It is extremely rare to find a Song dynasty jade carving of a deer, but there is a closely related example in the British Museum, London. It is also carved from a pebble of white jade, with the same posture of head held high and slightly tilted backwards, antlers resting on the back, left front leg half raised and the rest folded underneath the body. It is incised with fine lines to denote the fur and with tiny stars dotted on its body to represent the deer’s spots, differing slightly from the current jade deer. The British Museum example has been extensively published, including the exhibition catalogue Chinese Jade Animals, Hong Kong, 1996, cat. no. 110, and in Jessica Rawson, Chinese Jade. From Neolithic to the Qing, London, 1995, pl. 26: 13, in which Rawson mentioned that the incised star feature may place it at a later date. A related but much larger celadon jade deer was unearthed at Beijing Normal University in 1962, dated to the Northern Song Dynasty, with lingzhi-shaped horns, four legs all tucked underneath the body, yet with a silky finish like the present piece. It is published in Zhongguo yuqi quanji [Complete collection of Chinese jade], vol. 5, Shijiazhuang, 1993, pl. 122, and is now in the Capital Museum, Beijing.
Jade carvings of deer can be found as early as the Tang dynasty, when they began to be widely associated with Daoist notions of immortal worlds, amongst other mythical animals such as dragons and phoenix. Compare a Tang-dynasty example of a crouching deer, of celadon jade, in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, smaller in size and with a flat, oval-shaped horn on the top of its head, illustrated ibid., pl. 38. The British Museum, London, has a plaque of a crouching deer, dated to the Tang dynasty, with a similar posture of lifting its front left leg, slightly larger in size, with a fan shaped horn on its head, published in Rawson, op.cit., pl. 25:5.
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