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Saturday
Dec302006

Jades from major archaeological discoveries in China in 2003 and 2004

The State Administration of Cultural Heritage of China publishes each year, through Wenwu Publishing House (www.wenwu.com), a catalogue listing summarized details and pictures of the key archaeological discoveries. After the update on 2005 discoveries, uploaded onto our homepage in August this year, I bring you now information on the jaders of the 2003 and 2004 discoveries.

I have selected the informations and pictures concerning jades. These informations are quite important because they come from controlled excavations and define ages, shapes, colors and locations and serve as benchmarks when and what colors, styles and shapes where used and at what locations

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The excavation at the Niuheliang site of the Hongshan Culture period (4000-2700BC) in the Liaoning Province in North-Eastern China revealed 13 tombs with over 30 jades. In the tomb M4 of an adult male, jades in the shape of a phoenix, a jade tube (hair sheat for burial), a bracelet, a human figure and two rings where found. The flattish bird sculpture (phoenix ?) in greenish jade and of 15cm in size was placed under the head of the defunct and represents the earliest example of the Chinese Phoenix culture. The reclining head of the bird has eye traits close to that of the Hongshan pig dragon.

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This site, near Baibu Town in Hayan County in the Zhejiang Province, includes dwellings and a cemetery of the early Songze period with one of the earliest vestiges of man-piled platforms so far recorded in the lower Yangtze River valley and in the region around Lake Taihu. The site was subsequently used for Liangzhu Culture burials and a total of 102 tombs, showing the transition between the two cultures, were excavated. The jades consist of the typical Liangzhu culture grave goods such as Bi’s, rings, Yue battle-axes and bracelets as also of a dragon-head-shaped ornament in white jade of the late Songze period.

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This site of the Liangzhu Culture in Yuhang County, Zhejiang Province was probably a former wharf. Numerous wooden implements (oars) and structures together with typical black pottery with exquisite carvings and incisions have been found. A terra cotta model of a house also unearthed there announces the Han dynasty grave gift models of the future. The jades are mostly awls and similar shaped pendants.

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This site is known as the Taosi walled town in the Shanxi Province and was, according to Chinese history, the location of the capital of King Yao (about 2000BC). According to some Chinese classic documents such as the Yao Dian (Document of Yao), the Shang Shu (Book of Ancient Time) and Wudibenji (Records for the Five Kings) in Shiji (Historic Records), King Yao assigned astronomic officers to observe celestial phenomena such as the sunrise, sunset, evening stars in culmination in order to make a solar and lunar calendar with 366 days for a year. The observatory found at Taosi just coincides with these records. The jade piece found is a broken section of a Huang unearthed at the northern entrance of the central area of the palace.

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This is a site with tombs from the Shang Dynasty (1760-1050 BC) period and located in the eastern suburb of Jinan City in Shandong Province. In one of the tombs, the M106 and holding 5 human remains, next to numerous bronze objects and tortoise shell plastron based oracle bones, also several jades where unearthed. These jades where a Ge dagger, a broken Bi with notches, a half Huang ring, a Gui tablet in white jade and a Yue axe blade in green jade.

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This is a site with Eastern Zhou, Spring-and Autumn and Warring States tombs near Xintai City in the Shandong Province yielding mainly post firing painted pottery and a rich hoard of bronzes including a bronze sword with an inscription showing that it belonged to the son of king Wu. One ornament found consists of a bird shaped flat plaque in yellowish jade probably worn sewn onto a cloth.

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This site is a single monumental tomb of the Western Han period discovered in the northern suburb of Xi’an City. The tomb is a large-sized-single chambered earthen pit structure with 38m length and 7.7m width. In the side chamber a large number of bronze vessels where found. One vessel, a gilted bronze Zhong pot, contained 26Kg of rice wine with an attractive smell and still drinkable after nearly 2000 years of storage. About 101 jade pieces where found in the main chamber consisting mainly of rectangular pieces about 2x4cm in size with a thickness of about 5mm showing traces of cinnabar. The incision on them would indicate that they were originally large Hang Dynasty Bi’s with their typical grain pattern and snaking band design. These Bi’s have been apparently cut in a hurry into pieces, as their rugged edges reveal, and then applied to the coffin.

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This is a Hemudu Culture site (5000BC) near Yuyao City in Zhejiang Province which yielded typical early Neolithic artifacts such as incised black pottery, wooden structures such as a wharf and a perfectly preserved oar. The stone findings are interesting because they include, next to few rings in green jade, first examples of crudely shaped Jue slit ear rings made however from green-white banded fluorite crystals. These Jue earrings became more refined in their working in the later Songze Culture (4000BC) where the material was then mostly translucent white agate. Only at the end of the Jue slit earring fashion (Liangzhu Culture) they where made from white jade.

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This is a site of the later phase of the Neolithic Yangshao culture (5000-2000BC), the Miaodigou II period, that existed along the central Yellow River valley in the provinces of Henan, Shanxi and Shaanxi. It is located in the northeast of the Ruicheng County of the Shanxi Province and encompasses 262 tombs.The grave goods range from one to 16 pieces per burial and have been placed at specific places such as the head, both arms and the underbelly of the corpse. Of the jades found, a single tier cong and a slotted squarish Bi are the most remarkable items.

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This site is the largest Liangzhu Culture burial ground discovered so far and is located near the town of Lindai in Pinghu County in the Zhejiang Province and about 5Km north of the northern shoreline of the Hangzhou Bay. The over 2600 funeral objects discovered cover pottery, stone, jade, bone, antler, ivory and wooden artifacts. In 12 of the graves also skeletons of sacrified dogs where found. The jades are of the typical Liangzhu style and consist of Bi’s, Yue axe blades, bracelets and rings.

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This site covers 58 burials and 130 sacrificial pits extending from the Majiabang through the Songze to the Liangzhu Culture period and is located in the Lake Taihu area near the town of Qianjin in Huzhou County in Zhejiang Province. The jades recovered are oblonged beads, awls, a huang pendant and Yue axe blades.

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This bronze age (1900-1500BC) site of a palace-city area is located near Yanshi in Henan Province. Its importance lies in the discovery of mosaic in the form of a dragon assembled from small pieces of turquoise. The jades are awl and bird shaped pendants in greenish material.

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The site revealed 31 Shang, Western Zhou and Spring-and-Atumn period tombs and is located near the Qiaobei village of the Beiwang township in the Shanxi province. The jades came from Shang period burials and consist beside others in a plaque in the shape of a bird (owl?) and a Xi or knot untying element.

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This single monumental tomb of 27x25m in size dates from the late Warring States period and is located at Dong Town near Qingzhou City in Shandong Province. The tomb was robbed in early years but nevertheless yielded more than 100 relics. They fall into pottery, bronzes, gold and silver wares, jades, laquer and bone and antler artifacts. The single gold item was a ring shaped handle-head of a knife in the form of an exquisitely stylized dragon. Also a dice with pentagonal faces made from an antler was found. The jades were sword ornaments.

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This monumental tomb has been discovered during the building on an extension of the Xi’an Institute of Technology and can be dated to the late Western or early Eastern Han period. The wall of the 4x2mx2 main chamber are all covered with murals painted in red, blue and black on a white clay background. Rich in content they represent horse and carriage processions, hunting, feasts, cock fights, music playing, dancing and other daily scenes as well as the sun, moon, winged dragons, phoenixes, cranes and winged human (?) beings soaring into the sky on the back of dragons. The unearthed jade items consist of typical funerary implements such a two eye covers, one cicada mouth piece, two nose plugs and one cabochon like pendant all in white highly polished jade.

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