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The National Museum of History's "Golden Blossoms on Gemmed Treasures: A Gem-inlaid Gilt Filigree Collection” will be on display from March 27 to May 31 to showcase a series of exquisite gold- and silver-gilt adornments generously loaned to the museum from Ms. Chiu Yu-fen's (邱郁芬) Hui Fung Ge (惠風閣) collection.
Gold was being used in China as early as the Shang dynasty and advanced gilding technology was widespread during the Warring States period. Chinese craftsmen had mastered the technique for casting gold pellets and drawing gold into threads during the Han dynasty. A wide variety of gold and silver utensils of great beauty were created and widely used during the Tang Dynasty, and cultural exchanges with the West had led to increasingly diverse shapes and decorative motifs in gold vessels and silverware, including tableware, containers, pendants, medicine boxes, and religious artifacts.
Ever since the Song and Yuan dynasties, the aristocracy had used gold and silver to flaunt their social status and wealth. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, the imperial rulers set up official workshops to manufacture gold vessels and silverware, focusing on the development of delicate filigree craftsmanship that combined gold and silver with richly colored gemstones to create visually striking gem-inlaid gilt filigree works.
The dazzling, eye-catching masterpieces on display at the museum are the product of extremely difficult filigree and inlay techniques. This unique type of metalwork takes advantage of the high ductility of gold and silver to heat the metal, draw them into threads, wind the threads to form intricate patterns, and then weld the patterns onto the surface of various objects to create filigree decoration. Gold and silver threads that are woven or twisted together or built up in layers are called "filigree,” and filigree decoration with inlaid gemstones is known as "gem-inlaid filigree.”
The forthcoming exhibition features 38 classical and elegant pieces from the Hui Fung Ge collection, including gilt filigree baskets, dragon boats, pagodas, lanterns, incense burners, and a money tree. All these exquisite works feature filigree threads woven into the shape of such auspicious symbols as coiled dragons, phoenixes, peonies, swans, black tortoises, and flowery blossoms.