Censer/perfumers of this type, formed as an openwork sphere pendent from a chain, were used for both secular and religious purposes during the Tang dynasty. They held a variety of aromatic substances, some to be burned as incense, others to more slowly release their scent. The interior of these censers has a gimbaled arrangement of two silver bands holding a gilt-bronze, hemispherical incense receptacle in the center in which the aromatics were placed. This mechanism insured that the receptacle would at all times remain upright. These censers were used to freshen interiors and clothes and perhaps to repel insects. For a discussion of the use of aromatics, incense and perfume in the Tang period, see E. H. Schafer, The Golden Peaches of Samarkand, University of California, 1963.
A similar censer unearthed in 1970, Hejiacun, Xi'an, Shaanxi province, is illustrated in Tangdai jin yin qi, 1985, figs. 95 and 96, where the design and construction are fully described, and again in Selected Treasures from Hejiacun Tang Hoard, Shaanxi History Museum, Wenwu, 2003, pp. 222-25. Another similar censer, formerly in the Hakutsuru Museum, Kobe, Japan, is illustrated in Tang, Eskenazi, London, 1987, no. 1. See, also, the similar example illustrated in Chinesisches Gold und Silber: Die Sammlung Pierre Uldry, Zurich, 1994, no. 201, and the example from the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas City, illustrated by Jan Fontein and Tung Wu, Unearthing China's Past, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1973, p. 178, no. 91, where the authors note that "according to the Miscellaneous Records of the Western Capital the 'Cardan' method of suspension was already in use during the Western Han period."