3 oval: 2 1/8 in. (5.4 cm); 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm)
3 round: Diam. 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm)
4 crescent: 1 5/16 in. (3.3 cm); 5/8 in. (1.6 cm)
2 rectangular: 2 3/4 in. (7 cm); 1 9/16 in. (4 cm)
1 rectangular: 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm); 5/8 in. (1.6 cm)
Charlotte C. and John C. Weber Collection, Gift of Charlotte C. and John C. Weber, 1994
Not on view
These thirteen glass belt plaques are part of a single set, which, when complete, would have consisted of more than twenty pieces. Their shapes were based on those of the jade plaques that were stitched on leather belts and worn by Ming dynasty (1368–1644) officials. The arrangement of the plaques followed an established pattern, with the largest pieces typically placed at the center and at either end of the belt. The use of such plaques had its origin as early as the beginning of the Tang dynasty, in the seventh century, when the emperor presented jade-decorated belts to the nobility and senior members of the government as part of their official costume. During the Ming, jade belt plaques were revived after a decline in the previous dynasties: historical documents record that Ming emperors had thousands of sets of jade plaques made in the imperial workshops to grant to officials. Glass pieces such as these were not inexpensive substitutes for their jade counterparts, however. They were valued for their own aesthetic appeal as well as for their exotic material.