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.