Sunday
Aug172008

Jades in major archaeological discoveries in China in 2007

Also this year I bring you the images of the jades and the short descriptions of the major 2007 archaeological discoveries in China. The 2007 edition of this series, a 176 page book (ISBN 978-7-5010-2439-1), has been published by Wenwu,
The Cultural Relicts Publishing House in Beijing. 

Of all the sites with jades, the Neolithic site of Linjiatan in the Anhui Province with the 72cm stilized jade pig sculpture is the truly exceptional find of 2007.

The description of the sites is in the original published English version.

With approval from the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the Anhui Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology carried out excavation in the burial area of the Lingjiatan site, a state-protected ancient monument, in May to July 2007. They excavated cultural remains in two parts: the northwest of the southern cemetery and the east of the altar in this cemetery. The opened area totals about 450 sq m, where four tombs and three ash-pits of the Lingjiatan culture were revealed.

The most important are two discoveries. One is the jade pig found near the top of the altar. It is 72 cm in length and 88 kg in weight. On the face, all the features and a pair of protruding teeth are vividly represented. Being the largest, heaviest and earliest sculptured pig of the Neolithic Age discovered so far in China, it can be called the first Chinese jade pig. The other finding is Tomb 07M23 beneath the jade pig. It has intruded the altar and measures 3.6 m in length and 2.1 m in width. The tomb pit is full of funeral objects, including stone implements, jade artifacts and pottery vessels, really an astonishing treasury.

The tomb pit points to the south and north with the tomb-owner's head to the south and the feet to the north. At the head are jade rings, jue half-rings, bracelets and huang semi-discs; on the chest, some dozen huang; near the two arms, ten bracelets respectively; and from the chest to the feet, jade yue battle-axes and stone yue, adzes and chisels overlap each other in two to six layers.

The funeral objects number 330 pieces, i.e. 98 stone implements, 214 jades, 16 pottery vessels, a piece of raw jade and a broken bone. Among the jades are three objects of jade tortoises (rattles), which contain jade slips (clappers) in the belly.




The stylized pig with tusks, snout and eyes made from a jade boulder 72cm long and weighting 88Kg

It suggests that by the Neolithic Age the Lingjiatan people had known rather mature divination and evidences that the literal records about divining activities at that time, such as the Yellow River map and Luoshui River book, are based on real facts rather than myths and legends.

The Longwangshan cemetery lies at the juncture of Nanqiao Village and Meiman Village of Zilingpu Town in Jingmen City, Hubei Province, on the western bank of the Hanshui River, in the hilly country between Mt. Daba of the Qinling Mountains and the Jianghan Plain, adjoining the Longwangshan site in the north and occupying an area of about 200,000 sq m. The excavation under discussion covered 1,700 sq m, where 203 tombs were revealed and over 9,000 jade, stone and pottery objects were unearthed.

The tombs fall into stone, earthen and semi-stone semi-earthen pits. The dead are largely in an extended supine position, with a few buried secondarily. Among the funeral pottery vessels are cups, ding tripods, jars, dou stemmed vessels, vat, curved-belly cups, slender-neck pots, basins, vessel covers and spindle-whorls, with the ding-cup-jar-dou set occurring most frequently.

Large in pit size and rich in grave goods, the cemetery holds the highest rank among the burials of the same period recorded so far in the middle Yangtze River valley.

The objects from Tomb M132 alone number 260 pieces. As a batch of remains intact in condition and varied in tomb scale and the number of mourning objects, it demonstrates distinctly social differentiation. Its excavation has important value to researching into the relationship between the prehistoric Daxi and Qujialing cultures in the mid Yangtze River valley and investigating the origin, features, evolution and motive force of the early civilization in this region and even the source of the whole Chinese civilization.

In 2006, the Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology carried out excavation in the late Western Zhou cemetery within Licheng County in the Taihong Mountains of southeastern Shanxi. They revealed ten tombs, which have largely been robbed in recent years, but the small-sized tombs excavated are preserved in a good condition. Tombs M7, M8 and M9 are medium-sized grave not damaged by robbery.

