Pair of horn plaques

Pair of horn Plaques

China, Yuan or Ming dynasty 12th – 14th century

Length: 3 1/2 inches, 8.8 cm
Height: 2 1/2 inches, 6.4 cm

A pair of openwork horn plaques of curved rectangular form, each carved with a horned mythical animal, qilin, walking through cloud scrolls, each holding in its mouth a beribboned scroll. The top and bottom rims of the plaques have a row of holes drilled into them.


The present plaques are carved in a very unusual material, namely horn. Most comparable plaques are carved either in jade or in ivory.  A particularly similar plaque in ivory from the Kwan Collection, dated to the Jiajing or Wanli period (1522 – 1620) features a baize, a mythical animal that can speak in human language.[1]  A Ming dynasty jade plaque carved with a qilin, probably made to be inserted in a belt, is in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.[2]

  1. Mayching Kao ed. Chinese Ivories from the Kwan Collection, 1990, Art Gallery, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, no. 88, p. 204
  2. Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum, Jade, vol.6- Ming dynasty, The Forbidden City Publishing House, Beijing, 2011, no. 187, p. 203