These three gilded silver plates were part of a cache of 270 gold and silver objects, foreign coins, and jades, found in two large pottery urns that were buried at Hejia village, south of Xi'an, probably to safeguard them from looters during a great rebellion that began in 755. The variety of animals featured on these objects embodies the cosmopolitanism of the Tang empire. The fabulous single-horned winged horse recalled West Asian mythical animals; the bear was indigenous to the northern forests; the two foxes may have been inspired by Chinese folk tales. Equally foreign in origin was the repoussé technique, whereby the gilded motifs on the silver plates were first raised in relief by hammering from the reverse of the plate. The foreign silversmiths who brought the technique, along with their wares, made a lasting contribution not only to Chinese metalwork, but to China's native lacquer and ceramic industries as well.
|The excavation of the
underground crypt at the Famen Temple in Shaanxi Province
is one of the most important archaeological undertakings in
modern China. Sealed after a major Buddhist ceremony in
874, the crypt was never reopened until its excavation in
1987. During the Tang the crypt was celebrated as a
repository of Sakyamuni Buddha's physical relics. Today the
works from the Famen Temple Pagoda are precious for the
valuable information they reveal about the ritual practices
of Esoteric Buddhism and the customs of tea drinking as
well as Tang aesthetics and metalworking. This gilded cage
decorated with paired swans or geese set against a delicate
lattice pattern may have been used for storing bricks of
dried tea leaves, or it may have served as a container for
curing tea, which would explain the perforations.