The design difference between Spring-Autumn and Han Dynasty jade tiger plaques

The jade tiger plaques in the Spring-Autumn period are carved with symmetrical motifs on both sides of the jade tiger plaques while those of the Han Dynasty are carved with different motifs on each side. In terms of artistic design, the jade tiger plaques of the Spring-Autumn period are a two-dimensional presentation while the Han Dynasty jade tiger plaques are a three-dimensional presentation. (The one on the left and the one below are the Han Dynasty jade tiger plaques from The National Palace Museum, the bottom left is the jade tiger plaque of the Spring-Autumn period from The Palaceantique Collection USA).

Eastern Han Dynasty seal-form paperweight, 光武御製羊脂白玉蟠龍紋文鎮. H.7cm,D.7.5cm.

文鎮又稱紙鎮,東漢許慎《說文解字》載:「鎮,博壓。」即大面積地壓住。古人席地而坐之時,在座席四角放置或石或銅的席鎮,壓住席角以免移動。「楚辭.九歌湘夫人」:「白玉兮為鎮」。古代在輕薄載體上書寫時,為避免風動、擾人行墨,常以紙鎮博壓。東漢蔡倫紙張問世後,鎮紙更是流行。其次,古人習字之初,必臨摹碑帖。臨者,依照原帖書寫;摹者,將紙覆於原帖之上摹寫。古時紙張粗糙不透,人們需將紙張緊覆,才能看清帖上筆順,鎮紙的作用便愈發重要。文鎮可稱為古代文人書房中筆墨紙硯四寶之外的第五寶。

從古玉形制功能言,古中的單節玉琮,或各種臥姿動物擺件,都有可能作為文鎮之用。  本器羊脂白玉雕琢, 形制為文鎮,文飾輪廓及銘文均以黑彩為之。圓形紙鎮上端蟠龍龍身環繞盤旋於龍身四周, 身軀劇烈扭動, 龍首昂舉,張口露齒, 氣勢威猛雄奇。 然而整體造型為圓弧狀,外緣平滑,易於手掌抓取。象徵天下蒼生之一切, 都在帝王掌握之中。 文鎮底部呈圓形施以陽線雕刻篆體”光武御製”銘文,本器光武御製銘文的字體風格,  與皇宮古玉齋所收藏玉鷹硯滴,以及台灣如是齋所收藏兩枚銅壺底部的光武御製銘文的字體風格完全吻合,此外,本器差異風化,擴散暈沁色,增生晶体等古玉跡象明顯,本器鑑定為光武御製真品值得信賴。就收藏價值而言,本器玉質潔白溫潤,器形創作意境耐人尋味,具有漢光武帝紀念價值,本器值得古玉大家之收藏,自不在話下。

According to the “Book of Chinese Etymology” of Xu Shen in the Eastern Han Dynasty, suppress broadly in a large area is called weighting. When the ancient people sat on the straw mat, they placed stone or copper pads on the four corners of the mat to hold down the corners to prevent movement. Verses of Chu: Madame Xiang has the following expression: “Use white jade for a weight.” In ancient times, when writing on thin and light material, paperweight was often used to suppress the writing material in order to avoid the wind’s disturbance.

After the advent of Cai Lun paper in the Eastern Han Dynasty, paperweight became more popular. In addition, at the beginning of the ancients’ calligraphy training, they usually copy the style of characters through rubbings. Paperweight is used to press the paper tightly in order to see the stroke style clearly.  It can be called the fifth treasure in addition to the four treasures of pen, ink, paper, and ink in the ancient scholar’s study.

As far as the form and function of Chinese antique jades, single-section jade cong, or various prone position animal ornaments can be used as a paperweight in addition to its original function.

This seal-form paperweight (the paperweight had been used before the Eastern Han Dynasty ) is made of mutton white jade (test result from gem lab: reflective reading is 1.61 ) with the carving style of the Han Dynasty. The inscription of “光武御製” on the bottom side of the paperweight has clearly indicated the item belongs to the imperial palace of Emperor Kwan Wu, the first emperor of the Eastern Han dynasty of China. The outlines and inscriptions of the decorations are all made of black color.

The paperweight has a high relief dragon carving with the body curling around its head. The imposing and majestic looking of the dragon has been vividly expressed. In addition, the round and smooth carving have made it easy for holding by hand. It symbolizes that all the livings and properties under heaven are under the emperor’s control. The font style of the “光武御製” inscription is the same as the eagle-shape jade ink-stone drops of The Palace Chinese Antique Jades Collection USA and two Eastern Han containers of two Eastern Han containers from The Rushihai collection Taiwan.   In terms of authentication, antiquity evidence includes diffusive marking, differential weathering, and additive crystal.

Judging from the criteria of high quality of jade, artistic elegance, and historical significance, this Eastern Han seal-form paperweight is definitely a favorite item for connoisseur collectors.