This exquisitely crafted belt slide exemplifies the accomplishment of Chinese jade carving of the Jin and Yuan dynasties, when the art gradually recovered from centuries of decline. The soft curves of the beaded border, the fluent lines of the birds and flowers, and the delicate openwork illustrate the craftsman's extraordinary ability to manipulate the extremely refractory material, nephrite, which is harder than steel and can be shaped only by grinding with abrasives.
While the art of jade carving is peculiar to China, the belt slide and decorative motifs were inspired by art of other cultures. Jade belt slides or decorative plaques were derived from the metal ornaments on leather or fabric belts that were first introduced to China from Central Asia in the third century. During the Tang dynasty (618–907), belts with jade plaques became part of the standard official accoutrement of the elite class and continued in the following dynasties. The series of beads that form the border of the slide can be traced back to Tang metalwork and ultimately to that of western Central Asia and Persia. The small falcon hunting a wild goose amid lotus flowers is a motif symbolic of the spring hunting of the Jerchens, a seminomadic people who lived beyond the Great Wall in the northeast. Known as chunshui (spring water) in historical texts, the spring goose hunt was an important ritual that the Jerchens practiced year after year.
Cheng Te-k'un (Zheng Dekun) 1907–2001 (before 1969–1991; to Bluett & Sons) ; [ Bluett & Sons Ltd. , London, 1991; sold to MMA]