World of Coins

Events => External events => Topic started by: Figleaf on August 08, 2008, 08:54:31 AM

Title: Chinese charms, Hong Kong
Post by: Figleaf on August 08, 2008, 08:54:31 AM
Works like a charm
Joyce Kam - Friday, August 08, 2008

Calligraphic expressions of good luck, signs of the zodiac, gods, and auspicious animals are recurring motifs in Chinese art. These can also be found on paintings, sculpture and amulets, or charms.
Chinese numismatic, or talismanic charms, are shaped like coins but without any monetary value. They served to invite good fortune and ward off evil spirits.

"These charms are the carriers of various elements of our past," says collector Alex Fang Chengyu, assistant professor of the Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics at City University of Hong Kong. "They are artistically beautiful and and full of cultural content."

The university is showcasing ancient amulets in an exhibition titled Chinese Charms: Arts, Religion and Folk Belief, at the CityU Gallery until August 24. About 150 artefacts dating from the Han Dynasty to early 20th Century are on display.

The Chinese charms can be roughly divided into four categories: those with lucky expressions, zodiac signs, images of gods or openwork charms.

"It's a good way to understand our past,'"says Fang. He adds that charms with lucky expressions are related to Confucian beliefs as they have fortune, official position, longevity, posterity and wealth themes. While charms with images of gods, demigods and auspicious animals are associated with Taoism, stories of the Buddhist monk Xuanzhang's journey to India can also be found.

Openwork charms are prized as they are immensely beautiful, demanding a high degree of workmanship in casting. Major themes include dragons, phoenixes, fish, unicorns, floral designs and human figures.

Joe Cribb, keeper of coins and medals of the British Museum, reckons that coins in China came to symbolize a spiritual might far exceeding their financial power.

He believes that religious mottos and images enabled their owners to transact with the spirit world.

Fang notes that charms are becoming rarer. "They were first collected and studied by western collectors. But now they are highly desirable in the market that one needs to be very knowledgeable in weeding out fakes."

LUCKY CHARMS: CityU Gallery, 6/F, Amenities Building, CityU, Kowloon Tong till August 24 (10am to 7pm). Call: 2194 2477

Source: The Standard (http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?we_cat=16&art_id=69832&sid=20095161&con_type=1&d_str=&fc=10), Hong Kong