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Perhaps 150 coats of lacquer were applied then carved to achieve the three-colour effect that was typically reserved for the imperial household. Carved with nine dragons, it is similar in design, both quality and construction to another in the Palace Museum.

It comes for sale from a private Asian collection.

A finely carved 17th century or earlier white jade dragon, just 2½in (6cm) high, carries an estimate of £30,000-50,000 at Christie’s May 14 sale in London titled Important Chinese Jades from the Dizang Studio.

Most of the 55 handling pieces were acquired between c.1970-90 by Cheng Jiuan-min and his father, both well-known jade buyers in Taiwan. The Chinese word dizang literally means ‘treasures of the earth’.

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