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The exhibition is divided into three areas that tie the strands of this history together. The pre-Buddhist section of art explores the animal iconography of the later Zhou Dynasty. In a repertoire encompassing personal ornaments such as jade and gilt-bronze garment hooks to weaponry, such as crossbow fittings.

The virtuoso craftsmen of the period turned the techniques of casting, inlay and overlay into prodigious works of unsurpassed quality to proclaim the prestige of their patrons. Jade, glass, turquoise, gold and silver are used on bronze in imaginative ways to enhance the animal motifs that were integral to noble status.

The animal imagery includes representations of dragons, phoenix, tigers, owls and ibexes fashioned into fantastic decorative elements on objects announcing the status of their owners. The jewellery and luxurious paraphernalia of the daily lives of the aristocratic classes in this exhibition offer a glimpse of the extraordinary decorative language of the Warring States (475-221 BC) and the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD).