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Sale HK011 | Lot 256
White Jade 'Cow' Ornament
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Lot 256
White Jade 'Cow' Ornament
Sold for
Of semi-translucent pale celadon tone, to the outer surface with orangy-yellow patches, the white jade carved as a reclining cow looking back over its body, accompanied by a carved wooden stand.

Cow measuring approximately 108.70 x 72.01 x 44.69mm.
Jade holds a unique and enduring appeal in Chinese culture. For years, the gemstone has been personified and associated with human morals. Ancient Chinese philosophers, like Laozi, Confucius, Xunzi and Xu Shen, spoke highly of jade as a symbol of noble virtues which set the standard for gentlemen of honour, while offering mankind spiritual sustenance.
Jade carvings have long been honoured as national essence. For generations, jade is a favourite gemstone for royalties and collectors, overwhelmed by its genteel character and rarity. Emperor Qian Long of Qing Dynasty was a jade enthusiast. His passion and profound knowledge of jade paved the way for development of its craftwork and culture. In the 24th year of his reign, the finest Hetian jades from Xinjiang were introduced to the Palace. With greater availability of materials, jade craftsmen could express their artistic creativity freely. The Jade Mountain of Da Yu Regulating the River, an enormous jade sculpture from the Palace Museum in Beijing, is one of the masterpieces at that time.
Hetian white jade evokes the meanings of patriarchy, authority and integrity in traditional Chinese culture while jade carvings reflect the value of materials and craftsmanship.
Also known as Nephrite, Hetian jade is distinguished by a fibrous structure and white being the most precious colour. Nowadays, jades from Qinghai of China, Korea and Russia are also included in the category of ‘white jade’, apart from Hetian jades from Xinjiang while the latter still stand out for having superiority in density and lustre.
Hetian white jades can be classified into ‘seed material’, ‘mountain flowing material’ (Gobi shore jade) and ‘mountain material’. Seed material suet white jade is the most valued, for its resemblance to emulsified mutton fats with an understated lustre. The texture is exquisitely fine and clean. Mountain material nephrite is, on the other hand, more on the greyish-green side and perfectly white ones are rare.
Brownish-red colour, resembling red dates and autumn pears, sometimes appears in seed material nephrites. With the additional variety of colours apart from the basic white, jade draftsmen can enhance their works in a more imaginative and artistic way.
Transforming pieces of raw stones to magnificent art pieces, jade artisans apply fully their different skills of painting, sculpturing and calligraphy with elements of folk and religious art. Various schools of jade carvings have emerged, namely the Yang School, the Jing School and the Hai School. The Yang School places an emphasis on scale, proportion and layout of the subjects. The Jing School, on the other hand, varies the size proportion in a way to enliven the portrayals. Flowers, animals, people and auspicious figures are favourite subjects and every detail is delicately carved. Under the Hai School, carvings of household objects like censers and vases are reminiscent of ancient Chinese bronzeware.
With protracted mining over years, outputs of Hetian white jades from Xinjiang have dwindled immensely in particular the Suet (mutton fats) white jades. Given their scarcity and irreplaceability, such nephrites are definitely gems of inestimable value in the near future.