IMPERIAL VELVET QUIVER
Place of Origin: Beijing, China
Date: Early 19th Century (Qing Dynasty)
Overall Height: 266mm (10 inches)
This rare Qing Dynasty Imperial Guard’s quiver is covered in red velvet with applied copper-alloy mounts with traces of gilding. In addition to the main pocket, the quiver has no less than three rear, hinged pockets (an unusual feature compared to the usual two); and another pocket wrapped around the three hinged pockets for quicker draws. These hold extra or special 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.
An important quiver of matching adornment and similar form is in the Brooklyn Museum (acc.no.34.1386a-f) 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. We also presented a very similar but maroon velvet quiver, complete with arrows to lend the piece context, in our Hong Kong catalogue back in 2017.
A beautiful painting 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.
Private European collection
 See Rawski and Rawson, China: The Three Emperors, 2005, p.166, fig.65.