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Gold Headdress with Nine-Bat Design and Pearl Inlays

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Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Dimensions: Length: 19.0 cm; width: 4.5 cm; weight: 59.0 g

This arced hair accessory is designed with nine pairs of gold bats and longevity symbols. The paired symbols are welded in groups along two curved supports. Each of the nine pairs includes a bat with a pearl in its tail along with a stylized form of the Chinese character for longevity (shou). Gold lotus flowers are inlaid between the pairs. The bats, characters, and lotus flowers are further embellished with kingfisher feathers. The whole piece combines the techniques of inlay, filigree, and kingfisher embellishment in a demonstration of splendid style and elegant design.

This type of headdress was called tiaotou. In traditional Chinese culture, the bat is an auspicious symbol suggesting imminent prosperity as the character for ‘bat’ (fu) is a homophone for ‘fortune’ (also fu). The decorative features and overall design of this piece suggest its use by a prominent woman in the palace.

Website version edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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