On View: Asian Galleries, West, 2nd floor (China)
The earliest type of glass found in China are eye beads, such as this pair. This distinctive raised-eye motif is well known from ancient Egypt, India, Mesopotamia, and Central Asia, where it often served as protection against the “evil eye.” Although there is no evidence that eye beads had that meaning in China, the motif and shape of the foreign beads were likely the inspiration for these. They are decorated with layers of colored glass over an earthenware core and use cobalt, imported from Afghanistan across the Silk Roads, to create the blue color. The motif and material reveal ancient China’s extensive global trade networks. Glass beads are found in elite tombs in China from the Warring States period, but this trend declined by the beginning of the Western Han dynasty in 206 B.C.E.
Earthenware with polychrome decoration
5th-4th century B.C.E.
Warring States Period
Gift of Giselle Croes
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Bead, 5th-4th century B.C.E. Earthenware with polychrome decoration, 1 1/4 x 1 1/4in. (3.2 x 3.2cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Giselle Croes, 1996.70.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 1996.70.1_1996.70.2_PS2.jpg)
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