"). This is usually the uniform of imperial bodyguards, but it could also be bestowed upon anyone by the Emperor. A rare honour in the early Qing dynasty, it was diluted through excessive grants in the late Qing era. The jacket may only be worn in the Emperor's presence.
The privilege of wearing imperial girdles (to both the recipient and his issue):
The yellow girdles (黄带子; 黃帶子; huángdàizi) were normally reserved for direct imperial clansmen (宗室; zōngshì), but may be granted to collateral imperial clansmen, known as gioro (觉罗; 覺羅; juéluó) as an honour. The yellow girdle entitled the wearer to be tried by the Imperial Clan Court as opposed to the general or banner courts.
The red girdles (红带子; 紅帶子; hóngdàizi) were 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 adopted into the imperial clan, thus the privilege of wearing the red girdle.
The purple girdles (紫帶子; zǐdàizi) were 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 symbolise his family as the "second clan of Manchu (inferior only to the Aisin-Gioro)".
Enshrinement in the Imperial Ancestral Temple (配享太廟; 配享太庙; pèixiǎng tàimiào). 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 Qing dynasty. 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; 赐姓; cìxìng). 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 within the banner hierarchy:
A non-bannerman can be inducted into the banner system.
A Han bannerman (汉军八旗; 漢軍八旗; Hànjūn bāqí; nikan gūsa) may be elevated into a Manchu banner (满洲八旗; 滿洲八旗; Mǎnzhōu bāqí; 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; táiqí). This was especially common for the imperial consorts and their clansmen.
Court beads (朝珠; cháozhū). The court beads were part of the court uniform; the length of the beads normally corresponded to the courtier's pin. When a courtier kowtowed, the beads must touch the ground. Longer court beads were granted as a special favour regardless of the courtier's pin. This was often granted to elderly courtiers to relieve them of the physical hardship of kowtowing.
The Spencer Museum of Art has six long pao robes (dragon robes) that belonged to Han Chinese nobility of the Qing dynasty. Ranked officials and Han Chinese nobles had two slits in the skirts while Manchu nobles and the Imperial family had 4 slits in skirts. All first, second and third rank officials as well as Han Chinese and Manchu nobles were entitled to wear 9 dragons by the Qing Illustrated Precedents. Qing sumptuary laws only allowed four clawed dragons for officials, Han Chinese nobles and Manchu nobles while the Qing Imperial family, emperor and princes up to the second degree and their female family members were entitled to wear five clawed dragons. However officials violated these laws all the time and wore 5 clawed dragons and the Spencer Museum's 6 long pao worn by Han Chinese nobles have 5 clawed dragons on them.
Robes from the Qing emperors are also preserved there. The Jurchens in the Jin dynasty and Mongols in the Yuan dynasty continued to patronize and support the Confucian Duke Yansheng.
Etymology of Manchu titles
With a few exception, most Manchu titles ultimately derived from Han Chinese roots.
Han, used by the Emperor himself and a few Mongol lords, was borrowed from the Turko-Mongol Khan, Khaan or Khagan. In Manchu, however, the word is written slightly differently for the Emperor and other Khans.
Beile was usually considered indigenous Manchu titles, evolved from earlier Jurchen bojile, which may ultimately be derived from the Turkic title bey or beg or even Chinese bo (伯, "count").
Beise was originally the plural form of beile, but later evolved into a separate title.
Janggin derived from the Chinese military title 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 derived from Chinese taizi (太子, "crown prince"). In Chinese, it was used exclusively by heirs of imperial, royal or princely titles. In Mongolia, however, the Borjigits have long used it as a distinct title.
Tabunang ("son-in-law") was originally the title given to a Mongol prince consort who married a Borjigit princess. It was granted to Jelme, and his descendants continued to use this title.
Fujin (福晉) is a consort of a prince ranked junwang 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.
A-ge (阿哥) is a Manchu word meaning both "lord, chief" and "elder brother". It is derived from the Mongolic word aka, and cognate with the Turkic word agha.
Yunti, born Yinzhen and also known as Yinti before 1722, formally known as Prince Xun, was a Manchu prince and military general of the Qing dynasty.
Dodo, formally known as Prince Yu, was a Manchu prince and military general of the early Qing dynasty.
Yixin, better known in English as PrinceKung or Gong, was an imperial prince of the Aisin Gioro clan and an important statesman of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty in China. He was a regent of the empire from 1861 to 1865 and wielded great influence at other times as well.
Gege (Manchu: ᡤᡝᡤᡝ; Chinese: 格格; pinyin: Gégé; Wade–Giles: Ko2-ko2) is the Manchurian word for an unmarried daughter. During the Qing Dynasty, it was the Manchu style of an imperial-born princess of an emperor. Daughters of the all imperial princes above the rank of jiangjun also used the same title.
Prince Rong of the First Rank, or simply Prince Rong, was the title of a princely peerage used in China during the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1912). As the Prince Rong peerage was not awarded "iron-cap" status, this meant that each successive bearer of the title would normally start off with a title downgraded by one rank vis-à-vis that held by his predecessor. However, the title would generally not be downgraded to any lower than a feng'en fuguo gong except under special circumstances.
