Chinese glass from before the Qing dynasty is extremely rare, and the present two hairpins from the Song dynasty are no exception. Chinese potters were familiar with working with glass-like glazes from as early as the Bronze Age, and in the later Bronze Age artisans were able to replicate the foreign glass ‘eye beads’ brought from Western Asia and the Middle East.This influx of goods from Central and Western Asia stimulated the demand for glass objects, in turn popularising the material by the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420 – 589).
These two ‘Chai’s’ were used to fasten and tie hair for wealthy women during the Song dynasty. It is frequently mentioned in poems and articles for being a symbol of love in Chinese culture. It is believed that when a couple had to separate, women would often split her Chai into two parts, giving one part to her beloved as a keepsake, until they were reunited. The Ruyi-sceptre symbolises power and wealth. Both of these glass hairpins and the ruyi- sceptre express the sense of beauty and elegance synonymous with the era of the Song dynasty.
• Similar glass hairpins from the Song Dynasty were exhibited in the International Antiques Fair, H.K, 2019; Titled ‘Graces of Glassware- Treasures from the PT Collection.’