Amber plaque

Length: 3 inches, 7.5 cm
Width: 2 inches, 5 cm

Amber plaque

Qing dynasty, 18th century

An amber plaque, the front carved in relief with two coiled chilong dragons, jointly pursuing a flaming pearl. The confronting, single horned animals are carved with typical pronounced spines, well-detailed paws and bushy manes. The back of the plaque is uncarved. The material is of a bright orange tone and is almost semi-translucent.

The exact purpose of this beautifully carved amber plaque is unclear. Given its slender weight it is unlikely that it was used to hold open a scroll painting. It might have been an element for incorporating into one of the many panels with different materials such as porcelain, enamel, jade and lacquer that adorned the palace. The two dragons jointly confronting a flaming pearl have a most auspicious meaning, indicating xi xianfeng, or happiness at reunion.1

  1. Tse Bartholomew, T. Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, 2006, 2.81, p. 43