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HOME : Chinese Art : Masterpieces of Chinese Art : Ordos Bronze Buckle Plaque
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Ordos Bronze Buckle Plaque - LO.1223
Origin: Northern China
Circa: 3 rd Century BC to 1 st Century BC
Dimensions: 4.5" (11.4cm) high x 2.75" (7.0cm) wide
Collection: Chinese Art
Style: Ordos
Medium: bronze

Location: Great Britain
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This plaque can be safely attributed to the Xiongnu people. Although the early history of the Xiongnu is still blurred, we know that by the 3rd century BC they already formed a vast steppe confederacy stretching throughout the Eastern Eurasian steppes. The artefacts most commonly associated with the Xiongnu are the belt buckles formed either by a pair of solid cast plaques or a pair of openwork plaques cast in mirror image, comparable to the one here illustrated. In fact many single plaques, like this one, originally would have been produced in pairs; in each pair the plaque worn on the left side would carry a small hook for fastening on the front border of the right plaque, while the attachment of the belt was accomplished through the perforations in the openwork design.

Our openwork plaque, shaped like a horizontal B, without the defining border, features a mythological raptor (sometimes identified as a gryphon) in combat with a tiger. The raptor is a fantastic creature distinguished from the eagle by its almond-shaped animal eye. Both creatures are shown in profile but their appendages; both of the raptor’s wings are shown as are all the four paws of the tigers. The wings and tail of the bird shows cell-like depressions reflecting the inlay technique common in contemporary golden plaques. The back of the plaque is slightly concave with no attachment loops.

A mirror-image version of this plaque was excavated at Xifeng xian Xichagou in Liaoning province with wuzhu coins dating to the reigns of emperors Wen (175 BC), Jin, Wu (140-87 BC) and Zhao. Another version of the same was also found at Urbium in southern Siberia, while a similar composition was found in a Qin-period tomb at Zaomiao, Tongchuan, Shaanxi province. The plaque is also closely related to several gold buckles in the Treasure of Peter the Great in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Peterburg.

Reference: E. Bunker, Ancient Bronzes of the Eastern Eurasian Steppes, A.M. Sackler Foundation, 1997: pl. 222, p. 260. Sun Shoudao, “ Xiongnu Xichaogou wenhua gumuqun de faxian”, Wenwu 1960.8-9: pp.25-35, figs. 2-19 and pls. 1-21. Devlet, Marianna. Sibirskie poyasnye azhurnye plastinki, II v. do N.E- IV N.E., Akademia Nauka: Moscow, 1980. Kaogu yu Wenwu 1986.2: p.10. Gryaznov, M.P., The Ancient Civilizations of Southern Siberia, New York, 1969. - (LO.1223)


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