The large-sized tombs are earthen pits with ramping passages, while the medium- and small-sized are all earthen pits without passages. Each grave is furnished with a wooden chamber and multiple coffins; the latter are rather good in condition; and the funeral chariots, when in presence, are placed in the chamber.



 
The unearthed objects are small in number, but some of them have great academic value, such as the two bronze pots and the bronze ding tripod unearthed from M8, the inscriptions of which can be identified as indicators of the cemetery belonging to the Li State. As recorded in literal evidence, the Li State was destroyed by the Zhou people in the late Shang period and was restored by the Jin State in the mid Spring-and-Autumn period, but the Licheng cemetery belongs to the late Western Zhou, which seems to have no consistent information in relevant literal records.




A few years ago, late Shang bronzes of the ding, gu cup and jue three-legged cup types were unearthed in the vicinity, which also evidences that the ancient Li State, belonging mainly to the Shang period as recorded in historical documents, existed in this area.




In 2007, the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and other institutions carried out a secondary excavation in the graveyard at Liangdai Village of Hancheng. They revealed 26 large-, medium-and small-sized tombs and a horse burial-pit, which yielded over 500 pieces (sets) of valuable cultural relics, including bronzes, jades and pottery.

Judged by the distribution of the tombs, the Rui State people of the Zhou period must have observed the custom of constructing the "state graveyard" with the dead buried mainly by the clan. Some of the unearthed ritual bronzes bear the inscriptions "Bi Bo" (Earl Bi), "Guo Ji" and other names, which provide new clues for studying the relationship of the Rui State with these local states.

The funeral horses and chariots and other objects from Tomb M502 and other large burials suggest that the graveyard can be dated to the late Western Zhou period, thus the history of Rui State's activities in Hancheng can be pushed to an earlier time approximately by one hundred years than the previously known. The coffin stands discovered in these tombs constitute a batch of important remains unknown before in Shang-Zhou archaeology, which enriched our knowledge of the institution of using coffins in the Zhou period.

The wooden tomb-figurines unearthed from M502, over one meter in height for the tallest piece, show that the first appearance of tomb-figurines in China should be traced to a much earlier period than the previous understanding; and their discovery made up the gap in this aspect of Western Zhou archaeology.


The Xi'an Zhangjiapu cemetery of the Han period is located about 2,500 m east of Han period Chang'an City. So far, above 440 tombs have been excavated there, and approximately 3,000 objects of various kinds have been unearthed. Three medium-sized graves among the revealed tombs are all earthen pits, each with a brick chamber and a long ramping passage. They yielded more than 320 valuable ritual bronzes, jades and glazed pottery articles.

The small-sized tombs, the main part of the cemetery dates from the mid Western Han to the Xinmang period. Their occupants should be assigned to the common people of Chang'an City. But the three medium tombs must be the burials of higher-status noblemen. Among them M110 yielded plates of a jade shroud; NI114, large-sized glazed pottery vessels rarely seen in the Western and Eastern Han tombs across the Xi'an area; and M115, even an astonishing bronze distiller rational in structure and advanced in making technique. The nine ding-tripods from M115, massive in size and complete in combination, constitute the only set among the cultural relics from the so far discovered tombs of the Xinmang period.


The excavation provided important material for studying into the social life of the Han period and the layout of Han Changan City and rich archaeological data for researching into the formation and evolution of Han culture. After the mid Western Han, ritual tended to fall; and in the Xinmang period, the government implemented the policy of restoring ancient ways and changing the economic and political systems. The nine ding from M115 are reliable material proof on the situation in Wang Mang's reign. It is the first time that we have got a piece of evidence of the then ritual institution change, which, therefore, has extremely important academic and historical value.


