Chimestones are considered as one of the most ancient musical instruments in China. The inverted V-shape probably became the standard form under the Zhou dynasty. For a hardstone prototype from Shang dynasty engraved with a tiger, excavated in 1950 from the great tomb at Wuguan, Anyang, see S. Howard Hansford, Chinese Carved Jades, London, 1968, pl.4.
The archaistic taste of the Qianlong Emperor and his desire to follow Confucian traditions regarding ritual music encouraged him to order various sets of jade chimestones to be used in Court ceremonies. Qing court protocol referred to two different types of chimestone sets: sets of sixteen stones (bianqing) and sets of twelve individual stones (teqing). The present stone belongs to the first category. The total set of sixteen chimestones provide twelve musical tones with the four repeated notes in lower or higher octaves, one of which, bei Yize, is inscribed on the present stone. The twelve Chinese musical tones are arranged in the following sequence: Huangzhong (1st), Dalu (2nd), Taicu (3rd), Jiazhong (4th), Guxi (5th), Zhonglu (6th), Ruibin (7th), Lingzhong (8th), Yize (9th), Nanlü (10th), Wushe (11th), and Yingzhong (12th).
A complete set of sixteen chimestones also dated to Qianlong twenty-ninth year in the Beijing Palace Museum was included in the Royal Academy of Arts exhibition China:The Three Emperors 1662-1795, London, 2005, pl. 31. Another complete set of bianqing was kept in the Pavilion of the Flying Dragon, in the Shenyang Imperial Palace, illustrated in situ in The Gathering of Select Gems from the Shenyang Imperial Palace Museum Collection, Shenyang, 1991, p. 16. Other spinach-jade chimestones with the same date include one exhibited in China Institute in America, Chinese Jade through the Centuries, New York, 1968, no. 66; one sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8-9 November 1982, lot 362; and one sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 26 November 2014, lot 2941.
Compare also to a very similarly decorated spinach-green jade bianqing inscribed with the tone Wushe in the Qing Court Collection, illustrated in Jadeware (III), The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 1; and a spinach-green jade teqing dated to 1783 from the Paul von Hintze Collection, sold at Christie's Paris, 19 December 2012, lot 126.