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China

Skull of a helmeted hornbill with carved landscape scenery

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Object Details

Culture

China

Date

late 19th century

Medium

Hornbill skull and feathers

Dimensions

Height: 9 inches (22.9 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Drs. Lee and Connie Koppelman

Object
Number

89.029.010

Among the various Southeast Asian forest products traded to China, often in exchange for Chinese cer(…)

Among the various Southeast Asian forest products traded to China, often in exchange for Chinese ceramics, was hornbill “ivory,” actually the solid keratin casque of the Helmeted Hornbill, a large bird that lives in the forests of Sumatra, Borneo and the Malay Peninsula. As the bird preens, it rubs an oily secretion from a gland near its tail that colors the golden casque red. From the Ming dynasty on, Chinese artisans heated the casque to preserve its colors before embellishing it with carved designs. Hornbill “ivory,” sometimes referred to as golden jade, was also used to make snuff bottles and belt ornaments, and became popular in Japan for small carvings such as netsuke.

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