In November 2006 to February 2007, the archaeological team jointly organized by the Nanjing Municipal Museum and Jiangning District Museum carried out a salvaging archaeological excavation in the robbed ancient graveyard at Qingxiu Village of Jiangning Sub-district in Jiangning District, Nanjing City. They revealed three earthen-pitted stone-chambered tombs, which are covered with massive stone slabs at the top and surfaced with lime bricks on the ceiling and inner walls. Each tomb is furnished with an inner coffin and an outer one, and the former is filled with mercury in a large amount. According to the unearthed epitaphs, the tomb-owners are Qin Xi, son of the Southern Song powerful minister Qin Hui, and Qin Xi's wives Zheng and Cao. 

The funeral objects from the tombs include gold, silver, bronze, iron, jade, porcelain and lacquered articles, totaling over one hundred pieces. Before the excavation the archaeological team made drilling and trial excavation, which brought to light stone stands, stone images, structural members, underground building-foundations, etc., and roughly clarified the whole layout of the tomb-garden.


The Shamen city-site is located two km northeast of Shamen Village in Yulin Township of Yanjin County, Henan Province. According to local annals, there were the seat of Weizhou District and Zuocheng County for approximately 40 years at the turn from the Jin to Yuan period. In August 2006 to August 2007, the area was explored through a salvaging archaeological excavation.

The work resulted in the confirmation of the city as a ferry-crossing town, which measures about 3,180 m in circumference and has city-gates in the western, eastern and northern walls. The southern wall was built on the great Yellow River dyke, but no city-gate was discovered there, and a wharf was revealed 1.000 m south of the city. Excavation brought to light vestiges of Jin-Yuan period city-walls, roads, houses, wells, fields, ash-pits, tombs and so on. The unearthed objects are extremely rich, falling into porcelain, potters, glazed pottery, jades, bronzes, ironware, stone implements and bone artifacts, as well as structural members, remains of smelting and animal bones (waste material of bone working). The porcelain is especially rich in variety, differing widely in glaze and decorative means.

Saturday
Aug162008

2007 auction price expectations of Chinese white jade carvings and boulders

During a recent visit to Hangzhou I have picked up a catalogue of a December 2007 auction of jade organized by the Haohan International Auction House in Hangzhou.

I have scanned the relevant pages showing the small jade carvings of recent manufacture as also of the white Yurungkash/Hotien jade pebbles and boulders. As each illustration was accompanied by the weight of the jade and the estimated lower to upper auction price, I have normalized the upper price limit to US$ per gram so to give you a comparison yardstick of current jade prices. Haohan Auction House did not want to give me the actual reached auction price.

100US$ are valued 670 Chinese RMB and 100g amount to 3.5 ounces.


The next auction will be held in October 2008 with several jade boulders announced to be in the auction program.

As these carvings are of recent manufacture and labor costs are low in China, you can evaluate for yourself how the raw material cost through the combination of colored skin, translucency and size, influences the estimated auction price. The price of uncut pebbles from the Yurungkash River ranges from a low of 10$/g to an absolute high of 502$/g depending on the translucency and homogeneity of the material (true mutton fat jade).

For the value of carved items, the presence of russet colored skin, adroitly incorporated into the design of the carving, is essential for asking an elevated price. Its absence or a patch with only a dull brown color immediately lowers the price as the origin of the white jade cannot anymore be related to the Yurungkash River. This value adding russet skin is however now also reproduced artificially and the suspicion lingers on that at least one boulder offered in this auction has seen such a color enhancing step.


Carving of an unborn chicken (?) in white (river) jade with russet colored skin
78g – 115$/g


Carving of a fruit in white (river) jade with small russet colored skin patch
148g – 71$/g

Yurungkash River boulder in white jade with russet skin
25.5Kg – 9.5$/g

Carving of a duck in white (river) jade with tenuous russet colored skin patches
206g – 159$/g

Yurungkash River boulder in white jade with russet colored skin
22Kg – 20$/g

Carving of a sage in white (river) jade with a small russet colored skin patch
48.8g – 108$/g

Five small Yurungkash River white jade pebbles
80.9g – 14$/g

Carving of a sage in white (river) jade with small russet colored skin patch
218.7g – 21$/g

