A trinket box made from hand-carved cow bone, inspired by the Chinese tradition of cricket training.
Keeping crickets as pets emerged in China in early antiquity, and crickets became a symbol of happiness and longevity. Under the Tang dynasty, each year the ladies of the Imperial palace caught crickets and locked them up in small cages made of rattan (a type of palm leaf), so that they could hear them chirp. Under the Song Dynasty, the Chinese no longer heard the chirp of crickets but they raised crickets to fight.
The crickets were usually kept in small intricate boxes such as this one, which is painted by hand and features elaborate dragon designs. The cage is hand-carved from cow bone and features a tiny door that slides open and shut. On the top of the cricket cage is a small hook that can be used to hang it for decoration.
Created for the British Museum by the Real Pearl Company, this unique piece forms part of a range of miniature Chinese trinket boxes in different designs - each one is collectable and ideal as a gift.