The ram has a long history in China, first appearing on Shang ritual bronzes and in the form of bronze lamps and ceramic tomb figures during the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). Small jade carvings of three reclining rams were popular from the Song dynasty onwards, as the theme of three rams, sanyang, was considered particularly auspicious, evoking the expression sanyangkaitai (‘the awakening of nature in spring’) which signified good luck and happiness. For an early depiction of this motif in jade, see one attributed to the Song period, included in the exhibition Chinese Jade Animals, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1996, cat. no. 90, and sold in these rooms, 5th April 2017, lot 3321, from the Chang Shou Studio.
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