Jade. China, Six Dynasties, 3rd-6th century AD or later
The jade is boldly carved as a mythical beast with the head of a lion and a turtle shell as well as a bushy tail, a lingzhi sprig atop its shell. The translucent stone is of a celadon tone with russet and cloudy white inclusions.
Perhaps this mythical beast is a precursor to the bixi (dragon-turtle), which originated as tortoise-mounted stelae no later than the 3rd century. The bixi is a mythical beast with the head of a dragon, the tail of a qilin, the paws of a buddhistic lion and the body of a tortoise. The domed carapace of the creature was believed to represent the vault of the heavens while its flat lower shell represented the earth; the living flesh within represented humankind. Not only was this mythical creature one of the earliest spiritual symbols in China, it was also associated with the concept of longevity - it appeared to live indefinitely and seemingly went without food, air or water.
LENGTH 4.9 cm
Provenance: Private Collection of Irene and Wolfgang Zacke.
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