This jade is published in Filippo Salviati 4000 YEARS OF CHINESE ARCHAIC JADES Edition Zacke, Vienna 2017, no. 263
龍形玉觿- 東周晚期, 西漢早期, 公元前4世紀-前2世紀
Very similar to this most finely crafted knot opener are some comparable pieces from, for example, the “Pectoral of a Concubine” (E124) from the king’s grave at Nanyue. A further piece has been reproduced as piece no. 71 in the publication of the “Collector’s Exhibition of Archaic Jades” in the National Palace Museum in Beijing. Knot openers are called xi and were worn on the belt. This elegantly curved piece is entirely dragon-shaped and – despite its fragility – perfectly preserved. The head is lively in form, the nose and chin in the form of an anvil. The whole, smoothly curved body is slender and ends in a point. Along the body there are multiple crescent features with pointed or volute-shaped tips similar in their curvature to the tail. A few fine lines indicate the mane. The scattered decorations on the smooth body of the dragon are either hook or grid-shaped. The jade’s color is a very light-green and is whitish when held up to light.
“Knot opener” did not have an utilitarian function but were rather used as decorative pendants in composite ornaments formed by different jades, as attested by finds in Western and Eastern Zhou tombs. Xi remained in use until the Western Han period, when they were occasionally placed in the hands of the deceased: such is the case with Zhao Mo, the second ruler of the southern kingdom of Nanyue (2nd century BC). This xi is carved in a variety of white jade with almost no inclusions: the dragon has strong feline features and the body is finely detailed. A pair of very similar dragonshaped xi, part of a five-piece set of ornaments in jade, has been discovered in the Nanyue tomb excavated at Guangzhou. The overall outline and design is similar to the present Lot, but the Nanyue jades are plainer, silhouette-like and lack the fine surface details of this xi. In museum collections, a similar dragon-shaped xi is in the Freer/Sackler Galleries, acc. no. RLS1997.48.2135. A second, very similar jade, originally in the collection of Alfred F. Pillsbury (1869-1950), is now in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (acc. no. 50.46.278).
Provenance: From a Viennese collection