Vintage Chinese Qilin | Dragon Crouching Tiger | Soapstone Mythical Carving | 20th Century
This mythical, hooved chimerical creature known thoughout China as Qilin, is said to appear with the imminent arrival or passing of a sage or illustrious ruler. It is a good omen thought to bring prosperity or serenity. In this instance depicted as combination of a dragon and tiger. It has a tiger’s tail and legs and four claw feet, (generally assigned to elderly nobles), with a head, horns, and thick eyelashes like a dragon. Said to represent benevolence, virtue, longevity, and order, and refers to individuals with special hidden talents reminding people to never underestimate anybody. This beautiful carving is made of a soapstone that is tricolor, (stone grey-celadon, russet and dark brown), supporting the mythological subject which is beautifully carved. Dimensions: 5-0”h x 2-0”w x 6-0”L
Historical Information —
In legend, the Qilin became tiger-like after their disappearance in real life and become a stylized representation of the dragon. Qilin generally have Chinese dragon-like features; most notably its head, with eyes having thick eyelashes, a mane that always flows upward defying gravity, a beard, and occasionally scales on the body. However the body is depicted as often being equine-like ranging from a deer or giraffe-shaped and commonly with hooves.
Dragons in China are also most commonly depicted as golden, therefore the most common depictions of Qilin are also golden, or made of a material, like soapstone or jade that have gold markings running throughout the material.
According to ancient Taoist lore, although it can look fearsome, the Qilin only punishes the wicked, thus there are several variations of court trails and judgements based on the Qilin divinely knowing whether you are good or evil, guilty or innocent, in ancient lore and stories. Those stories state that the Qilin is a sacred pet of the deities. Therefore, in the hierarchy of dances performed by the Chinese, the Qilin ranks high, and third only to the Dragon and Phoenix, who are the highest. Across East Asia, the Qilin is one of the four noble animals, along with the dragon, the phoenix, and the tortoise.
Soapstone is a wonderful carving material also known as steatite, a type of metamorphic rock. It has been a medium for carving for thousand of years and polishes to a beautiful patina. Many people confuse it with jade but the difference lies in the fact that Jade does not scratch easily while soapstone is much softer. Even so, finely carved soapstone pieces are highly collectable.