At 12 cm. diameter this washer is an unusually diminutive example of Qianlong period jade washers of this shape, carved on the interior with two fish. An example in the Baur Collection, Geneva, illustrated by Pierre-F. Schneeberger, The Baur Collection - Chinese Jades and Other Hardstones, Geneva, 1976, no. B10, is 13.2 cm. diam., and appears to be raised on a similar ring foot, as does another (15 cm.) illustrated by Yang Boda (ed.), A Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Beijing, 2004, p. 39, pl. 16. Another larger (17.8 cm.), unpublished example is in a British private collection. And the largest (25.5 cm. diam.), in the Irving Collection, was sold at Christie's New York, 20 March 2019, lot 806. These latter two washers are raised on small feet and each has the same imperial inscription and cyclical date (1786).
On all of these washers the fish are shown side by side and facing in the same direction, and are carved in high relief and somewhat undercut in an archaistic style inspired by those found on bronze basins of Han-dynasty date, six of which are illustrated in Xiqing gujian - Qingding siku quanshu, Shanghai, vol. 2, 2003, pp. 692-95. The Xiqing gujian is a 40-volume illustrated catalogue of ancient bronzes commissioned by the Qianlong emperor and compiled between 1749 and 1755. Two jade vessels, made in imitation of ancient bronze pan, in the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, are illustrated in The Refined Taste of the Emperor: Special Exhibition of Archaic and Pictorial Jades of the Ch'ing Court, Taipei, 1997, one of circular shape, pp. 68-69, pl. 7, the other of oval shape with an everted rim, pp. 74-75, pl. 9.The same motif, but with the fish facing in opposite directions, is also found on Longquan celadon washers of Southern Song date (1127-1279), but rather than the straight sides of the jade washers they have an everted rim.
The motif of two fish, often referred to as "twin fish", is symbolic of "connubial felicity" and an emblem of harmony, and when the fish in the bottom of these jade washers were covered in water they would perfectly represent the rebus yushui hexie, "may you be as harmonious as fish and water."