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?East Asian ivory piece-award, laundry tag, any thoughts?

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I just bought a box of material that appears to have come from a Frenchman who served in Shanghi before WWII and in Vietnam during WWII, apparently up to the US involvment in 1964.I'm still trying to sort through it all, but this piece was attached to a display panel along with several French and VN medals, coins, etc.. It is a piece of ivory with the Chinese-style characters engraved on it, and then filled with red ink or paint. It was hanging in a prominent place on the panel with his other awards, so he was obviously proud enought of it to give it a place of honor.It's possible he had a police connection, but again, I haven't had a chance to sort everything out. It's way outside my area of experience.

Has anyone ever seen anything like this? Any help will be appreciated, and once I can figure everything out, I'll follow up with a display.

Thanks for any help.


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This appears to be one of the "Bai", from the days of the Annam / Viet Nam regime (1886 - 1946). I quote from Ed Emering's excellent site - http://www.themedalh...ench/index.html (Search under Annam)

"Although more of an insignia of rank, I have included examples of the Bai because they became elevated to a "badge of prestige". The Bai shown here are made of ivory and take their shape from the tablets borne by the Chinese mandarins. Ivory Bai were worn for regular dailyusage within the palace grounds at Hue." He shows several examples, each with different inscriptions according to the rank and office of different office-holders.



Edited by Hugh
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Thanks Hugh and hc8604. I appreciate the leads. I never would have connected this with a mandarins rank insignia. Now I'll try to connect it with the rest of the "stuff" that came with it.


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  • 2 weeks later...


Upper characters : Hàn-lâm

(Part of Hàn-lâm- viện or "Academy office").

Down : Biên-tu (literally : to put in order and to compose).

Corresponding to a mandarin of the 7th degree, 1st class, attached at the "Academy office".

A classic plaque from Annam, but a rather poor calligraphy...

Authentic ?



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