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The University Museum and Art Gallery of the University of Hong Kong is pleased to present an exhibition of early glass vessels that display technological and stylistic influences from countries along the Silk Road. Objects have been selected from a recent donation to UMAG along with additional loan items, which are either of Western Asian or Chinese origin. Though the technique of blowing glass was first developed by the Phoenicians in the Roman Empire in the first century BCE, the design outline of many shapes relates to Syro-Palestinian forms of the first century CE, and to Islamic Persian models found in both ceramic and metalware of the sixth century CE. All of these examples show an eastward dissemination of glass-making techniques and decorative styles.

The international transfer of manufacturing practices, object types and design features make this particular collection of glassware a fascinating subject of study, as the knowledge transfer and trade along the Silk Road since the first millennium CE complicates the artefacts' origins and cultural influences. Interestingly, this fine and fragile artform has been treasured for centuries and excavated objects from tomb sites often include both imported and Chinese items. 


The decorative features were achieved by blowing—either freely or with a mould—by manipulating the shape with tools or by attaching handles and foot rings. Over the centuries, many of these glass objects have been compromised by prolonged exposure to acidic or alkaline conditions in the soil or tomb chambers, which has led to an iridescent surface layer indicative of a form of deterioration.

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