Water buffaloes were revered from early on in Chinese history, with some of the earliest jade carvings of water buffaloes dating to the Shang dynasty, such as a small carving of a reclining buffalo in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, published on the Museum’s website, accession. no. 1976.297.2; one carved in flat relief in the collection of Mrs Edward Sonnenschein, illustrated in A. Salmony, Carved Jade of Ancient China, 1938, pl. XXIII (8) and an example in the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington D.C., illustrated by Jessica Rawson, 'Animal Motifs in Early Western Zhou Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections', Chinese Bronzes: Selected articles from Orientations, 1983-2000, Hong Kong, 2001, p. 20, fig. 12. Jade carvings of animals excavated from Shang tombs during the Song dynasty no doubt had an influence on contemporaneous works.
A jade buffalo excavated from a Southern Song dynasty tomb at Zhuji, Zhejiang, is illustrated in Jessica Rawson, Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, British Museum, London, 1995, p. 356, fig. 10; and one modelled with its head raised, was sold in these rooms 30th November 2017, lot 5. See also a much larger buffalo attributed to the Song dynasty and inscribed with an imperial poem composed by the Qianlong Emperor, from the collection of Natasha du Breuil, sold at Christie’s London, 11th November 2003, lot 65, and again in these rooms, 3rd October 2018, lot 3113.
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