Belt Hook

  • China
  • China, Late Eastern Zhou period
  • Late 4th to 3rd centuries B.C.
  • Bronze, gold foil, silver foil, turquoise inlays
  • H-11.6
Catalogue Entry

Two felines and four snakes in a symmetrical arrangement form the openwork body of this strongly arched belt hook. The felines appear with curved slinky bodies, their heads with pointed muzzles and small pear-shaped ears inlaid with turquoise, and face in opposite directions across the horizontal axis near the center. The body of one feline is inlaid with gold foil, the other with silver. They each grip the sinuous body of a snake--one inlaid with gold, the other with silver--with their mouths, while grabbing with a front paw the tail of the other snake. Two more snakes--also gold- or silver-inlaid, at the top and bottom of the openwork configuration--bite at the hind paw of each feline. Comma-shaped turquoise inlays accent the tail of each snake.

Spots left in reserve on the gold- and silver-inlaid bodies of the felines and snakes form two longitudinal rows flanking the central median of each creature's body. Only one snake at the neck of the hook displays a striated body inlaid with silver. The head of a peculiar beaked creature, unlike the more realistic animal heads commonly found on other belt hooks (cat. nos. 89, 91, 95) forms the hook. Gold and silver inlays also accent its head. At the opposite end of the hook, a hollow lunette-shaped device with a stemmed button projecting in the center projects from the underside to serve as the buckling mechanism.

Two virtually identical belt hooks but inlaid with turquoise only are in the Singer collection. It has been suggested that the Singer belt hooks were cast by the lost-wax process.1 Based on its shape and the absence of any mold lines, it can be concluded that the Shumei example was cast by the lost-wax method.2 The Shumei and Singer belt hooks are related to a group of cast gold garment hooks and harness fittings from the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. that use the same unusual buckling device; similar complex serpentine configurations marked by a textured, pseudo-granulated surface; and comma-shaped turquoise inlays. The majority of these gold objects were recovered from Qin tombs in Shaanxi province.3 However, clay molds and models used for the manufacture of similar fittings displaying similar creatures, recovered from the foundry site at Houma Niucun in neighboring Shanxi province, suggest that they may have been produced there.4 Other related gold fittings are in the Uldry collection5 and the Mengdiexuan collection.6

1. Chase 1991, no. 34.
2. See technical reports in forthcoming volume.
3. For examples see Kaogu yu wenwu 1981.1, p. 30, figs. 19.2, 19.10, 19.15, 19.20; Kaogu yu wenwu 1986.1, p. 21, figs. 15.1, 15.4.
4. So 1995, pp. 43-44; Bagley 1996, figs. 2-3.
5. Uldry 1994, nos. 8, 12-15.
6. White and Bunker 1994, no. 4.