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Pair of White Jade Quails with Spray of Grain

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Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Dimensions: Length: 9.7 cm; width: 4.3 cm; height: 4.2 cm high

Using a single piece of white Hetian jade from China’s far western Xinjiang region, an artisan fashioned this pair of quails using round, openwork, and intaglio carving techniques. The lifelike quails hold a spray of grain in their beaks. The detailed feathers are realistically portrayed. Small in size, this object could have been used as a brush-rest or paperweight; it is a rare work among accoutrements for a literatus’ studio.

The Chinese word for ‘quail’ (an) is a homophone for ‘peace’ while ‘spray of grain’ (sui) is used to represent the homophonous ‘year’. This object thus bears an auspicious message of lasting peace.

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