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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Jade collared ring ('bi'), ground,grooved, polished and incised. Inscription dated 1790 by the Qianlong Emperor (1736-1795).

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1200BC-1050BC (circa)
    • 1790 (date of inscription)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 1 centimetres (Lying flat)
    • Diameter: 15.5 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

        on top
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content


      • Inscription Translation

        Prose-format paraphrase prepared by Stephen D Allee, August 2010.

        It is said there were no bowls (wan) in antiquity / but if so, then where did this stand come from? It is said that this stand dates to later times / but the jade is antique and not of modern stuff.

        It is also said that a bowl (wan) is the same as a basin (yu) / only differing from it in size; (1)
        But early dictionaries like the Shuowen and Fangyan / are not entirely certain about this. (2)

        Nonetheless, four or five stands are in the imperial collection / and one can see their excellent quality;
        All are of jade that dates to the Three Dynasties (3) / and are actually quite suitable for holding bowls.

        Of bowls and stands that had not been separated / only one set remained for me to compose a poem. (4)
        All the rest had been matched with ceramics / and were perfectly good to be displayed together.

        This stand is made of ancient jade / but the jade bowl that once went with it is long gone;
        As one cannot show a stand without a bowl / We have selected a Ding-kiln ceramic for it.

        The bowl fills the hole in the stand / and its round base makes a perfect fit;
        But whether they belong together or apart / it is hard to fully advance either theory.

        I have written a poem in five-character verse to record all the facts / and convey my feelings separately to Fengcheng (or: “and to convey my feelings on departing Fengcheng”). (5)

        Inscribed by the Emperor, new spring of the gengxu year in the Qianlong reign period (1790).

        (1) In the printed version of the poem, the emperor added the following notation after the sixth line: 盂大而椀小也 (the yu is large and the wan is small).
        (2) The emperor added the following notation after the eighth line: 「盌為小盂」,語出許慎《説文》,似有分别。然揚子《方言》云:「盂:宋楚魏之間,或謂之盌」。是盌、盂,即一器兩書,皆漢詁初無一定之見也。(“A wan is a small yu”, this language comes from the Shuowen [dictionary] by Xu Shen [58–147 CE], where there seems to be a distinction [between the two]. However, the Fangyan [dictionary] by Master Yang [Xiong, BCE 53–18 CE] says: “Yu — in areas of Song, Chu, and Wei, some call it wan.” So wan and yu are the same vessel, but there are two ways of writing it [or: “have two definitions”]; all of which goes to show that the Han dynasty interpretation of these words was not at all certain.).
        (3) The Three Dynasties are: the Xia (traditional dates: 2205–1766 BCE), Shang (ca.1700--ca.1050 BCE), and Zhou (ca. 1050–221 BCE) dynasties of Chinese antiquity.
        (4) The emperor added the following notation after the fourteenth line: 内府玉椀托子頗夥,率以舊瓷椀配。其椀托本相附麗者,僅一見。乙巳年曽題句。 (In the imperial collection, there are rather many jade bowl stands, all of which have been matched with old ceramic bowls. I have only seen one example of a bowl and stand that originally belonged together, for which I already inscribed some lines in the yisi year [1785]).
        (5) This appears to be an allusion of some sort, either to a place (Fengcheng was located near Nanchang in modern Jiangxi Province)—and therefore to an event that occurred in that location—or to a person as identified through a place name (because of birth, office, etc). As of this date, I have been unable to identify the appropriate allusion, so while the exact meaning of this line remains opaque, the function is obviously one of closure to the poem.
      • Inscription Comment

        A version of the emperor's inscription with annotations by the emperor is published in the fifth collection of the Qianlong emperor’s poetry (juan 58).

        The following is the published text not what appears on the jade.

        古玉椀托子配以定瓷椀適然成詠 [Verses Composed on Matching a Ding-ware Ceramic with an Ancient Jade Bowl Stand]

  • Curator's comments

    Rawson 1995:
    Inscriptions recur on most of the many hundreds of jades owned by the Qianlong emperor. On large vessels and carvings the inscriptions are almost as impressive as the jades themselves. Sometimes, as in this case, these inscribed jades were themselves ancient. The single jade incorporates a whole range of associations: not only is it ancient, but it has been joined to a long tradition of calligraphy through its inscriptions and seals. In addition, it manifests the emperor's own researches on antiquity. The fact that today we can see that his identification of the piece as a cup-stand is wrong does not detract from either his inscription or the piece itself, but rather gives it new associations for us to contemplate.


  • Bibliography

    • Rawson 1995 102, fig. 100 bibliographic details
    • MacGregor 2010 90 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited: 1996-2012, BM, London, G33/Ch/case37, permanent gallery 2009 24 Jan-19 Apr, Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, 'China: Journey to the East' 2009 2 May-19 Jul, Coventry, The Herbert, 'China: Journey to the East' 2009 1 Aug-1 Dec, Basingstoke, The Willis Museum, 'China: Journey to the East' 2010 29 Jan-9 May, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear Museums, 'China: Journey to the East' 2010 22 May-15 Aug, York, Yorkshire Museums Trust, 'China: Journey to the East' 2010-2011 25 Sep-26 Jun, Manchester Museum, 'China: Journey to the East' 2010-2011, London, BM/BBC, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects' 2014 23 Apr-01 Aug, Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2014-2015 13 Dec-15 Mar, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2015 18 Apr–28 Jun, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2015 14 Jul–6 Sep, Kyushu National Museum, Dazaifu, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2015-2016 20 Sep-11 Jan, Kobe City Museum, Kobe, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2016 13 Feb-18 Jun, National Museum of Western Australia, Perth, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2016-2017 08 Sep-29 Jan, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department


  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: Jade bi


COMPASS Title: Jade bi

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Object reference number: RRC10172

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