based on material offered by Mr.Du Feibao
The sedan or sedanchair (jiaozi), a traditional vehicle of
transportation carried by bearers, was called at the beginning
jianyu (shoulder carriage), being a carriage that travelled on
human shoulders. Jiaozi is its comparatively modern name.
In old times, sedans fell into two major categories: the
guanjiao (official sedan) and the minjiao (private sedan).
Those of the former type were used by the royal family and government officials, and they varied in elaborateness according to
the status of the person carried inside, following strict rules laid
down for different levels of the hierarchy.
Even for the emperor himself, he was to sit in palanquins
or sedanchairs of different grades on different occasions: the
ceremonial palanquin to go to a formal court of audience, the
sedanchair when he made rounds of inspection inside the Forbidden City, the light sedan for hunts and excursions outside the
capital, and finally the casual litter, a spare sedan accompanying him on his trips, into which he might want to change at any
moment. For his everyday use in the palace, it was usually the
casual litter. Then the furnishings also differed with the seasons: the warm sedan for winter and the cool type for summer.
The two sedanchairs now on display in the Hall of Complete
Harmony (Zhonghedian) of the Forbidden City are the casual
litters used by the emperor for everyday purposes.
Sedanchairs for the ministers and lower officials varied in
grandeur with their ranks. In all cases, an official sedan out in
the street was heralded by the beating of gongs to clear the way
and surrounded by a number of attendants. Common people
meeting such a procession must keep quiet and step aside. The
higher the official, the greater the number of followers and
sedan bearers. The latter might vary from two for a petty official to eight for a very eminent personage. The emperor himself
might have as many as sixteen carriers.
Private sedans were of simple make, yet they were owned
only by the landed gentry or urban rich. Built of wood or bamboo, they could be carried either on flat roads or along mountain
paths. Some of the self-pampered potbellies inside, like the officials, were also accompanied by bodyguards walking by the side
of the sedans.
There was yet another type of sedans for hire to the common people for use on weddings. They were called huajiao
(flowery sedan) or xijiao (happiness sedan). The deluxe model
of this type was covered by bright-coloured silks embroidered
with gaudy designs of good luck and even decorated with
sparkling gems. The run-of-the-mill model was also bedecked
with colourful silk ribbons. In feudal times a bride was not to be
seen by outsiders, so there was an elaborate "double-sedan"
with a small one inside the outer one so that the bride could get
into (or out of) the inner sedan indoors and then be carried into
the outer sedan without exposing herself to public view.
Wedding sedanchairs continued to be in vogue for some
time in certain regions after the founding of New China in 1949.
Nowadays young people prefer the motorized sedan for their
weddings, and the sedanchair has been relegated to the realm of