Eight Geese Box, 18th century, China, nephrite jade, carved, Victoria and Albert Museum.
This jade piece is a tour de force of intricate carving. It almost certainly came from a workshop under imperial patronage. The box is carved from a single block of translucent pale green jade. The block would have been carved into a group of eight geese in various positions, some preening, some about to take flight, some entangled in weeds, which are finally carved in openwork.
The whole piece is divided horizontally into two halves so that the body of each goose is hollowed out to form a small box. The lower half of each body has an internal riser over which the lid fits. The carving is naturalistic, with the details of the bird’s feathers indicated by incised lines.
The object might not have served any practical function, but it would have stunned everyone who saw it. It was a way for the jade carvers to show off his virtuosity, and it was also an object through which the owner could win the esteem of his peers.