Prince He of the First Rank, or simply Prince He, was the title of a princely peerage used in China during the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1912). As the Prince He peerage was not awarded "iron-cap" status, this meant that each successive bearer of the title would normally start off with a title downgraded by one rank vis-à-vis that held by his predecessor. However, the title would generally not be downgraded to any lower than a feng'en fuguo gong except under special circumstances.
Prince Qing of the First Rank, or simply Prince Qing, was the title of a princely peerage used in China during the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1912). It was also one of the 12 "iron-cap" princely peerages in the Qing dynasty, which meant that the title could be passed down without being downgraded.
Prince An of the First Rank, or simply Prince An, was the title of a princely peerage used in China during the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1912). As the Prince An peerage was not awarded "iron-cap" status, this meant that each successive bearer of the title would normally start off with a title downgraded by one rank vis-à-vis that held by his predecessor. However, the title would generally not be downgraded to any lower than a feng'en fuguo gong except under special circumstances.
Zaitao, courtesy name Shuyuan, art name Yeyun, was a Manchu prince of the Qing dynasty. He was a half-brother of the Guangxu Emperor and an uncle of Puyi, the last Emperor of China.
Bolo, formally known as Prince Duanzhong, was a Manchu prince of the Qing dynasty. He was born in the Aisin Gioro clan, the imperial clan of the Qing dynasty, as the third son of Abatai.
Yonglin, formally known as Prince Qing, was a Manchu prince of the Qing dynasty in China.
Prince Duanzhong of the First Rank, or simply Prince Duanzhong, was the title of a princely peerage used in China during the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1912). As the Prince Duanzhong peerage was not awarded "iron-cap" status, this meant that each successive bearer of the title would normally start off with a title downgraded by one rank vis-à-vis that held by his predecessor. However, the title would generally not be downgraded to any lower than a feng'en fuguo gong except under special circumstances.
Prince Ding of the First Rank, or simply Prince Ding, was the title of a princely peerage used in China during the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1912). As the Prince Ding peerage was not awarded "iron-cap" status, this meant that each successive bearer of the title would normally start off with a title downgraded by one rank vis-à-vis that held by his predecessor. However, the title would generally not be downgraded to any lower than a feng'en fuguo gong except under special circumstances.
Prince Yi of the First Rank, or simply Prince Yi, was the title of a princely peerage used in China during the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1912). As the Prince Yi peerage was not awarded "iron-cap" status, this meant that each successive bearer of the title would normally start off with a title downgraded by one rank vis-à-vis that held by his predecessor. However, the title would generally not be downgraded to any lower than a feng'en fuguo gong except under special circumstances.
Prince Yi of the First Rank, or simply Prince Yi, was the title of a princely peerage used in China during the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1912). It was also one of the 12 "iron-cap" princely peerages in the Qing dynasty, which meant that the title could be passed down without being downgraded.
Prince Dun of the First Rank, or simply Prince Dun, was the title of a princely peerage used in China during the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1912). As the Prince Dun peerage was not awarded "iron-cap" status, this meant that each successive bearer of the title would normally start off with a title downgraded by one rank vis-à-vis that held by his predecessor. However, the title would generally not be downgraded to any lower than a feng'en fuguo gong except under special circumstances.
Prince Zhong of the Second Rank, or simply Prince Zhong, was the title of a princely peerage used in China during the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1912). As the Prince Zhong peerage was not awarded "iron-cap" status, this meant that each successive bearer of the title would normally start off with a title downgraded by one rank vis-à-vis that held by his predecessor. However, the title would generally not be downgraded to any lower than a feng'en fuguo gong except under special circumstances.
Prince Cheng of the Second Rank, or simply Prince Cheng, was the title of a princely peerage used in China during the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1912). As the Prince Cheng peerage was not awarded "iron-cap" status, this meant that each successive bearer of the title would normally start off with a title downgraded by one rank vis-à-vis that held by his predecessor. However, the title would generally not be downgraded to any lower than a feng'en fuguo gong except under special circumstances.
Prince Ning of the Second Rank, or simply Prince Ning, was the title of a princely peerage used in China during the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1912). As the Prince Ning peerage was not awarded "iron-cap" status, this meant that each successive bearer of the title would normally start off with a title downgraded by one rank vis-à-vis that held by his predecessor. However, the title would generally not be downgraded to any lower than a feng'en fuguo gong except under special circumstances.
Imperial Noble Consort Heyu, of the Han Chinese Bordered White Banner Liu clan, was a consort of Jiaqing Emperor.
↑ Thomas A. Wilson (2002). On Sacred Grounds: Culture, Society, Politics, and the Formation of the Cult of Confucius. Harvard University Asia Center. pp.69, 315. ISBN978-0-674-00961-5.
↑ Thomas Jansen; Thoralf Klein; Christian Meyer (2014). Globalization and the Making of Religious Modernity in China: Transnational Religions, Local Agents, and the Study of Religion, 1800-Present. BRILL. p.188. ISBN978-90-04-27151-7.