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Jade headdress ornament. China, Yuan or early Ming dynasty, 14th-15th century AD. Height: 6.400 cm. Width: 7.600 cm. On loan from a private collection OA 25:15. The British Museum. © 2003 Private Collection © Trustees of the British Museum

This is an exceptionally well carved example of a type of headdress ornament that was made in a variety of sizes; this one is among the largest. Many Chinese of this period wore their hair on top of their head and crowned the arrangement with a jade ornament of this type. However during the last imperial dynasty of China, the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) men wore their hair in a plait and such head ornaments were no longer used. Many of them were subsequently converted into knobs for lids of bronze vessels.This is an exceptionally well carved example of a type of headdress ornament that was made in a variety of sizes; this one is among the largest. Many Chinese of this period wore their hair on top of their head and crowned the arrangement with a jade ornament of this type. However during the last imperial dynasty of China, the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) men wore their hair in a plait and such head ornaments were no longer used. Many of them were subsequently converted into knobs for lids of bronze vessels.

A powerful coiled dragon emerges from the top of the complex openwork carving, supported on a curved plain underside, which is pierced by two pairs of holes. The body of the creature is embellished with deeply incised lines; a pearl is clasped in its claws. Its uplifted head crowns a convoluted composition in which the dragon body is entwined among cloud tendrils.

J. Rawson, Chinese jade: from the Neolith (London, The British Museum Press, 1995, reprinted 2002)