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Chinese Carved Jade Pendant 19thc

This is the work of a master carver, 6mm thick at the outside edges, the stone has been carved with elaborate images on both sides of the stone to a depth of 2mm on each image.
When the stone is held to a light sections of the background are translucent. Both images feature Chinese mythological creatures in an arboreal setting. One is represents the male, the Qilin, the other the female, the Phoenix. Both figures are surrounded by buds, leaves and lingzhi, a fungus symbolizes longevity and immortality.

01Images of the Phoenix have appeared in China for 7000 years and many speculate that the image represents a prehistoric bird, a variety of the ostrich. There is no connection with the Phoenix of western mythology. Over the course of time there have been variations in the image.

In some Asian literature the Phoenix has been described with the beak of a cock, the face of a swallow, the breast of a goose, the hindquarter of a stag and the tail of a fish…all of these elements can be seen in this carving. She rules the bird kingdom, is considered a token of good fortune and symbolizes loyalty and honesty. She is also associated with the Empress as the Dragon is with the Emperor.

According to Wikipedia the earliest records of the Qilin date to the 5thc BC. The image of the "lord of all mammals" has also evolved over time.

02 In the Ming dynasty he is seen with the head of a dragon with horns and the mane of a lion…his body is covered with the scales of a fish…..the scales are depicted in this carving with a fine crosshatch pattern with lines less than 1mm apart. The Qilin is also known for his wisdom and longevity.

For me the Phoenix and Qilin, on equal and opposite sides of the stone also represent the balance of the forces of yin and yang in the universe.

This also suggests that the pendant may have been created as a wedding gift.

I purchased this from a knowledgeable and experienced dealer who stated that it was 19thc. He added that in that period the newly discovered Burma jade…this bright green color…was reserved for the use of the royal family….

Personally, the history is interesting, but it has nothing to do with why I bought this…in this case the art, the workmanship are so compelling that I can just look at it for hours. It talks about all human wishes and dreams…but it also speaks about a culture that valued craftsmanship in a way that seems lost today.

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One Comment

  1. Anonymous
    Posted February 10, 2009 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    Beautiful. Maybe you should have taken it against background light, like a window.

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