Finial in the form of a dragon head

Historical period(s)
Yuan dynasty, 1279-1368
H x W x D: 6.9 x 5.1 x 24.3 cm (2 11/16 x 2 x 9 9/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Finial or fitting

China, dragon, WWII-era provenance, Yuan dynasty (1279 - 1368)
Provenance information is currently unavailable

In China, a dragon is an auspicious and powerful creature associated with many beliefs, including its ability to bring life-giving rain and its appearance only in times of righteousness. As such, dragons were appropriated as symbols for powerful men, and this jade dragon head, which originally was the finial for a staff, was once held aloft by some important dignitary. A larger perforation on its underside would have fitted it onto a pole; the two smaller holes are ready to receive colorful streamers, ensuring that whomever carried this staff in a procession would have attracted attention and respect.

To create the high relief details of this carving required a great expenditure of time, but the resulting dynamism was worth the effort. The upturned snout and swept-back mane of this dragon head correspond closely enough to the energetic carving style of fabulous creatures on a black jade bowl dated to 1265 (which is in Beijing) to suggest an approximate date.

Published References
  • Jessica Rawson, John Ayers. Chinese Jade Throughout the Ages: An Exhibit. Exh. cat. London. cat. 257.
  • Daisy Lion-Goldschmidt, Jean-Claude Moreau-Gobard. Chinese Art: Bronze, Jade, Sculpture, Ceramics. The Universe Library of Antique Art 4 vols., , 1st edition. London and New York. pl. 82.
  • Bo Gyllensvard. Celadon, Jade: Finds, Specimen, Scientific Results; Exhibition. Exh. cat. Stockholm, May-June 1963. cat. 111.
  • Desmond Gure, The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities. Selected Examples from the Jade Exhibition at Stockholm. no. 36 Stockholm. pl. 27 a-b.
  • Chinese Jade Animals. Exh. cat. Hong Kong. cat. 128.
  • The Arts of the Sung Dynasty. Exh. cat. London, 1959. cat. 280.
  • "龍游帝苑." Dragon Emperor. Hong Kong, Friday, October 5, 2016. p. 85, fig. 1.
  • John Johnston, Chan Lai Pik. 5000 Years of Chinese Jade. Exh. cat. San Antonio, Texas, 2011. cat. 57, p. 93.
  • Yuka Kadoi. Islamic Chinoiserie: The Art of Mongol Iran. Edinburgh Studies in Islamic Art Edinburgh. p. 109, fig. 3.20.
  • et al. Asian Art in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: The Inaugural Gift. Washington, 1987. cat. 85, p. 131.
  • Linda Komaroff, Stephano Carboni. The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353. Exh. cat. New York and New Haven. cat. 206, p. 288, fig. 23.
  • William Watson. Country Life., 8 June 1961. p. 1355, pl. 1.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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