A thin exterior layer of ocher accents this work of white jade. A moon door stands ajar at the center of the sculpture and creates a visual effect of two distinct spaces. On one side of the door, leafy paulownia trees (Chinese tongshu, alternately translated as the phoenix tree) grow amidst artificial rockery. The figures are vividly presented. By the door in the shade of the trees, a daughter of the nobility holds an auspicious lingzhi fungus in her hand. She looks through the opening at another young lady on the other side who stands beneath a plantain tree while holding an exquisite vase. Ornamental garden rockery, stone stools, and tables decorate the garden. This jade sculpture of Paulownia Trees Shading Young Ladies exemplifies three-dimensional carvings of the Qing dynasty.
The underside of the sculpture is engraved with a poem and an inscription—both attributed to the Qianlong Emperor—in praise of the craftsmanship. The two seals read Qian and Long (the two characters of that emperor's reign title), respectively. The work is dated to the early autumn of the kuisi year (1773) of the Qianlong reign.
Inspired by the court oil painting Paulownia Trees Shading Young Ladies (Tongyin shinü tu) of the Kangxi period (1662-1722), this work is fashioned from the remaining piece of jade that was removed from an original larger piece of jade used to carve a bowl. The design accords with the thought of Liu Xie (ca. 465-539) who taught that favorable circumstances are produced by taking advantage of that which exists.
view of the item from one side