DOUBLE HOOPS - LIAN HUAN
Double hoops and the closely related triple hoops appear as ear-pendants only during the Qing dynasty, but became immensely popular almost immediately. They appear on a large number of the so-called Ancestor portraits, and are also seen on the well known oil portrait of a beauty sometimes attributed to Castiglione.
The concept of interlocking rings is however much older. The 5th century b.c. philosopher Zuang Zi mentions them in his Tianxia Pian in the passage beginning : "linked rings are unlockable..."; Hugh Moss, in Arts of The Scholars Table p. 276, explains : "The rings appear to be incapable of being seperated; however they cannot last forever and there must come a time when they are broken and therefore unlocked. The very existence of lined rings, therefore, demonstrates that they are separable because their manufacture sets up the conditions for their eventual seperation. They thus form a symbol of the changeability of all things, the impermanence of all phenomena".
While these concepts seem rather esoteric, it must be remembered that Zuang Zi was widely read among the educated classes. A popular Yuan play was called "A Strategem Of Interlocking Rings" after this passage. The play relates an incident in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms where the villain Caocao and his son are made to turn against one another.
Thus, the Chinese mind has been fascinated for a long time with the possibility of turning something as immutable as jade into a linked chain. Examples of pieces of jade from the Eastern Zhou period exist which utilise hinged loops all carved from a single piece of jade (see Gems of China's Cultural Relics 1990 for the 16 section jade necklace from the Tomb of the Marquis of Zeng), but the craft seems to have been lost for a long period after this. In fact, it seems that only in the Qing dynasty does the technical expertise for this type of work reappear.
It is unlikely that these deep philosophical musings were on the mind of many of the ladies who desired interlocking rings. They were more likely to have been admired for their elegant form, the movement of the rings producing an effect both feminine and flattering. Of all the forms of hoops, double interlocking rings are of the greatest rarity. Technically much more difficult to carve than triple hoops because of their rounded profiles, they also consume nearly five times their weight in rough. Additionally, they are nearly impossible to match since the rough from which they are cut must be so thick that the colour distribution and presence of flaws cannot be accurately gauged. It is a testament to their great popularity that they were made at all.
Because of the wastage, most of these hoops are made from slightly inferior material which could not otherwise be cut into cabochons. However, these hoops are made from material of exceptional transparency and colour which would have made extraordinary cabochons. This is demonstrated in the cabochons cut from the same material from which hang the hoops. Finally, they are mounted very elegantly, the subtle glitter of the rose-cut diamonds reflecting, and setting off, the brightness of the jade.
THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
AN EXCEPTIONAL PAIR OF JADEITE AND DOUBLE-HOOP AND DIAMOND
Each double hoop of excellent translucency and vivid green tone, with a pear-shaped rose-cut diamond terminal, suspended from a rose-cut diamond surmount and a matching double-sided double cabochon, hoops and cabochons Qing dynasty, repolished
Cabochons 13.69 x 9.81 x 6.42 and 13.68 x 9.86 x 6.22 mm
Diameters of double hoops 17.54, 17.33 and 17.36, 17.47 mm.