Apsaras, or flying deities, are a subject that was introduced to China as a decorative motif from Central Asia. During the Tang dynasty, this subject is seen in stone as well as cave paintings, such as the wall painting of 8th-9th century date from Ming-oi in Xinjiang province illustrated by J. Rawson in Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, British Museum, p. 333, fig. 1. The author, pp. 332-33, discusses this motif, citing examples from the sixth century cave 285 at Dunhuang, Gansu province, where they are depicted without clouds, and the evolution during the Tang dynasty of showing them with tri-lobed cloud supports as seen on the aforementioned wall painting. This motif was also translated into jade ornaments, such as the pair of white jade openwork earrings illustrated p. 332, no. 25:6, which are dated Tang or Liao, 9th-10th century. Another white jade ornament of an apsara in flight, Tang or Liao, 8th-10th century, p. 333, no. 25:7, depicts the face, carved in a manner similar to that of the present figure, turned more towards the viewer, rather than shown in profile like that of the deities in the earrings. The carving of the clouds also relates quite well to those seen on a white jade ornament of a flying apsara in the Qing Court collection, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 41 - Jadeware (II), Hong Kong, 1995, p. 21, no. 19, which is dated Tang dynasty.
This motif may have continued into the Song and Jin dynasties. A very similar rectangular, openwork soapstone plaque found at a Jin site at Zhongxing, Suibin, Heilongjiang province, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Jades Unearthed in China, vol. 2, Beijing, 2005, p. 232. When the soapstone plaque was illustrated in a line drawing in Heilongjiang Archaeology Cultural Relics Illustrated Handbook, 2000, fig. 11, it was noted that because it had ancient repair when found, there was speculation that it might be of earlier, possibly Tang dynasty, date. The rectangular shape and carving of the openwork background of the excavated plaque and the present plaque, however, may relate more to a Liao or Jin, or even Song dynasty date. A white jade rectangular plaque carved in openwork with a dragon striding above similar clouds is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 41 - Jadeware (II), p. 72, no. 62, where it is dated Song dynasty, while an oval belt plaque carved with two deer amidst pine, bamboo and lingzhi, which has an openwork background of similarly carved stems, p. 86, no. 75, is dated Jin dynasty.