Mathilde HK at Asia Society lecture – The Splendor of Mongol Ornament – A Legacy of Opulence and Auspice

You like Mongolia

You are curious about ancient jewels

You enjoy precious stones and high craftsmanship

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Mogolian headband from XIX th century, Betty loo collection, Picture@asiasociety.com

On Thursday December 11, The Asia Society Hong Kong launched a lecture on Mogolian ornaments with artifacts presented by BETTY LO, a Collector based in Hong KOng. Betty Lo has been a collector of Chinese art for over 30 years. Together with her husband Kenneth Chu, they have jointly assembled the Mengdiexuan Collection of Chinese antiquities, which comprises of scholar’s objects, metalwork, and most significantly ancient Chinese gold and personal ornaments.

I was aware of such lecture by the OCS Society,  partner of the lecture. Betty had brought some collection pieces with her so we could actually see and touch some of the very precious adornments, which was extraordinary!

The lecture focused on Mongolian jewelry and personal ornament dating from 13th century to late Qing Dynasty. Betty provided an introduction to Mongolian tribes before the Yuan Dynasty and briefly presented the figure of Genghis Khan. She explained how female from the Mongolian court used to wear headbands whose shape and structure were influenced by warrior’s traditional helmets. Although those ancient pieces rarely survived, there are some pictures and engravings giving an idea of what those headbands would have looked like, such as the one below.

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Cave wall painting of a female donor with her boghtaq, 13th to 14th century, Xinjiang, China. From the Staatliche Museum of Berlin. picture@qaraqalpaq.com

In a second time, Betty  described the evolution of female headbands from Ming dynasty to modern days. The stones and coral pearls used to ornate the precious piece of jewelries were purchased from India and would come from Mediterranean sea. Everything was exported, which is a strong sign for Mongolian wealth and power. A single piece would weight around 5 kilos and would have been worm during wedding ceremonials and important rituals, a very small amount of time in the end. Women would put all their wealth and financial resources on their headdresses, which will then be their dowry.

Each headbands were divided into at least 3 parts, with a very complex hairdressing, formed by two enormous plaits. The whole set was embroidered with thousands of precious stones, especially turquoise. During XIX th century, the structure of female  headdresses became more simple but was still composed of over 1,000 pieces of coral, beads and precious stones. The overall shape reminded the profile of an ox.

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Traditional Mongolian Costumes, picture@mongolianstyleblog.com

Other jewelry and personal ornaments are still worn by Mongolian women and men today during important festivals and special occasions such as weddings and anniversaries. Precious heirlooms passed down from generation to generation by families of high status who were once wealthy landlords or important officials.

It is exciting to think that many other pieces must still remain in Mongolian families nowadays…

Don’t miss  the coming lecture at Asia Society:

Copying the Bible at Qumran and Christianity in 1st Century China

Evening Lecture by AARON WEST, Lecturer, Hebrew and Old Testament and GLEN L. THOMPSON, Professor of New Testament and Historical Theology, Asia Lutheran Seminary (Hong Kong)
Registration at 6.15pm
Lecture 1 & Q&A at 6.30pm
Lecture 2 & Q&A at 7.15pm
Close at 8pm

Asia Society Hong Kong Center
The Hong Kong Jockey Club Former Explosives Magazine
9 Justice Drive, Admiralty, Hong Kong

Tel: +852 2103 9511
Email: enquiryhk@asiasociety.org

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