Lot 1272: Chinese Cicada Belt Hook
December 8, 2016
London, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: Warring States, 475-221 BC. A gilt bronze belt hook in the shape of a cicada, eyes and edge of back inlaid with turquoise beads; head, back and wings decorated with silver and gold scrolling patter; abdomen with silver and gold segments; to the front of the head an arching hook ending in a horse head with inlaid eyes; raised boss to the underside. 131 grams, 14cm (5 1/2"). Property of a London collector; by inheritance from his grandfather; acquired during travels in the Far East in the 1920s. Since ancient times, the cicada has been seen as a symbol of resurrection, an association that owes to its fascinating life cycle. Newly hatched insects drop from branches to burrow into the ground, where they nourish themselves on tree roots for as long as seventeen years before emerging into the sunlight. Then, they climb high into the trees, and their outer skin splits open to allow the full-grown insects to appear.This process was seen as an analogy for the spirits of the dead rising on a path to eternal existence in a transcendent realm. In the Han dynasty, jade amulets shaped like cicadas were placed on the tongues of corpses, no doubt to symbolize a hope for rebirth and immortality. In general Chinese lore, cicadas are creatures of high status. They are considered pure because they subsist on dew and lofty because of their perch in high treetops. An ancient analogy in China suggests that a high-ranking official should resemble a cicada: residing high, eating a pure diet, and with sharp eyes.Also in antiquity, the headgear of rulers and nobles incorporated a golden image of a cicada with prominent eyes. The emblem signaled refinement, modesty, and a full awareness of one?s surroundings.
Condition Report: Fine condition.