Evolvement of Ancient Chinese Attire and Adornment
There is a touching folklore involving the component known as "turner keys" of the ancient Chinese musical instrument qin, which were used to extend the short tuners so as to better tune the instrument. As recorded in Xu Qi Xie Ji (《续齐谐记》), a qin expert named Wang Jingbo of the Jin dynasty (266-420 AD) ran into a charming lady during his travel by boat. The two fell in love at first sight, and Wang gave the lady his cherished tuner keys as a token of love. Upon her departure, the lady confided to Wang that she was actually a ghost, whom Wang later found out in his trip to the Wu State to be the deceased daughter of Liu Huiming, the head of Wu. Wang also discovered the tuner keys he gave the lady on her bed. This is a sad story about a couple who, though deep in love, have to be separated as a man could never end up with a ghost.
This half-shell half-gold rouge container features a chased phoenix pattern on the gold foil. Composed of meticulously-crafted, densely arranged lines, the phoenix, a symbol of happiness and abundance, looks agile and life-like. A fastener can be found on the piece beside the chased bird.
A similar shell-shaped case made of silver was excavated in the Tang-dynasty tomb of Wei Meimei located in the eastern suburbs of Xi’an. It is concluded that this was a cosmetic container given that it was placed, together with other small cases made of gold, silver and copper, inside a round lacquer box right next to skull of the tomb occupant.
This pot is adorned with motifs of various forms of the same style, mostly intertwined vines and flowering branches. Arranged in three horizontal rows in general, those patterns of the central line illustrate a scene of paired mandarin ducks walking through flowers, looking at each other with deep affection. Mandarin ducks were adopted as a popular decorative pattern for wares in the Tang dynasty because of their beautiful feathers in colors and habits of always appearing in couples.
Shanghai Guanfu Museum