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Early Chinese Faience and Glass Beads and Pendants


Simon Kwan

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The earliest Chinese beads and pendants were composed of faience and appeared during the early Western Zhou period, around the 11th Century B.C. True glass began to be made about the time of the Spring and Autumn period (771-467 B.C.). An amazing variety of beautiful "dragonfly-eye beads" appeared in China during the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.), but these were imported and not local products. The complex eye beads were replaced during the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) by small, plain glass beads generally intended to be strung together. Perforated glass ear spools were also popular during this period and were sometimes adorned with bead strands. Small glass stringing beads as well as other forms continued in use in subsequent dynasties, as did various types of pendants. During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), glass was used to produce beautiful imitation jade objects including fanciful compound pendants. These were often finely carved and exhibit a high level of craftsmanship.

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The Society of Bead Researchers is a non-profit scientific-educational corporation founded in 1981 to foster historical, archaeological, and material cultural research on beads and beadwork of all materials and periods, and to expedite the dissemination of the resultant knowledge. Membership is open to all persons involved in the study of beads, as well as those interested in keeping abreast of current trends in bead research.

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