Since the Neolithic period, jade has been regarded by the Chinese as a material of the highest value and thought to possess magical properties. From the 17th to 19th centuries, the Mughals of Northern India were also great patrons of jade craftsmanship, sourcing nephrite (soft jade) from the Kunlun Mountains in China’s Xinjiang province. Occurring in a range of colours from deep dark green, to pale luminescent white, jade was worked into all kinds of objects and the Mughals were able to successfully combine the artistic styles and techniques from Europe, China, central Asia and India to create a definitive Mughal style, typified by foliate ornamentation.
Mughal jades were first introduced to China during the Qianlong Emperor’s reign, with the first tribute piece recorded in 1756. The emperor was fascinated by the beauty of these finely carved pieces which he termed ‘Hindustan’ jades, as he believed their provenance to be Hindustan, in Northern India. This initiated the production of Mughal-influenced wares in the Palace workshops, including bowls, cups and jewellery. The shape and decorative elements of this Chinese jade teapot reflect the Mughal style that the Chinese craftsmen sought to emulate. The decorative scheme is drawn from the natural world, as seen in the lotus blossoms carved in low-relief on the body and the acanthus leaf which forms the handle.