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Jiālúxué 家臚學 - literally "the science of family display" - is the name of a Daqianese tradition of symbolism that bears a certain resemblance to the heraldic practices of Alexandria and its neighbors. It is, indeed, often called simply Daqianese heraldry in other nations, though its origins, practices, and overall appearance are quite distinct.


The core of jiālúxué is the jiāwén 家紋, an (ideally) unique design intended to represent the possessor. While the rough equivalent of the escutcheon or shield in an achievement of arms, the latter has this design because of its origin upon physical shields. By contrast, the jiāwén, though it could certainly be painted upon a physical shield, is not inherently depicted as being upon one, or upon any other object, being more a symbol in the abstract.

Although certain subjects are disallowed on the grounds of public morality, there are otherwise remarkably few guidelines on exactly what sort of thing the jiāwén must depict. Geometric shapes and abstract designs are common, as are plant and animal motifs. Daqianese logographs are sometimes also used, as in the emblem of the Shí Dynasty, which is categorized as a jiāwén itself.

In Alexandrian tradition, a coat of arms is formally defined by its blazon - its description - rather than by a precise visual depiction, and indeed any depiction of a particular coat arms may be considered valid so long as the description is met. By contrast, while jiāwén must include a description when registered - describing the content of the symbol, its color, and the shape of the shìbiān or border within which it is inevitably displayed - the standard for reproducing the jiāwén is an image of its actual appearance. This has much to do with the fact that two otherwise identical jiāwén with signficant stylistic differences will themselves be considered different symbols.

Design considerations

Jiāwén have a number of requirements, formal or informal, in order to be considered valid for registration.

  • The applicant for a jiāwén must be the head of a family (jiāzhǎng 家長) or acting on his behalf, as the jiāwén is obtained for a family rather than an individual. The family must not already have a jiāwén. The heads of organizations with sufficiently familial aspects, especially religious communities such as monasteries, may also apply for a jiāwén for their organization.
  • The jiāwén may not have content that is morally objectionable or obscene, nor disrespectful of the state or its symbols.
  • Each jiāwén must be contained within a shìbiān 飾邊, a decorative border, and must fill the interior space of it in a pleasing way. Tradition allows the shape of the shìbiān to be a circle, a square, or less commonly a hexagon, octagon, or dodecahedron.
  • The jiāwén in its totality, not counting certain types of augmentations for individuals, must be sufficiently different from those previously registered, preferably throughout the nation but at least within the same province.
  • Both Jiāwén, and their accompanying shìbiān, must be of exactly one color for all elements, with the negative spaces simply not being considered under normal circumstances (though there are exceptions; see below). While there is no defined list of allowable colors, in practice the choices tend to be restricted mostlyto the following:
    • qīng 青 azure, blue-green, blue-gray, many shades of blue
    • lán 蓝 indigo, deep blue
    • lǜ 綠 green
    • huáng 黄 yellow
    • hóng 红 red
    • zhū 朱 vermilion/red-orange
    • xuán 玄 black
    • huī 灰 gray
    • zǐ 紫 purple
  • It must be possible to place the jiāwén upon a seal.

The requirement for a single color throughout, and the technical restrictions imposed by a seal-appropriate design, mean that there is a preference for jiāwén designs that are stylized rather than realistic or overly detailed.


The most common jiālúxué arrangement to be seen is the simplest: a jiāwén within a plain and unadorned shìbiān. Any family may apply for this bare minimum, and once obtained, any member of the family may use it in this form. However, for those felt deserving of the honor, several types of elaborations are to be found, which may be obtained in different ways and used in different contexts.

Individual status

In a sense, děngkuòzhǎn 等擴展, augmentations due to individual status, are the most routine, and take the form of adornments of the shìbiān. They are held not because of anything the bearer has done per se, but because of the position they hold. The děngkuòzhǎn is gained upon attaining the status, and lost upon leaving it - though it is usually the case that a status eligible for augmentation is the kind held until death, promotion, or utter dishonor.

By their very nature, děngkuòzhǎn are held by individuals, rather than families.

The most commonly seen děngkuòzhǎn is that borne by the jiāzhǎng, the family's head or patriarch, and consists of a thin band of negative space in the middle of the shìbiān, dividing it into an inner and outer border. An equivalent, though not identical, decoration is borne by the heads of organizations having a jiāwén.

Děngkuòzhǎn also exist for degrees in education; rank in the scholar-gentry; and rank of nobility, from least to most prestigious. While the precise rules may depend on one's level of achievement in each, in general, if the bearer is entitled to more than one of these (a frequent occurrence), the most prestigious category takes precedence.


