Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I love collecting ......

.......Elephant beads.....

Elephants are an important cultural icon in Asia. For centuries they have been used as beasts of burden because of their great strength, memory, intelligence  and trainability. In the past, elephants have also served in royal battles between Thailand and Burma with kings mounted on them as seen in many paintings. It is no wonder they are so loved  and have been depicted in many carvings and works of art. Although the elephant is such a large animal, in Asia they are often made into  small objects such as beads and seals.

My elephant beads/seals are from Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and China and they may date from ancient to vintage.

First I'll show the greens from Myanmar's Pyu dynasty (from 2nd century BC to 11th century AD)


greenstone elephant beads  from Pyu period

Here are the  white ones also from Pyu dynasty

quartz  and bone Pyu period

These 2 seals are from Cambodia and have intaglio carving of elephants.

elephant seals from Cambodia

While these seals may date to the Khmer period,( around 9th-13th centuries) present day Cambodian elephants take tourists for rides in Seam Reap as seen below.
Ride a friendly elephant
 And tourists riding on elephants are replicated in these modern  jade pendants from Myanmar.
Elephant rides depicted in modern  jade carving

The carved jade elephant below hails from China. It is perforated from top to bottom and so it is also a bead. Carved in the round with patches of brown, the body undecorated but showing ears,  tucked trunk, tail and eyes it measures 4x2cm       and is quite an engaging figure.
Jade elephant from China
 Most Chinese jade elephant carvings seen on the antiques market today are around the Qing dynasty. Ancient elephant carvings from China are not  common though elephants did roam the Central Plains judging from the many elephant tusks recovered from the  Jinsha and Sanxingdui  (around the 12-11th centuries BC) excavations in Sichuan Province, China. 

Showing ivory tusks from the Jinsha Onsite Museum


There is also a jade elephant excavated from Fu Hao's tomb, Shang dynasty(around 1766-1027BC)  But I doubt that my plumb little elephant is of that great age.  Except for the 2 horizontal carving lines on the belly there are  no decorative patterns that can relate it to an ancient  period. And yet it does not look like a modern copy -   so, another mystery....

 Here is a 1960s elephant made of bone or ivory from Thailand
vintage elephant from Thailand
And here is the whole vintage strand
Vintage strand of elephant, lotus and beads
Below is another strand composed of  greenstone beads, carnelian buttons and one small elephant.
Beads and pendants from Pyu dynasty
And finally, my favourite elephant and other greenstone bracelet. The centre bead is serpentine from China.
Composed of 2 elephants and other greenstone beads
Close up of the flat nephrite elephant bead which measures.10mm.
Greenstone  elephant bead from Pyu. 15mm long

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