Height: 3.000 cm
Width: 4.400 cm
On loan from a private collection OA 25:7
Room 33b: Chinese jade
Jade ornament in the shape of a flying deity
China, Tang or Liao dynasty, 8th-10th century AD
This small figure is carved in openwork. His body, shown flying through the air, is turned towards the viewer, head upright and the upper part of the torso facing forward. The rest of the body and legs appear more in profile. Around the head of the figure is looped a large floating scarf. The figure is fully carved, though flattened, on the reverse.
The ornament may have been part of a set of dress or headdress ornaments. The theme of heavenly beings and the style in which he is represented shows the influence of Central Asian forms which were introduced to China from kingdoms further west. Spectacular examples of heavenly beings are found in paintings in Cave 285 at Dunhuang in Gansu province, dating to the sixth century. However, although the figure may represent a Buddhist heavenly being, it is equally possible that it represents a Daoist Jade Maiden, which frequently feature in literature of this period.
J. Rawson, Chinese jade: from the Neolith (London, The British Museum Press, 1995, reprinted 2002)