Often referred to as 'sycees', the shape of gold ingots such as the present lot were based on the shape of shoes worn by women in ancient China. This shoe form was considered to be auspicious and was associated with wealth, and therefore it is appropriate that these ingots should be cast in this form. Many of these gold ingots bear stamp marks, as can be seen on the present lot, and which typically reference their weight and the institution which had brought the object into circulation.
During the mid-Qing dynasty, as a result of the lucrative silk trade, large quantities of precious metals including gold and silver, entered China. It was the traders who processed these metals, and who were also responsible for testing their content and purity. However, in the 19th century, the massive influx of gold and silver coins gradually brought an end to these responsibilities.
A test on the present ingot indicates that the gold is 18K, and weighs 375 g.