Ivory ‘Zhai Jie’ Plaque, 19th Century
Carved to each side of the plaque with a rectangular cartouche enclosing characters Zhai jie on one side and Manchu script on the other, all surrounded by archaistic dragon scrolls, with a pierced hole at each end
height 2.4" — 6.2 cm.
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Small ‘abstinence’ plaques, inscribed with the characters zhai jie in Mandarin on one side and in Manchu on the other, were a physical representation of the ceremonial requirement for abstinence before worship of ancestors, the Heavens or other deities. The required abstinence usually lasted for three days, and involved refraining from eating meat and fragrant herbs such as onions, chives and garlic, consuming alcohol, and from any intimate acts. The plaque functioned as a private aide-memoire to its bearer, and although a devotional object, it became itself an admired object that enhanced one’s status.
Department: Asian Art