This plaque is notable for its skilfully rendered trumpet vines, which are sensitively modelled in openwork to capture the softness of the petals and detailed with finely incised veins on the leaves and flowers. The carver has successfully married a pebble of delicate and even white hue with an equally delicate design. Compare a similar plaque carved with the same subject and attributed to the Song dynasty, illustrated in Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum. Jade, vol. 5, Tang, Song, Liao, Jin and Yuan Dynasties, Beijing, 2011, pl. 196, together with two further floral plaques, pls 197 and 198. See also a Yuan-dynasty oval plaque reticulated with a similar symmetrical floral spray design, from the Capital Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Zhongguo yuqi quanji, vol. 5, Beijing, 1998, pl. 177; and another attributed to the Jin period, in the Museum of East Asian Art, Bath, illustrated in Angus Forsyth and Brian McElney, Jades from China, Hong Kong, 1994, pl. 244.
A symbol of elegance and refinement as well as wealth and high social status, finely carved plaques such as the present example were used for personal adornment and the round shape of the present piece suggests that it may have been used as an ornamental plaque for a belt. Belts made of jade plaques sewn together appeared in China only around the 3rd and 4th century AD, and were probably derived from gold and silver prototypes that had been in use in the steppe areas. They were quickly adapted and incorporated into the traditional dress code and were produced in a variety of materials, jade being the most important. According to the Ming hui yao [Essential regulations of the Ming dynasty]: ‘Those of the first rank wear jade belts; those of the second rank have patterned belts…’ (see Jessica Rawson, Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, London, 1995, p. 326).