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A VERY RARE WHITE JADE OPENWORK SCABBARD SLIDE
A VERY RARE WHITE JADE OPENWORK SCABBARD SLIDE

WESTERN HAN DYNASTY (206 BC-AD 8)

Details
A VERY RARE WHITE JADE OPENWORK SCABBARD SLIDE
WESTERN HAN DYNASTY (206 BC-AD 8)
The slide of unusual, irregular outline curves under at the ends, and is finely carved in rounded relief and in openwork in the center with a large chilong between two smaller chilong clambering at each end, one with the beak of a bird, the other crawling under the twisted tail of the larger chilong as it pushes against its rear leg. A rectangular loop (slide) is on the reverse. The semi-translucent stone is of even white tone, and there are traces of iron encrustation on the reverse.
3 ½ in. (8.9 cm.) long, wood box
Provenance
B.K. Wong, Hong Kong, 13 May 1988.
Literature
Magic, Art and Order: Jade in Chinese Culture, Palm Springs Desert Museum, 1990, p. 141, no. 148.
Nicole De Bisscop, Chinese Jade and Scroll Paintings from the Dongxi Collection, Brussels, 1995, p. 70, no. 35.
Exhibited
Magic, Art and Order: Jade in Chinese Culture, Palm Springs Desert Museum, California, 1990, no. 148.
Chinese Jade and Scroll Paintings from the Dongxi Collection, Kredietbank Gallery, Brussels, 25 October - 17 December 1995; Kredietbank Luxembourg, 1 February - 13 April 1996, p. 70, no. 35.

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Michael Bass

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Lot Essay

This scabbard slide has been carved from beautiful and extremely rare white jade material.  The piece of jade probably had an irregular shape that the artist, given the quality of the material, wanted to use to best their best advantage.  Consequently, the top of the slide has an unusual shape in that one side is broader than the other.  By executing the broad side with a bevelled edge and a sharp corner that ends in a scroll motif, the artist has overcome the difficulty of the irregular shape in masterly fashion and, by combining this with openwork decoration, has created a masterpiece of jade carving. No other scabbard slide with similar openwork decoration appears to have been published, and based on the flawless white color and quality of the jade it is likely that the stone came from Xinjiang province.

The intricacy of the openwork design is similar to that seen on a white jade trapezoidal ornament dated Western Han dynasty from the mausoleum of the Prince of Chu at Shizishan, Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Jades Unearthed in China, vol. 7, Beijing, 2005, p. 125. Like the present scabbard slide, the main decoration is of a chilong, its undulating body mostly confined within a plain border while the neck and head project beyond the upper border beside further openwork scrolls. Openwork carving within a plain outer border can be seen, also, on two Han dynasty white jade sword chapes in the Qing Court Collection illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 40 - Jadeware (I), Hong Kong, 1995, pp. 222-25, pls. 185 and 186. On the first, the head and body of the dragon are carved in openwork and the end of the dragon's tail is also in openwork where it extends beyond the border. See, also, the white jade chape carved in openwork with a dragon included in An Illustrated Handbook of Ancient Chinese Jadewares: Jadewares of the Han Dynasty, 2001, pl. 104, where the dragon is flat, while the chilong carved in openwork on another sword chape, pl. 94, is carved in a high-relief manner similar to those of the present slide. Similar chilong of this type can be seen on the front of a scabbard slide of solid form from Yandaishan, Yizheng, Jiangsu province, illustrated ibid., The Complete Collection of Jades Unearthed in China, vol. 7, p. 89. On this slide the bodies of the chilong extend in openwork beyond the edges. A scabbard slide where two similar chilong carved in high relief crawl across the surface of the slide is illustrated by J. Rawson in Chinese Jades from the Neolithic to the Qing, British Museum, 1995, p. 302, no. 21:15. Other stylistically similar chilong with long, twisted tails are carved in high relief on various jade sword fittings, including pommels, chapes and guards, found in the Western Han tomb of the King of Nanyue, Guangzhou, Guangdong province, and illustrated in Jades from the Tomb of the King of Nanyue, Hong Kong, 1991, nos. 193-195, 197, 198, 200, and 203.

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