In ancient China, jade was reserved for those of high rank. Over time, the restrictions were relaxed and jade was also to be found in the homes of schol- ars, often in the form of objects for personal adornment and everyday use. This matching pair of hat stands (one of which is shown) is an indication of the diversity of objects specifically designed for mandarins during the Qing dynasty (1644–1911).
Derived from the Sanskrit mantrin (counsel), mandarin is an English term used to refer to a scholar official of the Qing court. Upon entering civil life,
a mandarin would be assigned to one of the nine ascending ranks of public service, each of which was distinguished by a distinctive button worn on the hat. Hat stands were designed to prevent the hats, which were partially lac- quered, from becoming misshapen when stored. The most common hat stands were fashioned simply out of wood or bamboo, but jade was used for the more extravagant examples, such as these, a signal of the strong influence of imperial tastes and workshops.