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HOME : Chinese Art : Warring States Period : Jade Carving of Zoomorphic Animal
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Jade Carving of Zoomorphic Animal - SP.165
Origin: China
Circa: 5 th Century BCE to 4 th Century BCE
Dimensions: 5.75" (14.6cm) high
Collection: Chinese Art
Medium: Jade/ Nefrite

Location: United States
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From the Warring States era to the early Han Dynasty (7th Century BC – 2nd Century BC), China experienced its first high age in the development of ancient jades. The scale and quality of jade production reached an unprecedented level, and as such, jade connoisseurs all take pride in the precious Warring States to Han Dynasty jades in their collection.

This rare and exquisite jade pendant depicts an ambiguous zoomorphic motif, most likely a dragon. The flat ornament is carved and pierced with a calligraphic dragon-like figure whose body rises from the volutes which all but resemble smoke. As the dragon’s billowing body rises, it undulates and curls, asking us to draw comparison between the dragon’s form and the surrounding coils. Warring States jade carvers made no mistake about the type of coils they inserted, as these coils represent the auspicious ram horns that would have adorned the archetypal taotie motif that dominated decoration from the Shang to the Warring States period. Also typical of the Warring States period decorative style is the horror vacui, or fear of empty space, that is enabled by the interlacing coils that dominate the dragon’s form.

As the eminent art historian Michael Sullivan stated, “[The] power to unite in one object the most intricate refinement of detail with a dynamic rhythm and boldness of silhouette defines jade art at this time in early Chinese history. The variations on the feline dragon dramatically express this refinement and combustible calligraphic style. The movement and form of the serpent are limitless: they may circle, change direction, intertwine, dance, surprise, bite their tail, spring, or leap yet never sleep.” - (SP.165)


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