37. An Archaic Bronze Zither Tuning Key (Qin Zhen Yao)

North China, late 3rd century BC
Size: 9.3 cm high

A number of such keys are known and published, and are of particular interest because they demonstrate the link between China and Achaemenid Iran, and indeed the rest of the Middle East. The model for this composite beast with bearded human face, wings, scales and a curled tail had travelled east along the Silk Road. A further reason, no doubt, that this link is illustrated by something connected with music, is that there was a common musical tradition across the whole of Central Asia for millennia, at least until The Beatles interrupted transmission.

Provenance: J.J. Lally & Co., New York

Private collection, London