Chinese people have always admired the beauty of glistering gold since its introduction in circa 1500 BC through cultural exchanges in the Eurasian Steppes. History of Gold: Masterpieces from Shaanxi offers a historical journey featuring the development of goldsmithing techniques, co-presented by Art Museum of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shaanxi Institute for Preservation of Cultural Heritage, the Conservation Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of Hong Kong, and the Master Studio of Chow Tai Fook.
60 exquisite pieces (sets) of ancient Chinese gold and silver wares are selected from 22 institutions in Shaanxi Province, an area internationally famous for her massive and important findings of treasures. The exhibited objects illustrate the origins and developments of ancient goldworking techniques from as far back as 1000 BC in China, and also reveals the significant underlying historical and cultural significance of those goldsmithing skills. The exhibition is sorted into four sections in ascending time frames, with each telling a story marking a different phase of the evolution, namely how goldworking techniques came to China from the West, integrated with local craftsmanship, and evolved into unique ways of goldworking. social, religious, and cultural backgrounds which led to such technical developments.
Iron Sword with Gold Hilt Decorated with Panhui Patterns and Turquoises
Late Spring-and-Autumn period, 600-500BC
This straight blades in Section 1 of the exhibition symbolises the introduction of gold in China. Being made during the Late Spring-and-Autumn period, it is one of the early golden work at the time.
This short sword with straight blade convenient for close combat was popular in northwest China while the snake-like patterns known as panhui on the hilt of this object were a design of the Central Plain. Such coexistence is a product of the exchanges between the two cultures. The pommel and handguard are symmetrical and the panhui and beaded patterns are repetitive. These unit-based characteristic of patterns on Eastern Zhou cast objects illustrate the ancient Chinese casting technique in making gold objects which was different from the western hammering tradition.
Gold Dress Accessories with Precious Stone Inlays, Tang dynasty, 618–907
Gold and silver wares, traditionally a strength of the West, also became a typical example of Tang art. Precious stone inlays with gold granules and wires, known as “gold frame precious inlays,” was particularly famous in Tang Dynasty.
The gorgeous and elegant Gold Dress Accessories are showcased in section 3. Originally owning by Li Chui (712–736), the great-great-granddaughter of founder of the Tang dynasty Li Yuan, these objects exemplify the highest achievement of jewelry-making techniques in the Tang dynasty. Precious stones inlaid on the frames made with gold strips (the so-called Jinkuang Baodianin Chinese) often come up with granulation, as mentioned in Wen Tingyun’s Guiguo yao (Ballad of Returning to China), where “Inlays shine the gold grains, and vice versa.” There are spiral patterns on some thin wires, suggesting they were made with the twisting technique.
Venue: Art Museum, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Dates: Jun 24 to Sep 24, 2017