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Silver with gilding
Overall: 22.9 cm (9 in.)
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1988.67.1
This vessel attests to the international climate that pervaded the regions of China, Tibet, and Central Asia during the time of the expansionist Tang dynasty (618-907). It is ornamented predominantly with Central Asian elements, including grape vines, beaded borders, and heart-shaped motifs. Sogdian craftsmen are known to have specialized in the technique of offsetting the silver repoussé design with gilded foil. The form of the animal-headed rhyton as a drinking vessel and the use of silver derive from Persian sources, while the lush, luxurious quality of the design and the form of the lions and curling dragon on one side of the vase reveal an awareness of Chinese forms.
An ownership inscription in Tibetan script on the underside of the cup identifies the vessel as a personal possession of a Chinese queen. Whether a later addition or not, the inscription attests to the importance of marital alliances between the ruling elite in Tibet and neighboring regions during the early decades of the political consolidation and unification of Tibet.
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