Jade carvings of hound-like dogs in a resting pose with outstretched legs can be found from as early as the Tang dynasty. Distinctive jade animals delicately carved in naturalistic poses were popular from the Song dynasty to the early Qing dynasty.
Their utilitarian function was as paperweights, but high-quality, sensitively rendered sculptures could also be kept as 'playthings' for scholars or wealthy patrons. In the best examples the natural interplay between various colors in the stone could be skillfully utilized in the rendering of the figure.
Dog figures from Song to early Ming dynasty could be found carved in yellow jade which is frequently found in the 14th and 15th century. Classic features of Song dog figures are the particularly sharply defined spine and ribs.
Chinese Jade Animals, Hong Kong, 1996, cat. no. 68.
A crouching jade dog from the collection of Sir Joseph Hotung, attributed to the Song dynasty, is illustrated in Ip Yee, Chinese Jade Carving, Urban Council of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1983, no. 134, and again by Jessica Rawson, Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, London, 1995, pl. 26:10, where the author notes that 'hounds in jade may have been worn by those who wished to be known for their prowess in hunting' (p. 367).
White jade carving of a dog from the Zhirouzhai collection, attributed to the Song dynasty, included in the exhibition Exquisite Jade Carving, Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1996, cat. no. 85,