Sixth Grade Boys View Philippine Gold at Asia Society

On December 15 the sixth grade boys, along with teachers Mary Bosworth and Zack Davis, walked up Park Avenue to the Asia Society where they viewed “Philippine Gold: Treasures of Forgotten Kingdoms.” Ms. Bosworth explained, “This wonderful exhibit tied in with our study of archeology. We are grateful to one of our Browning parents who works at the Asia Society and is from Vietnam for offering to speak to the boys during our tour. Afterward, she gave us all a Chinese coin and chocolate truffle wrapped in gold paper as a remembrance of our visit.”

Mr. Davis, who teaches art, advised the boys to take careful note of the ornate structure of the works on view, including the patterns and details, for the coil vessels they will be creating in class.

This special exhibit was organized in conjunction with the Ayala Museum, located in the Philippines, and features exquisite gold jewelry, including necklaces, pendants, bracelets and earrings, as well as gold bowls and dishes. Because many of the 120 treasures in this exhibit are so finely detailed, the boys used magnifying glasses to gain a closer look at the incredible work involved in fabricating these pieces.

During their docent-led tour, the boys learned that these works were created by the societies who dwelled in the Philippines; though little else is known about them, they were incredibly talented goldsmiths. The Asia Society notes that these objects highlight “the wealth of the golden age of Butuan, a polity on the southern Philippine Island of Mindanao that rose to commercial prominence in the 10th century and declined in the 13th century.” The boys were told that in 1981, a heavy machinery operator working on an irrigation project accidentally unearthed a collection of gold objects (many of which are in this exhibit) near present-day Butuan City. To put a timeline to all of this, the boys learned that Ferdinand Magellan did not reach the archipelago now called the Philippines until 1521. When the Spanish finally did land they found natives adorned in jewelry and other regalia made of gold, which was always plentiful in the Philippines. (Today, in fact, this country is believed to possess the world’s second richest gold deposits.)

The Browning boys and teachers also viewed a manuscript from 1590 called “The Boxer Codex,” which includes illustrations of indigenous people wearing colorful clothing and incredible gold adornments. They discussed a large-scale chromogenic print, “Follow Him,” by Wang Qingsong; created in 1966, this work is meant to criticize the present education system in China that stresses the importance of results over true knowledge.