Twelve Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)

Date: 18th century

Culture: China

Medium: Jade (nephrite)

Dimensions: Overall (each approx.): H. 2 1/4 in. (5.7 cm); W. 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm)

Classification: Jade

Credit Line: Gift of Heber R. Bishop, 1902

Accession Number: 02.18.730a–l


The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac are popular decorative motifs and have been used in various media. This set, made of flawless pale green jade, must have been particularly prized during the Qing dynasty: two additional identical sets from the imperial collection are known (now in the Palace Museum, Beijing). With extraordinary talent and skill, the master carvers have created a lively group of individual characters with varied postures and accessories in their hands.