Archaeological evidence indicates that dogs were first domesticated in China during the Neolithic period (c. 10,000–1600 b.c.). The earliest images of the animal—crafted in a stylized rather than naturalistic fashion—convey that from the beginning, dogs attained an enduring and valued place as worthy companions at both work and play. Though other animals were depicted over the course of subsequent dynasties, the dog nevertheless retained its status as perhaps the quintessential, and most easily recognizable, symbol of loyalty.
This sculpture of a dog has been crafted from a single pebble of green nephrite with natural russet inclusions, possibly for use as a paperweight on a scholar’s desk. The animal is depicted in a recumbent pose with its back legs folded under the body and front paws outstretched and crossed. The head is turned to the left, and a peaceful demeanor is expressed in the position of the down-turned ears and by the creature’s almond-shaped eyes, short snout, and deeply incised mouth. The body is simply modeled and smoothly polished; aside from the face, the only incised decoration is the stylized delineation of the digits on the paws and the fine striations on the large tail. The sum of these elements serves to accentuate the gentle serenity of this dog, whose inviting posture underscores an eternal companionship with and inherent loyalty to the viewer.