I didn’t have an “elevation chest” of fabric or accessories sitting and waiting to be unsealed when I was given my writ. I honestly thought I was still a good 2-3 years out, so I had time. So over the last 4 months, I have been slowly acquiring all the fabric and other bits to make my vigil and elevation outfit.
I’ll be writing more about this process using the Elevation and Vigil categories, so if you want to see all these posts, you can click on that to see them all together in one spot. Yay metadata!
Ahem – anyway. I am basing my elevation outfit the donor portraits from the Dunhuang/Mogao Caves. The Chinese Historical Costume Restoration Team – the group behind the amazing recreations that often float around the internet uncredited, recreated an outfit worn by the ladies in Mogao Cave 9.
As it is with so much of this research, verifying that this very possibly restored image is from Cave 9 is difficult. It could be that it is from Cave 9/Grotto 167, and these black and white images don’t have enough contrast to fully confirm it. (I also suspect that, if this is the case, the image has been reversed.) Donor portraits in these caves were often in lower border panels of larger illustrations, and not often the subject of interest in comparison to the richly detailed murals of Buddhist art. Some of the caves have been digitized, with high resolution images of each wall and corridor, and some with digital walkthroughs. There seem to have been a rash of art exhibits back in 2016, but finding definitive information about this particular painting – likely a copy made from the mural as opposed to actual removed plaster – is difficult.
These ladies are shown wearing multiple necklaces, hair combs, u-shaped hair pins, and 9-10 larger, decorative hair pins.
As I’ve stated before, I’m not a jeweler or a metalworker, so I reached out to friends who are and asked for help in recreating the fancier bits that these ladies are wearing, while I took on the necklaces.
The innermost necklace is most likely rock crystal, or clear quartz, similar to Lady Mi’s necklace. The second necklace is most likely jade, which is a well documented material for personal adornment throughout Chinese history. The third necklace could be carnelian or coral, as both highly valued red stones used for adornment during the Tang Dynasty.
The majority of the beads are round, but the red necklace alternates between round beads and some sort of oblong shape. I interpreted these as teardrops, in part because we see teardrop shaped pendants on Khotanese ladies in Dunhuang Caves. After making these, a necklace from the Unified Silla period (Korea) in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s collection was shared on the SCA Korea (Unofficial) Facebook group.
The Unified Silla period, which spanned 676-935 C.E. is contemporaneous with the Tang Dynasty. Official ties between the two states weren’t reestablished after the Silla-Tang War (668–676) until the 8th century, but it’s not unreasonable to conjecture that fashion trends shared similarites – especially when the make-up of this necklace is not unlike Lady Mi’s rock crystal necklace. The comma-shaped jade in the Korean necklace are known as gokok (곡옥) in Korean and as magatama (勾玉) in Japanese, and suggest that this style of bead came to Korea from Japan, as they date from as far back as 1000 BCE there. There is a chance that the red beads in the Dunhuang necklace are comma-shaped as opposed to teardrops, but given the other Dunhuang images we have to go off of, I think it is the less likely option.
I still had some 6mm clear quartz remaining from my recreation of Lady Mi’s necklace, so I used that as my basis in terms of size for the other two pieces. The jade and red necklaces appear progressively larger than the quartz, so I chose 8mm and 10mm beads, respectively. I was able to source jade beads in the same milky green tone. For the red, I ended up getting “mountain jade,” which is dyed dolomite – actual carnelian, coral, or jadeite was not cost effective. I was also able to find mountain jade pieces that were teardrop shaped, in order to mirror the pattern in the images.
It was difficult to find red mountain jade beads in a teardop shape. If I were to make this again, I’d try to source a larger teardrop bead for the red necklace, to give more visual contrast between the two shapes. The ones I purchased were 8×12 mm.
For closures, I chose to make S-shaped hooks. I put two rings at the center of the red necklace to allow for my laurel medallion to be attached (it has S-hooks). This type of closure was known in China, as shown by the S-hook clasps of the bracelets and necklace found in Li Jingxun’s Sui Dynasty tomb. Li Jingxun’s burial jewelry was most likely imported from the west, since the techniques for working with gold did not fully develop until the Tang Dynasty, thanks to the influence of other cultures connected by the Silk Road.
I used my dress form to work out the proper length of each necklace so that they would each lay correctly.
These necklaces were the first thing I finished in preparation for my elevation – it was an easy project to knock out, once I had sourced what beads I didn’t already have on hand. I’m happy with how they turned out, and I’m excited to see what they will look like once the medallion is attached to the red necklace.