Hong Kong Palace Museum | Radiance: Ancient Gold from the Hong Kong Palace Museum Collection and the Mengdiexuan Collection

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Radiance: Ancient Gold from the Hong Kong Palace Museum Collection and the Mengdiexuan Collection

2023.02.22 - 2023.09.25
Gallery 9
Radiance: Ancient Gold from the Hong Kong Palace Museum Collection and the Mengdiexuan Collection
2023.02.22 - 2023.09.25
Gallery 9

The special exhibition marks the debut of the Hong Kong Palace Museum’s permanent collection at a major special exhibition and is the biggest exhibition on ancient gold artefacts in Hong Kong in recent years.

On view from 22 February through 25 September 2023, it showcases more than 200 sets of ancient golds selected from the generous donations by Betty Lo and Kenneth Chu to the HKPM and their world-renowned Mengdiexuan Collection. These precious objects from the Eurasian Steppe, Tubo Kingdom, and Central Plains, with the oldest dating back to the 18th century BCE, highlight the artistic and technical achievements of gold in ancient China. The exhibition also explores the role of gold in political activities, life, culture, and the dynamic connections across territories over the past 3,000 years.

 

Headdress with dragons chasing a pearl

Headdress with dragons chasing a pearl
Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
Gold with ruby inlay
Gift of Mengdiexuan
Hong Kong Palace Museum collection
© The Hong Kong Palace Museum

Highlighted objects

Headdress with dragons chasing a pearl

Headdress with dragons chasing a pearl

Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
Gold with ruby inlay
Gift of Mengdiexuan
© The Hong Kong Palace Museum

Headdress with dragons chasing a pearl

This type of headdress with a ribbed top was made of gold with fine wires. The lotus flowers, bats, and brocade balls all carry auspicious meanings. The dragons’ necks and the flaming pearl are connected to the headdress with springs and would sway with each movement. As seen from surviving Ming dynasty (1368–1644) portraits, this type of headdress was placed over a hairnet with hairpins as part of an elaborate headdress to be worn by elite women. This type of headdress might have been worn by the male elite, as seen from the costumes of the emperor and princes in the painting The Qianlong Emperor Enjoying the Lunar New Year in Gallery 2. This is the first object acquired for the Hong Kong Palace Museum Collection.

 

Headdress with dragons chasing a pearl
Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
Gold with ruby inlay
Gift of Mengdiexuan
© The Hong Kong Palace Museum
Burial mask

Burial mask

Tubo (7th-9th century)
Gold with turquoise and rock crystal inlay
Gift of Mengdiexuan
© The Hong Kong Palace Museum

Burial mask

This facial mask was used by the Tubo elite as funerary objects. Made of gold and other precious gemstones, it reflects the lavish burial practices of the Tubo. The earliest gold mask representing individual facial features with inlaid gemstone was found in a tomb in Uygur Autonomous Region. Tubo people adopted this type of mask.

Burial mask
Tubo (7th-9th century)
Gold with turquoise and rock crystal inlay
Gift of Mengdiexuan
© The Hong Kong Palace Museum
Plaque with mounted archer

Plaque with mounted archer

Tubo (7th-9th century)
Gold, wood, and lacquer
Gift of Mengdiexuan
© The Hong Kong Palace Museum

Plaque with mounted archer

The design of this plaque can be traced back to the royal hunting scene on gold and silver artefacts of the Sasanian Empire (224–651) in Central and Western Asia. However, the costume of the archer is in Tubo’s own style. The Sasanian Empire was founded by Persians and spread Persian art at its apogee as far afield as Western Europe, Africa, India, and China.

Plaque with mounted archer
Tubo (7th-9th century)
Gold, wood, and lacquer
Gift of Mengdiexuan
© The Hong Kong Palace Museum
Headdress with phoenix and mandarin ducks holding floral branches

Headdress with phoenix and mandarin ducks holding floral branches

Tang dynasty (618-907)
Gold with turquoise, agate, glass and shell inlay
Gift of Mengdiexuan
© The Hong Kong Palace Museum

Headdress with phoenix and mandarin ducks holding floral branches

Women of the Tang dynasty were fond of decorating their hair elaborately in various styles. This complex headdress ornament was used by a high-ranking woman. Fine gold granules were used to outline the patterns and fill in the ground. Tang craftsmen adopted foreign gold-working techniques and often combined the granulation with gemstones and glass inlays, adding to the luxurious effect of the ornaments.

Headdress with phoenix and mandarin ducks holding floral branches
Tang dynasty (618-907)
Gold with turquoise, agate, glass and shell inlay
Gift of Mengdiexuan
© The Hong Kong Palace Museum
Headdress with animals

Headdress with animals

4th-3rd century BCE
Gold
Gift of Mengdiexuan
© The Hong Kong Palace Museum

Headdress with animals

This headdress may have belonged to a member of the Xiongnu elite. It is finely decorated with animal motifs in repoussé, and the roundel at the top shows a combat scene of four tigers and stags. The holes in the centre suggest that a finial may once have been attached to the top—possibly in the shape of a three-dimensional imaginary bird or stag, like those recovered from southern Siberia, Inner Mongolia, and Shaanxi province. The finials were usually made with soft hides or movable parts so that a more realistic representation of animals fighting would be achieved when the wearer moved.

Headdress with animals
4th-3rd century BCE
Gold
Gift of Mengdiexuan
© The Hong Kong Palace Museum
Nose rings or armlets

Nose rings or armlets

About 18th-15th century BCE
Gold
Gift of Mengdiexuan
© The Hong Kong Palace Museum

Nose rings or armlets

These gold nose rings or armlets are the oldest objects in the Mengdiexuan donation. Similar gold ornaments have been found in Siba culture (about 18th–15th century BCE) sites in the Hexi Corridor and those of the Lower Xiajiadian culture (about 16th–13th century BCE) around Mount Yan, indicating the possible transmission of gold objects from northern pastoral cultures to agricultural cultures.

Nose rings or armlets
About 18th-15th century BCE
Gold
Gift of Mengdiexuan
© The Hong Kong Palace Museum

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Hong Kong Palace Museum
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Hong Kong Palace Museum

West Kowloon Cultural District, 8 Museum Drive, Kowloon


Mon, Wed, Thu & Sun
10:00 am – 06:00 pm
Fri, Sat & Public Holiday
10:00 am – 08:00 pm | Closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays) & the first two days of the Lunar New Year)