A Chinese Mottled Nephrite Jade Bi Disc, Late Neolithic Period, ca. 3000 - 2000 BCE

Object No: AS2004

$2,500 USD
This fine yuan bi disc is rendered from mottled cream and pale brown nephrite jade that is marbled with fine natural inclusions of creamy-white veining. The circular form is beautifully polished on both sides and has a central aperture that tapers very slightly.

Flat jade discs with a round central hole "bi" are among the earliest surviving artifacts of China and must be considered among great ancient art form - masterpieces of the Neolithic Period. Nephrite jade from which discs were fashioned is a prime hard and strong stone, arduous to work by hand using primitive stone tools and abrasives. It's no wonder then that jade discs "bi" represent remarkable craftsmanship.

While all theories presented to date are speculative, one based upon the warring states text "Zhou Li," thought "bi" to represent symbols of heaven and were used in ancient rituals together with square tubes "cong," symbolizing the earth. "To worship heaven with a bi" explains their importance and use. "Bi" also symbolizes the status of the high social rank and sheds light on why many carved jades have been found in Zhou royal tombs. They are prominently found in varied qualities, quantities, and sizes. Their ritual prominence stretches from the most ancient of Chinese history- Hongshan/Liangzhou/Longshan (4700-2190 BCE)/ Qi Jia cultures and on to the Zhou dynasty (3000-250 BCE) onwards. Today jade "bi" are emblematic of power, status, and privileged classes and offer more complex varied meaning.

cf: Rawson, J. "Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, exhibition catalogue", The British Museum, London, 1995, pp 13ff, and Section 4. and also "Radiant Stones Archaic Chinese Jades, the Myrna and Samurai Myers collection", 2000 curated by Filippo Salviati, PhD, entry 14, Bi Disc.

Condition: Intact and in excellent condition overall.  Offered on museum-quality custom mount.

Dimensions: Diameter: 4 3/4 inches (12 cm)

Provenance: T. Swope private collection Hudson, NY, and accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity #11608 from Gu Fang, Senior Fellow of the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.


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