Imperial yellow glass was a staple at the Imperial glassworks from the late Kangxi period onwards, being mentioned as early as 1702 in contemporary sources. Several varieties of yellow were used simultaneously. This is an example of the deep, rich, lemon-yellow color which confirms its Courtly status since, on early wares, yellow was reserved exclusively for Court use (although the Imperial Records state that Imperial-yellow objects were distributed by the Emperor from time to time).
The yinyang dichotomy is one of the most powerful of Chinese designs, representing cosmic duality. Within the circle, which represents unified, undifferentiated oneness, are two similarly shaped interlocking units representing duality. These two are assigned to represent certain contrasting elements - male/female, dark/light, and so forth. Each contains an element of the other, demonstrating that they are inextricably linked. In the symbol, everything is balanced, representing the universal harmony when everything finds its proper place in the universal scheme. Yinyang, therefore, also acts as a symbol of enlightened harmony.
The Eight Trigrams are symbolizing the eight natural phenomena: qian (heaven), kun (earth), zhen (thunder), xun (wind), kan (water), li (fire), gen (mountain) and dui (pool). They form the divination system of Daoism.
For comparable Daoist motifs, see the boxwood and amber double-gourd snuff bottle from the J & J collection, sold in our New York Rooms, 30 March 2005, lot 42