Quatrefoils of Early China and Their Achaemenid Parallels

Kim, Minku. 2021. The Pinnacle Ornament of Flowers: Quatrefoils of Early China and Their Achaemenid Parallels. In Guolong Lai (ed.), Occult Arts, Art History, and Cultural Exchange in Early China: A Festschrift in Honor of Professor Li Ling on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday. Hangzhou: Zhejiang University Press.

Roof tile-ends (wadang) with double quatrefoils. From the site of Shuzhuanglou 梳粧樓, Warring- States Zhao 趙 city of Dabeicheng 大北城, Handan 邯鄲 (Hebei). Fourth to third century BCE.

The quatrefoil is an ornamental design formed by a cruciferous arrangement of four leafor petal-like projections radiating from a mutual hub. The form was widely circulated across the ancient Western world, most distinctively in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Iranian plateau, with a variety of related schemes, including the dual quatrefoil (also known as the petal-and-calyx alternation), as well as those more commonly called the rosettes or lotus flowers. In China, quatrefoils began to be regularly seen during the late Springs and Autumns period, most notably on the assemblage of Jin bronzes. The usage of quatrefoils gradually intensified in the following periods, reaching an apogee during the Han empire, with a range of variants applied to numerous articles of material culture. With the quatrefoils being a design largely unknown prior to the mid-Eastern Zhou period, this essay argues that a foreign stimulus, most notably from the then emerging Achaemenid empire, provided a primary catalyst for the subsequent adaptations of this type of ornament in China.