Language: Qing Chinese
Source: Classical literature


Wǔ Zhuàngyuán (武狀元) or "Martial Champion" was the title given to the highest scoring candidate of the Qing Imperial Military Examinations held in Beijing.

He would be certain of a high office, such as admission into the imperial guard, and would be presented a special ceremonial armor.

The Zhuangyuan Armor

The armor consisted of a Qing style helmet but with the unusual addition of a phoenix on it, plus a trident finial. The armor was a long jacket covered with copper scales. The style of the armor harks back to earlier armors, as by the Qing scales had fell out of use entirely.

This armor is described in detail in the 1766 Huangchao Liqi Tushi:1

Zhuangyuan armor

Ceremonial armor as presented to the Wǔ Zhuàngyuán.


Notable Wǔ Zhuàngyuán

Huang Peisong
In the 6th year of the Guangxu emperor, 1880, Huang Peisong became wǔzhuàngyuán (武狀元). This title was reserved for the top student in the imperial military exams of that year. He was subsequently incorporated into the imperial guard. In 1888 Huang Peisong became a cānjiāng (參將) or "assistant regional commander" of the Yùlín Yíng (鬱林營).

He continued to serve as a military officer under Yuan Shikai in the early republic. He passed away in Suzhou in 1925.

For the contents of the examination he passed with flying colors, see my article on the Jiangnan examination results.

Huang Peisong and his sickle spear

Photographs of Huang Peisong.
Left with a hook sickle spear. Photograph by S. Schoenke, Fuzhou, 1862 - 1889.
Right in his imperial guard ceremonial uniform.


1. Pu Jiang et al., eds., Huangchao Liqi Tushi (皇朝禮器圖式), or "Illustrated Regulations on the Ceremonial Paraphernalia of the Dynasty", Palace Edition of 1766 (British Library, 15300.e.1). This version is based on a manuscript of 1759. Chapter 14.

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With a golden damascened lock of the Indo-Portuguese type.


Very good example with a finely carved warrior scene.


Probably of Southern origin, with a straight blade and flaring tip.


In the style of northern work of the 16th and 17th centuries


A standard pattern Qing military saber, but with the rare addition of a label in Manchu.


Of classic shape, with a leaf-shaped blade on a socket, connected by a cast bronze base.