Circular Jade Dragon Alms Bowl




Nephrite Jade

Circa late Eighteenth Century

Diameter: 9 3/4 inches Height: 5 1/2 inches


The present alms bowl is a direct linear descendant of the great nephrite jade bowl of the Yuan dynasty, which resides in the Palace Museum of the Forbidden City in Beijing. James Watt refers to this large bowl as a prototype for the dragon enhancements. (Han to Ching, New York Ceramic Society, New York, page 22.) Hugh Moss describes a delightful Dragon brush washer Bowl, which is attributed to the Ming dynasty. He refers to the Yuan dynasty bowl as the derivation of this subject matter. (Art of the Scholars Studio, Ceramic Society of Hong Kong, Plate 89, page 122.) The present bowl exemplifies elements of technical refinement and adaptation of subject matter, which are unique to the late Eighteenth century Imperial workshops. In our opinion, it is reasonable to conclude that the subject matter, workmanship, size and quality of the jade material suggest an Eighteenth century date for this work of art.


The iconography of this alms bowl depicts dragons swirling among clouds and waves. Between the dragons is a flaming pearl, representing knowledge. Thus the dragon (Representing the Emperor) achieves possession of the pearl of knowledge and thus becomes a good ruler in Confucian terms. The underside of the bowl continues the theme of waves, which are elegantly rendered. The overall coloration is of strong celadon green hue, even in tone through out the stone. The characteristic appearance of the material suggests that the origin of the original jade boulder was Khotan at the base of the Kunlun Mountain range. This area is the traditional source of boulders of river worn nephrite, which in turn were presented to the Imperial Court as tribute. See In the Emperor’s Own Words- Inscribed Jades of the Qing Court by Sam Bernstein, Arts of Asia Magazine, January/ February 2005.


Reference number 3229

Price Available Upon Request


Ex Collection Ashkenazie & Co. San Francisco, 1989

Formerly in a Distinguished American Collection, acquired December 7, 1989.


A similar Dragon Bowl of the Eighteenth century bearing the Imperial Seal is shown in the Illustrated Catalogue of The Remarkable Collection of the Imperial Prince Kung of China, The American Art Association. New York, 1913. Plate 109.

A related example, presently in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution and formerly in the Vetlesen Collection, is illustrated in Chinese Jade of Five Centuries, Joan M. Hartman, Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle, 1969. Plate 8, page 54.

A similar carved jade bowl attributed to the Ming dynasty can be seen in the catalog Jade and Chinese Culture, Palm Springs Desert Museum. Palm Springs, California, 1990. Plate 74, page 79.

A similar Eighteenth century Dragon Bowl is in the collection of the Palace Museum and published in Chinese Arts Series: Chinese Jades, vol. 6 Qing, Li Jiufang, ed. Shijiazhuang; Hebei Art Publishing, 1991. Plate 333, p. 226.

An oval basin with a similar dragon and cloud motif, previously attributed to the Early Ming period, can be found in the Avery Brundage Collection. Also illustrated in Chinese Jades in the Avery Brundage Collection, Rene- Yvon Lefebvre d’Argence, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 1977. Plate XL, page 94.

A circular spinach green jade dragon bowl approximately 11 1/4 inches long and 9 1/2 inches high attributed to the Seventeenth century resides in the Margaret and Trammell Crow Collection and is published in Immortal Images: The Jade Collection of Margaret and Trammel Crow. Alex Kerr, Crow Family Interests, Dallas, 1989. Page 54.

A massive jade dragon basin attributed to the late Sixteenth / early Seventeenth centuries of celadon colored nephrite marked with russet streaks approximately 12 3/4 inches long formerly in the collection of Edward I. Farmer, New York, 1930 and exhibited in Selections of Chinese Art, China House, New York, 1967, catalogue number 6 is presently in the collection of Alan and Simone Hartman and published in Chinese Jades from the Collection of Alan and Simone Hartman. Robert Kleiner, New York, 1996. Pages 48-9, Plate 45.


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