VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Silver Censer with Openwork Designs of Flying Birds and Grapes
13
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

A censer was used by the nobility for spreading perfumes. It could be hung on the body or placed inside the bed-curtains. This incense burner consists of two perforated hemispheres joined together by a hinge with a bolt on either side. It hangs from a short chain. The bowl inside is suspended from two concentric rings, called gimbals, which turn on their own axis, rather like a ship’s compass, on gyroscopic principles. Thus the bowl maintains an upright position and, regardless of how much the censer is swung, the incense will not spill. The upper hemisphere has a small ring at the top for suspension, its chain and hook. The mechanism reflects the advanced technology and metal manufacturing standard of the time.

History of the Object
In October 1970, a hoard of around 1000 silver and gold objects, as well as jade and other precious stones called the Hejiacun Hoard was discovered during an infrastructure construction at Hejiacun Village in the southern suburbs of Xi’an, where the Xinghua Workshop of Changan during the Tang Dynasty had been located.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
Silver 
Measurements
Diameter of bowl: 2.8 cm. 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
China 
Geography
China 
Time period
AD 7th century ~ AD 10th century 
Creation date
7th Century - 10th Century; Tang Dynasty (618-907) 
Function
To burn incense in. 
Acquisition
Excavated in 1970 from a Tang Dynasty hoard, Hejiacun, southern suburbs of Xi’an City 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Shaanxi History Museum 
Museum
Shaanxi History Museum 
Credit line
 

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