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Set of Jade Chimes with Gold-Traced Dragon-among-Clouds Design

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Period: Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Medium: jade; gold
This set of stone chimes is meticulously carved from jade mined from Xinjiang; the stone has a deep green colour with remarkable purity and lustre. The chimes are neatly carved with a broad structure. Their shape resembles a carpenter’s square, except that the legs are set at an obtuse rather than right angle. The length ratio of the two legs is three to two, as set out in the "Artificer’s Records" (Kaogong ji) in Rites of Zhou (Zhouli). The perforation between the two legs allows for tying a silk cord for suspension from the rack. A chime set comprises sixteen identically shaped and sized pieces suspended from a rack. Their individual pitches are determined by their varied thicknesses. Both faces of each chime are decorated with a fluidly delineated gold-traced dragon-among-clouds design. The golden yellow colour of the motifs and the deep green colour of the jade produce a complementary aesthetic. The rack suspending the chime set is identical in size to that for the set of bells in the traditional ensemble; however, either end of this rack's top rail is sculpted into a phoenix head while the legs of the rack terminate in two recumbent mallards with white feathers and a red beak. 
 
The set of chimes is classified under the category of stone instruments, one of the eight classes of musical instruments played in the Ming and Qing palaces. During performances of the traditional musical ensemble (Zhonghe shaoyue), the chimes and bells were played to achieve an effect called "sounding metal, resonating jade" (jinsheng yuzhen) by Mencius. Since both sets of instruments are melodic and played a leading role in the ensemble, the classic ensemble of the pre-Qin period is known as the "sound of metal and stone" (jinshi zhi yin).
 
 
 
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