Glass in Ancient Chinese Jewelry


Interestingly, the ancient “glass fever” overtook not only the Chinese but also their closest neighbors. Beads, very similar to the so-called "Chinese - oculate", were found to the west of Chinese territory among the things of the Meoto-Scythian period (IV century BC).

The wide popularity of such beads among the population of China is evidenced by finds made in a vast territory - from Xinjiang in the west to Shandong in the east, and along the north-south axis from the Henan Province to Guangdong. "Oculate" beads were common in the basin of the river Yangtze, on the territory of the ancient kingdom of Chu (Chu-go, XI – III century BC).
Ancient Chinese Beads
Ancient Chinese Beads


For the manufacture of beads at the end of the Zhou epoch and later, besides casting, the technique of carving on a glass blank was used, which was easier than cutting the beads from stone. But most of the ancient beads are made in the technique of twisting hot glass with the help of a wire (core). To remove the core, various means were used, including kaolin, already known in Chinese craft.

In addition to inserts in bronze jewelry (pendants, belt buckles) and in the guards of swords, they made separate objects from lyu-li glass (lead glass), primarily for ritual purposes. For example, disks bi, usually performed from jade (yuy). In this case, a different color was used for glass - white and green milk, or the so-called "choked glass", smelted with the use of silencing substances - lead or tin, making the glass matte or translucent.

Western Han Dynasty Jade Disc Bi
Western Han Dynasty Jade Disc Bi
Lead glass continued to be used as a substitute for minerals in Chinese jewelry of subsequent historical eras. Thus, during the Han era (206 BC - 220 AD), the production of glass beads, focusing on export specimens, including "oculate", was preserved, but the quality of the glass and things made of it deteriorated. A new type of beads, which appeared in the Han era and survived in Chinese glassmaking before the Qing era (1644–1911), is a spherical or flattened round shape, divided by longitudinal flutes.


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