Garment Hook (Daigou)
Eastern Zhou dynasty, Warring States period (474-221 B.C.E.)
bronze with inlaid silver and gold
.25 x 5 x .25 inches
A garment hook was an essential personal accessory used by the living and offered as a burial gift for the dead. Its purpose was simple, yet its design and decorative qualities might be complex. A garment hook held together the two ends of a belt or sides of a robe. The user inserted the hook's round button into a hole on one side of the garment or belt and the animal-inspired hooked end into a slit on the other side.
This dragon-headed daigou (garment hook) is an exceptional example of silver and gold inlay on bronze. The cast bronze contained channels for the silver and gold to be inset. Precious metal wire was carefully beaten into flat strips, which were then placed side by side in the prepared channels, edge side up, to form either a linear design or an expanse of silver or gold-a tedious process at best, but one that produced exquisite results. A magnifying glass reveals the extraordinary fineness of the work; under magnification the individual strips of wire are discernible.
Smithsonian, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, object S1987.941
--K. Johnson Bowles, 2006, Reflecting Centuries of Beauty: The Rowe Collection of Chinese Art