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Jade bi
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In BOTH EUROPE and China, the past played a powerful role in inspiring art and the imagination in the eighteenth century. This can be seen in both the ancient object and the watercolour on the opposite page. This jade bi (ring or disc) dates to the Shang dynasty (about 1500-1050 вс). Engraved on the bi, however, is a poem written by the Qianlong emperor (reigned AD 1736-95).

The emperor’s inscription says that his poetic imagination was stirred by the subtle and exquisite shape of the bi, and the quality of the jade from which it was made. The Qianlong emperor was a great collector of antiquities and managed to acquire many famous old paintings, bronzes, porcelains and jades for the imperial collection. The emperor not only wanted to possess these things, he wanted to put his seal on them, or to write a poem or comment on them.

Jade bi

From China, Shang dynasty (about 1500-1050 вс)
D. 15 cm

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