Turquoise inlaid garment hook

China, Warring States period or Han dynasty, 3rd or 2nd century BC

Length: 7 1/4 inches, 18.2 cm

Fig. 1 Turquoise inlaid bronze garment hook, Freer and Sackler Gallery

Fig. 1   Turquoise inlaid bronze garment hook, Freer and Sackler Gallery

A long garment hook of rounded form, the top end terminating in a stylised dragon’s head with pointed snout and short horns. The body of the hook is inlaid with turquoise cabochons, either cut in a teardrop shape or as scales, interspersed with the gilded bronze exterior. At the back of the hook is a gilded knob, engraved with a pattern of whorls. The reverse of the garment hook is overlaid with sheets of silver. The turquoise is of bright green colour, contrasting sharply with the yellow gilding.

Garment hooks, daigou, also known as xipi in ancient Chinese language, were actually meant to have a practical function. They were either used to secure the belt or to fasten a sword or other implement to the belt. The semi-precious material from which it was crafted would almost certainly have been assumed to protect the wearer from harm, and the lustrous decoration reflects the craftsman’s concern for colouristic effects. Some comparable bronze garment hooks with a similar dragon head finial and also inlaid with turquoise stones, dated to either the Warring States period or the Han dynasty, are respectively in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art,[1] the the British Museum,[2] the Freer and Sackler Galleries (fig. 1)[3] and the National Museum of History, Taiwan.[4]

Provenance: private collection, United Kingdom

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art online collection archive, accession number: 1985.214.62
  2. The British Museum online collection archive, museum numbers: 1936,1118.120 and 1932,1215.36
  3. The Freer and Sackler Galleries online collection archive, accession number: F1948.27; also see Zhong Guo Qingtongqi Quanji (Complete Volume of Chinese Bronze Objects), vol. 8, Dong Zhou 2, Wen wu chu ban she, Beijing, 1995, pl. 166, p. 145
  4. The National Digital Archive Program, Taiwan: http://content.teldap.tw/main/dc_detail.php?dc_id=2100598Fig. 1   Turquoise inlaid bronze garment hook, Freer and Sackler Gallery