Common Knowledge of Chinese Culture

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Mandarin

The word mandarin is derived from the Portuguese mandar, to command. The term mandarin was only applied to such officials as are called "guan" by the Chinese, and not to the subordinate class of officials. In other words, it was restricted in its application to those officials who were entitled to wear a button. There were nine ranks of such officials, the buttons which distinguish them were as follows: for the first and second ranks, a transparent and opaque (ruby and coral) red button respectively; for the third and fourth, a transparent and opaque blue (sapphire and lapis lazuli) button respectively; for the fifth and sixth, a transparent and opaque white (crystal and stone) button respectively; for the seventh,a plain gold one; and for the eighth and ninth, a worked gold one.

Mandarin, when applied to language, refers to the lingua Franca in use throughout China in official intercourse. It is very poorly spoken by many, being mixed up with localisms; it is also the speech, in its various dialects, in considerable parts of China.

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