A superbly carved white jade archaistic 'chilong' bi disc Qing dynasty, Qianlong period | 清乾隆 白玉螭龍紋璧
Property from the De An Tang Collection
A superbly carved white jade archaistic 'chilong' bi disc
Qing dynasty, Qianlong period
exceptionally worked in high relief on one side with three chilong clambering sinuously, two of the larger ones rendered in openwork with well-defined muscular outlines, the reverse decorated in low relief with whorls encircled by a 'rope-twist' fillet and a band of taotie masks and archaistic dragon motifs, stand
The disc is in good condition with just insignificant expected nibbles to the fragile extremities, the largest a shallow nibble measuring approx. 0.7 cm to the edge of the disc.
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Spink & Son Ltd., London.
Spink & Son Ltd.，倫敦
A Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 133.
The white jade bi disc is carved with three chilong dragons in relief on one side. Two of the dragons are larger while the third smaller, all dancing in circles with their lithe bodies rendered with impressive agility and vitality. The other side bears a band of archaistic dragon motifs and a 'rope-twist' fillet enclosing a 'grain' pattern. The Qianlong Emperor, who was very fond of chilong dragons, once interpreted chi as xi (bliss), and therefore impelled many imperial works of art to feature a chilong decoration.
The present disc was inspired by an archaic jade prototype. Considerable in size, the carving required an extravagance of materials and craftsmanship. In the 24th year of his reign (1759), the Qianlong Emperor won the campaigns against the Dzungars and secured the pacification of Xinjiang, which gave rise to an abundance of jade supply for the Palace Workshops (Zaobanchu) to deploy their prowess with. Upon the Emperor's orders, jade wares of various forms and remarkable sizes were made to incorporate either an archaistic theme or other ideas, manifesting the heyday of an empire.
The Qianlong Emperor had a deep reverence for antiquity as well as a great passion for collecting antiques, particularly earlier jades. It is documented that eight hundred or so poems composed by the Emperor are odes to jade, including more than sixty praising jade bi discs from the Zhou and Han dynasties. In response to the Emperor's command, Workshops of the Imperial Household Department (Neiwufu Zuofang) referred to exemplars on Kaogu tu [Illustrations for the study of antiquity], Bogu tu [Illustrated catalogue of antique treasures], etc. to incarnate the charm of antiquity; moreover, the emperor's personal conception and modification combined aesthetics of the bygones and tastes of the contemporaries, which encapsulated the spirit of ancient cultures and defined the characteristics of the Qianlong period.