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White Jade Lotus and Carp Carvings with Round Rosewood Box

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Period: Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Dimensions: Fish length: 7.8 cm; width 3.0 cm; flower diameter: 5.3 cm

This round rosewood box features white jade carved in the likeness of four fish and a lotus flower. The cover is embossed with a design of two dragons among ocean waves. With a built-in drawer embellished with an ocean-wave design, the box has four specifically-designed recesses to hold the jade fish and a central recess for the lotus flower, all of which combine to create a playful scene of fish swimming among lotus flowers. The shaped recesses are inscribed with verses composed by the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736–1795) with inspiration drawn from the ancient poem “South of the River” (“Jiangnan”). These five inscriptions are placed in corresponding order: “Fish frolic among lotus leaves; fish frolic to the east of lotus leaves; fish frolic to the west of lotus leaves; fish frolic to the south of lotus leaves; fish frolic to the north of lotus leaves”. The postscript notes the date of writing as the second lunar month of spring (zhongchun, lit. “mid-spring”) of the yihai year (1755, twentieth year of Qianlong). Underneath the drawer is a four-leaf book containing the Qianlong Emperor’s copy of Dong Qichang’s (1555–1636) calligraphic rendition of Wang Wei’s (701–761) poem “Excursion in the Realm of Peach Blossoms” (“Taoyuan xing”).

The set of jade fish and lotus flowers are attractive in style and display exquisite craftsmanship. Presented as a set in the specially designed rosewood box, which was produced for the purpose in the Qianlong reign, the multifaceted work provides a fine example of Qing-dynasty jade appreciation.

Website version edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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