4. M5008



Chinese jade openwork oval bi, carved with a curled bifid tailed chilong dragon holding a fruiting lingzhi branch in its mouth, with detailed work to the claws and spine and hairwork to the long mane, the underside incised with ruyi-heads and scrolls.

The stone pale russet and yellow.

2 inches, 5.1 cm long; 1 ¾ inches, 4.5 cm wide.

Song/Yuan dynasty, 12th/14th century.



Provenance & Additional Information

  • Sold by Louis Joseph, 28 Knightsbridge, London, 1960-1985, by repute.
  • A similar bi dated to the Yuan dynasty is illustrated by Brian Morgan in Naturalism & Archaism: Chinese Jades from the Kirknorton Collection, no. 76.
  • A related oval bi in the Shanghai Museum, dated to the Yuan dynasty with two dragons, one holding a ruyi branch, is illustrated by Zhang Wei in Zhongguo Gudai Yuqi, Ancient Chinese Jade, no. 177, p. 220; another also dated to the Yuan Dynasty is illustrated by Huang Xuanpei in Jade Wares of the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing Unearthed from Shanghai, no. 70, p. 106; another in the British Museum was included by Basil Gray, Jessica Rawson and John Ayers in Chinese Jades Throughout the Ages, an exhibition organised by the Arts Council of Great Britain and the Oriental Ceramic Society, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1975, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, 40, 1973-75, no. 349, p. 107.
  • The symbolic meaning of the dragon holding a fruiting lingzhi branch in its mouth represents the emperor (dragon, long) bringing peace and benevolence during a long reign as the fungus, lingzhi, represents immortality and longevity. This subject on a bi which has the same pronunciation with the word bi for certainty, implies that this will certainly happen.
  • Lingzhi, ling, and dragon, long, form the phrase linglong which means openwork and in this case the dragon is raised above the bi and could therefore be another pun on the words.