Zhōngkuòzhǎn 忠擴展, augmentations due to individual loyalty, are like děngkuòzhǎn in that they are borne by individuals rather than whole families, but unlike either of the two kinds in that they are new, being part of the reforms of jiālúxué after the rise of the Shí Dynasty.

Under previous dynasties, among the rewards of loyalty to the emperor were jiāwén for those who did not already have them, and augmentations of one or both of the other two kinds for those that did: děngkuòzhǎn to accompany ennoblement, and chéngkuòzhǎn to indicate the emperor's special favor. Both of the latter, however, were associated with precisely the kind of concentration of status against which the supporters of the Shí Dynasty had brought them to power. While not desiring to abolish the other categories entirely, the new Jiūzhèng Emperor found it politic to scale back their usage for special occasions.

Zhōngkuòzhǎn were created to fulfill the role of more casual rewards for loyalty and achievement in the service of the state. As such, they are the equivalents of the state honours, medals and decorations of other countries, and even bears a certain resemblance to orders of merit in that there are different "ranks" of zhōngkuòzhǎn corresponding to different levels of achievement. These ranks come in two types: those awarded for civil achievement take the form of small circles (variously interpreted as seeds, grains of rice, or coins) surrounding the outside of the shìbiān, while those for military achievement are shaped like diamonds, representing spear heads.

One of the peculiarities of the zhōngkuòzhǎn is that it is possible to, essentially, pay for one in the civil category, the theory being that contributing one's own wealth and resources to the state is itself a legitimate form of loyalty or achievement. Although most ranks are expensive enough to be out of reach of the working classes, merchants and businessmen find zhōngkuòzhǎn to be a handy way to earn the goodwill of the government, as well as to demonstrate both their wealth and their loyalty to the state.


chéngkuòzhǎn 承擴展


Jiāwén originated in the disunity of the Tuánshā Era, during and following the collapse of the Yǎ Dynasty. Dàqiānguó had increasingly fallen under the sway of dozens of competing warlords, nobles, and would-be kings, each with their own army and bound by frequently unstable alliances. In such conditions as these, the ability to quickly identify the allegiance of troops on the battlefield became paramount. The first jiāwén were emblems adopted by the warlords for this purpose, to be displayed on small flags called zhǐzhì 指幟 that could be attached to the armor or clothing of individual foot soldiers and the horses of cavalry.

Having found a convenient method of identification - and one that, by its very usage, indicated a certain prestige - the warlords quickly adapted it for less martial purposes: elaborating it, using it to adorn their homes, property, and servants, sealing correspondence with it, and wearing it upon their clothing. By the time the Fáng Dynasty had begun to bring the warlords to heel, to have a jiāwén was the established mark of a power in the land. The Fáng emperors, themselves of warlord origin, sought to dilute the influence of their former competitors by establishing themselves as the sole rightful grantors both of jiāwén and of the assorted uses and accoutrements that came to make up the traditions of jiālúxué, and distributing them to their loyal supporters.

By the time of the following Kǎi Dynasty, jiālúxué had become so established as a part of upper-class life that although the dynasty took steps to abolish the original role of jiāwén in military livery - and, indeed, the very existence of private armies - they remained in use in many other peaceful contexts. As time went on, their use expanded from high officials and the emperor's favored cronies to nobles and the upper echelons of the gentry.

During the Jìng Dynasty, the practice of granting jiāwén slowed to a near-trickle. Commoners and artisans were - as they always had been - denied the right to petition for jiāwén, which was limited to the nobility and the scholar-gentry. When the increasing prevalence and economic power of merchants brought the latter within reach of the education required to enter the gentry, those already in that class, seeking to protect their privileges, persuaded the emperor to create a distinction between themselves and the new gentry of "humble origin" that would prevent them from having the same opportunities. While the emperor still could - and did - grant jiāwén, and associated status, on an individual basis to anyone who had earned his favor, by the twilight of the dynasty nearly all of those who had been automatically eligible for them already had them, and few others received them.

This was among many factors leading to the Chún​jié Revolution and the installation of the Shí Dynasty. Accordingly, the basis of the granting of jiāwén was then changed: while certain types of shìbiān might be restricted to certain classes or ranks, or were only available to those paying certain fees, anyone could, for a price, register a jiāwén for their family. As a result of the expanding Daqianese economy, jiāwén registration has increasingly become a lucrative, and massive, activity of the government, and now makes up the bulk of the everyday work of the Ministry of Protocol.