Qing Imperial Quiver
Place of Origin: China, Qing Dynasty
Date: 19th Century
Overall Length: 235mm
This rare Qing Dynasty Imperial Guard’s quiver and archer’s belt is covered in maroon velvet with applied gilt bronze mounts, attached to a red and blue archer’s belt with similar mounts. In addition to the main pocket, the quiver has two rear, hinged pockets; and another pocket wrapped around the two hinged pockets. These hold extra or specialised arrows. Three large, stylised Chinese shòu 寿 (longevity) symbols sit prominently on the front in the position where on earlier quivers three slots would be present for the placement of the additional arrows. Three attractive 19th century hunting arrows give the quiver context. They have broad, curving steel heads and barbs at either side to prevent the arrow falling out of the prey, and they sit in the main pocket separated by the original pine needles.
An important quiver of matching adornment and similar form is in the Brooklyn Museum (acc.no.34.1386a-f) (1) as part of a full costume. The only significant difference between these two quivers is that the textile covering on the Brooklyn Museum’s example is what is known as suozijia— a silk brocade with a pattern of interlocking Ys (in imitation of archaic armour) which is usually reserved for Qing princely ranks only.
A beautiful painting (2) of Qinglong Emperor in ceremonial armour and on horseback, dated to 1739 or 1758 and painted by Jesuit missionary Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), gives us context for this type of quiver and the Manchu tradition of its use. The Emperor wears the quiver on his right hip, presumably secured by a belt, with the arrows facing backwards. We can see the quiver, like ours, is wedge shaped, has a main pocket and three small, rear pockets that contain two distinctive arrows with black-and-white fletchings—signifying them to be whistling arrows. The main compartment contains seven arrows with feathers of the spotted argus: a large pheasant native to the jungles of Malaysia. These feathers are described in imperial regulations as phoenix feathers (3).
(2) Rawski and Rawson, China: The Three Emperors, 2005, p.166, fig.65.