Glossary of Chinese Terms

brush pen 毛筆, inkstick 墨, inkstone 硯台

Brush pens were used for writing. Their bristles might be made of goat, wolf, boar, or rabbit hair. Ink came in sticks that must be rubbed or ground with water against an inkstone to make liquid ink.

chop 印章

A seal typically made of stone used to make an imprint of a person’s name used in lieu of a signature on personal or official documents, contracts, or art.

Civil Service Examinations 科舉

A series of competitive exams, given at both the local and national level, consisting largely of analysis of the Confucian classics, used to select officials to administer the Chinese Empire.

ding 鼎

An ornate bronze tripod used for decoration and for ritual purposes.

Ding-ware 定窑

A type of pottery produced in China from the eighth century onward, that was generally white with an almost transparent glaze that dripped and collected in “tears.”

Embroidered Jackets 錦衣衛

The Emperor’s secret military police, reporting directly to the Emperor and authorized to arrest even Imperial family members without public proceedings.

kang 炕

A brick or earthenware platform built across one end of a room in northern Chinese homes, warmed by a fire beneath and used for sitting or sleeping.

pipa 琵琶

A Chinese musical instrument with a pear-shaped body and four strings which are played by plucking.

Ru-ware 汝窑

A type or pottery produced from the Northern Sung (960-1127), usually white or pale green or blue, with crackles in the glazing.

Yamen 衙門

A local bureaucrat’s or administrator’s office in the Chinese Empire.