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#180 :: Cloisonne’d Iron Balls

August 7, 2004

Pictures of their exteriors abound. Actual clues to the mysterious musical mechanism inside them cannot be Googled effectively. The closest I’ve come is this:

Baoding Chi Balls – These chrome-plate steel balls, better known as Chinese therapy balls, originated in the Chinese city of Baoding during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD). According to traditional Chinese beliefs, the vital organs of the human body are all connected to the fingers. By manipulating these iron balls, it stimulates the circulation of blood and energy throughout the body. Take the challenge of spinning these iron orbs without dropping them. Hollowed balls are outfitted with sounding plates to produce a jingle as they are rotated. Set of two in an embroidered case. 4.9″ length X 2.75″ width X 2.5″ height. Assorted color cases; please allow us to select for you. Imported from China. Usually ships in 1 to 2 business days.

The dragon and phoenix chase each other ’round and tinkling ’round, locked in struggle until your hands get tired. You can believe this about them, or this, or this combined with this. What fascinates me more is the method employed at the cloisonne shop we visited in Beijing on our honeymoon: they weld copper wire, of a certain thickness, to the cmpleted steel mystery sphere, bake in a thick coat of colors – delineated by the wire, and then smoothed to within an inch of its life. The surface of the still-rough ball is sanded smooth so the enamel and etra metal are one glossy planetary surface, and buffed to a crude, high shine like a Roman senator’s floor mosaic.

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