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Liu Yang. Nomadic Influences in Qin Gold

While the achievements of early Qin’s bronzesmiths – with their extensive production of sophisticated ritual and ceremonial vessels – have defined the art of Qin during the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BCE), gold was also employed, albeit more sparingly, for objects of special and often personal value, including ornaments, horse fittings, belt buckles and ritual accoutrements. Although such gold ornaments are consistent primarily with the prevailing contemporaneous bronze aesthetic, they also show foreign cultural influences. Gold was highly prized among the ethnic peoples who inhabited an arc of land stretching from present-day east Gansu province and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region to the Ordos, along the northwestern and northern frontiers of the Qin state in the 1st millennium BCE. They used the metal extensively, making artefacts for adorning the dead as well as for use as personal ornaments and horse harnesses. While it is evident that the forms and ornamental patterns used in Qin gold were partially inspired by those of the steppe region, the details of such influence have not been established systematically. This essay presents an analysis of recent findings that goes some way towards uncovering such a link.
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