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Can anyone tell me any information about the carvings on this jade slab my dad has? He got it from a client in 1992. /r/whatisthisthing is stumped(r/AskHistorians)
Hi, I’m an appraiser specializing in Chinese jade works of art. u/American_pig gave a great explanation of the artistic motifs present. I’d also like to point out the dragon figure on the bottom is chasing a flaming pearl, which is a symbol for the pursuit of knowledge Check out Terese Tse Bartholomew’s Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art for a good reference to the different symbolic interpretations of common art motifs.
Age wise there is a technique used on this piece that gives a pretty clear indication of its age. Do you see the rough white texture that is in the background of the image and surrounding the characters on the other side? That appears to be the texture created by an acid burn. This technique became popular in the 1970s as a method of making pieces appear older than they are. They are attempting to imitate the alteration that occurs due to burial. Here is one example on ebay that is attempting to imitate an old piece with an acid burn. Here’s another example. Here is an example sold at Sotheby’s of actual “alteration” due to long term burial.
That being said, the process of “alteration” or what used to be called “calcification” is not well understood. It can be imitated by other methods but acid burning is the easiest to identify and the least convincing. Therefore, in my opinion this is a modern carving most likely dating to the second half of the twentieth century. The material appears to be nephrite jade that may have been stained in addition to being burned with acid. If you have any specific questions on this piece I’d be happy to answer them.