Bird Staff Head

Tags: jades | National Palace Museum


Ch'ien-lung Reign (1736-1795), Ch'ing Dynasty (1644-1911)
Height: 15.3 cm 
In 1749, with the palace displays and court collection of bronzes overflowing, the Ch'ien-lung Emperor ordered the officials Liang Shih-cheng, Chi Huang, and Wang Yu-tun to imitate examples of bronzes in "Catalogue of Hsüan-ho Antiquities" from the Northern Sung to create exquisite painted copies along with tracings of their inscriptions.

This bird staff head here is one of the jades that the Ch'ien-lung Emperor had made to rectify what he considered vulgar trends in the new style of jades becoming popular among the people, which is why he promoted "imitating antiquity". To achieve this, he used images of ancient objects in the imperial catalogues as "blueprints" for producing jades.

This bird staff head is divided into three levels. The lower one is a ram's head, the middle is in a "C" shape, and the upper portrays a bird with a bead in its beak. The bird's feathers have been finely carved down to the smallest detail, which is why the Ch'ien-lung Emperor appreciated it so much. The stand made for it is also finely engraved underneath with an imperial poem written for it in 1775.

Text: Chang Li-tuan

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum