Pyu Gold Beads

Pearls of Pyu Gold

Cord of high-carat gold beads from the Pyu culture. The necklace is made of very fine gold beads from Pyu, in today's Upper Burma. Breathtaking pure gold bead in the shape of Buddha's face, which points in each of the eight directions.

Gold pearl necklace, Pyu (present-day Burma), 5th-9th centuries

These necklaces made of very delicate gold pearls originate from Pyu, in today's Upper Burma. Made of a range of slightly graded, high-quality gold beads in a variety of styles, among them empty polyhedric, reed-covered, openworked and pearled, globular and ornate, with a contemporary silver-gilt S-shaped noose. The goldsmithing techniques used in Pyu beads are exceptionally high.

Gold used was typical Alluvian. These beads themselves show a number of refined and elaborate patterns in filigreed, granulated and cast work. Several pearls, also on this chain, seem to be ingenious in a nearby cages, not unlike a China engraved icon. The Pyu was a group of metropolitan states that inhabited the area that is now Upper Burma (Myanmar) from around 200 BC to 1100 AD.

Towns were trade-focused and nine centuries of China are reminiscent of a demanding civilization with magnificent courtyards and lavishly decorated Buddhist convents (Richter, 2000, p. 43). The Pyu were pioneers of town planning in Southeast Asia and were master of brick making, iron processing and irrigation (Guy, 2014, p. 68).

The Pyu civilization largely ended in the ninth quarter, when the metropolitan states were devastated by recurrent Nanzhao invasion. The Pyu colonies stayed in Upper Burma for the next three hundred years, but slowly they were incorporated into the growing pagan kingdom, and eventually the Pyu took over Burmese tribes. Pyu's trade character means that Pyu gold beads were found as far as Thailand, Vietnam and China.

The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art's 2017 Ausstellung'Age of Empires : The''Art of the Qin and Han Dynasties', contains several pearls, which are related or equal to some in this chain, which were dug up from eastern Han graves in Guangxi, China, and which are attributed to the first millennium BC to the second cent. AD, indicating that these pearls could be even older than usually assumed.

Met has argued that such pearls may not have been made in Pyu, but in the antique town of Taxila in Central Asia, and notes that such pearls are found in many antique places, also in Burma. These beads are in perfect shape and the chain is highly portable. It is not indicated that advanced soldering agents were used or that the granulate used has been filled with brazing alloy, as will be the case with contemporary beads.

Bennett, A., The Annual Story of U Thong : The City of Gold, DASTA/BIA, 2017. A Hindu Buddhist sculpture of early Southeast Asia, Metropolitan Museum of Arts, 2014. Judge, A. in The Jewelry of Southeast Asia, Thames & Hudson, 2000. Qin and Han Dynasty Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2017.

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