A chalcedony figure of a fabulous crested bird


The bird is carved as if resting, facing forwards with the legs tucked underneath the body. The wings are folded, with the alular quills fashioned as a whorl, and the other feathers arranged as three ridges. The long tail divides into two large curled plumes, lightly incised to indicate the direction of the plumage. The head has a downward curving beak, incised eyes and small ears, beneath a crest pierced with two small holes. The stone is of translucent honey colour.

English private collection
Priestley & Ferraro, ‘Chinese Art’, London, November 1996
Fung Shun Shing, Hong Kong, 1996

Priestley & Ferraro, ‘Chinese Art’, November 1996, no. 20

A comparable agate crested bird is illustrated in Sparkling Splendours, The Art of Ancient Chinese Carvings on Rock Crystal and Agate, The Taoshi Zhai Collection, no.129, where it is dated to ‘Eastern Han dynasty’. Also, a pair of similar birds, but smaller and in rock crystal, are illustrated in the exhibition In Pursuit of Antiquities, Hong Kong Museum of Art, where they are identified as peacocks, and dated ‘Eastern Han’. For a more internally consistent chronology, see Priestley & Ferraro, ‘Chinese Art’, November 1996, introduction to catalogue items 4-30, where it is suggested that the dating of the group of carvings, which also includes objects like the tiger, no. 1 in the present catalogue, as well as numerous smaller animals, beads and fittings, is to the latter part of the third century BC. Further, based on finds at Liangjiazhuang, Linzi, in present day Shandong, a tentative geographic attribution can be made to the state of Qi, the last of the Warring States to be conquered by the state of Qin. 

Dimensions: Length: 5.4 cm, 2 ⅛ inches

Date: Late Warring States period (471-225 BC), 3rd century BC

Stock No. 2361

Price: On Request