Length: 1 1/2 inches, 3.8 cm
Width: 3/4 inch, 2 cm

Pair of gold taotie mask handles

China, Han dynasty, 206 BC – 220 AD

A pair of gold handles, each in the form of an animal  mask with curled horns, sharply pointed ears, bulging eyes and suspending a ring handle.  Both masks have been fitted with a circular button at the back for fastening.

These mask handles were probably once fitted to a metal or lacquer vessel.  A cylindrical metal zhi drinking vessel fitted with comparable gold taotie mask handles was excavated in 1983 from the tomb of Wen Di, King of Nanyue in Guangzhou, Guandong province.[1]  A more stylized taotie mask handle, suspending a jade ring, is in the Muwen Tang collection.[2]

1    Wei, H, and Deydier, C. Ancient Chinese Gold, France 2001, plate 191, p. 89
2    Kwan, S. and Ji, S. Chinese Gold Ornaments, The Muwen Tang Collection Series, Hong Kong, 2003, no. 22, pp. 160 + 1op. cit. no. 4:6, p. 136