Sapphire Belt Plaque with Marks of Barbarians Playing with Lions

Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
Length of thallium tail 9.8cm, width 5cm, minimum length 1.5cm, width 4.8cm
Unearthed from the construction site of the Institute of Socialism in Weigongcun, Haidian District, Beijing in 1961

The production of jade belt plaques began in the Tang Dynasty, and jade belt system was followed in Five Dynasties, Song, Liao, Jin, and Ming periods. A jade belt consists of Kua and thallium tail (ornaments with head pieces) collectively called as a belt plaque. Early Ming Dynasty was the heyday of jade belt plaques, and began to decline in the late Ming Dynasty. Jade belt plaque was an integral part of the official dress, and different Kua numbers and decorations marked the wearer’s different status. Only emperors, empresses, concubines, crown princes, imperial princes, commander princes, dukes, nobles, prince consorts, imperial uncles, civil and military officials of the first grade were qualified to use jade belt plaques in Ming Dynasty. The number of jade belt plaques in early Ming Dynasty was uncertain. According the present survey, since Yong Le of Ming Dynasty the number of jade belts was all 20, including 18 Kuas and 2 thallium tails. Before the middle of Ming Dynasty, the decoration of jade belt Kua was very rich, mostly with engravings. But after the middle of Ming Dynasty, most jade belt plaques were with plain surfaces. This set of belt plaques was made of sapphire, whose color is plain with flawless uniform. Its designing idea is creative, with bright colours and neat engravings. The whole set consists 20 belt plaques, among which 2 rectangular thallium tails, 6 peach shaped ones , 4 small rectangles, 8 slightly different sizes of rectangles, but all are with sunken ground deep carvings and also with frames. Among them, 10 have patterns of figures playing with lions in relief, 6 peach shaped ones carved with human figures, 4 small rectangles carved in Ruyi-sceptre cloud design.