Necklace with 42 naturally shaped white (river ) jade pebbles
124.1g – 66$/g

Carving of a fruit and a bat in white (river) jade with tenuous russet colored skin patch
167.7g – 27$/g

Carving of two catfishes (?) in white (river) jade with russet colored skin patch
153g – 29$/g

Small Yurungkash River white jade pebble with very tenuous russet colored skin patches
112.1g – 27$/g

Five small Yurungkash River white jade pebbles
80.4g – 15$/g

Carving of a monkey in white jade
18.5g – 306$/g

Carving of lion cub in white (river) jade with russet colored skin streaks
18.4g – 203$/g

Carving of a scene with a rooster in white (river) jade with a tenuous russet colored skin patch
57.1g – 78$/g

Carving of a horse in fetal position (?) in white (river) jade with a tenuous russet colored skin patch
151.4g – 37$/g

Carving of a fruit with monkeys in white (river) jade with an intense russet colored skin patch
20.1g – 245$/g


Carving of a scene with a peach tree, monkeys and dogs in white (river) jade with russet colored skin
133.4g – 179$/g

Necklace with 44 naturally shaped small white (river) jade pebbles with russet colored skin
90.2g – 165$/g

Carving of a sage in white (river) jade with a tenuous russet colored skin patch
32.8g – 127$/g

Carving of a sage in white (river) jade with a russet colored skin patch
21.3g – 196$/g

Carving of scene (upside down) with a rooster in white (river) jade with russet colored skin patches
11.5g – 285$/g

Carving of two carps in white jade with a small brown colored patch
26.9g – 36$/g

Carving of a Buddhist religious figure in white jade
33.4g – 36$/g

Carving of a scene with two bats and a bamboo stalk in white (river) jade with an intense russet colored skin patch
16.7g – 53$/g

Carving of a goat in white (river) jade with russet colored staining
12.6g – 61$/g

Small Yurungkash River white jade pebble with very tenuous russet colored skin patches
31.9g – 187$/g

Carving of a fruit with butterfly in white (river) jade with localized russet colored skin patch
11.6g – 45$/g

Carving of a sage in white jade
15.8g – 47$/g

Carving of lion cub playing with a ball in white jade with some brown colored spots
99.1g – 60$/g

Pendant carving of a fruit and a butterfly in white (river) jade with russet colored spots
6.2g – 46$/g

Carving of a small lion cub in white (river) jade with russet stains
18.7g – 28$/g

Carving of a scene with a ram and monkey in white (river) jade with an intensive russet colored skin patch
20.4g – 36$/g

Carving of a fruit with monkeys in white (river) jade with a small russet colored spot
121.4g – 37$/g

Yurungkash River white jade pebble with an intense russet skin color and blackened fracture lines
1444g – 21$/g

Yurungkash River white jade pebble with a thin russet colored skin
463g – 48$/g

Carving of a sage in white (river) jade with russet colored patches
128g – 41$/g

Carving of a group of animals in white jade
20g – 373$/g

Small Yurungkash River unblemished white jade pebble
54g – 105$/g

Small Yurungkash River white jade pebble
53g – 138$/g


Small Yurungkash River white jade pebble with russet colored spots
103g – 43$/g

Small Yurungkash River white jade pebble with a small russet colored spot
103g – 116$/g

Bracelet with 7 Yurungkash River white jade pebbles with russet colored skin
72g – 62$/g

Carving of a fruit and two monkeys in white jade
26g – 172$/g

Small Yurungkash River top quality white jade pebble with russet colored spot
29.7g – 502$/g

Yurungkash River greyish white jade pebble with extensive russet colored skin (oiled)
106g – 140$/g

Yurungkash River white jade boulder with russet colored surface (oiled)
78Kg – 13$/g


Rectangular flat pendant with the carving of a sage in white (river) jade with a tenuous russet colored volume
52g – 115$/g

Yurungkash River white jade boulder (oiled) with heavy russet colored skin and with two windows showing the white jade core
37Kg – 12$/g

Yurungkash River white jade boulder (oiled) with fractures and a russet colored surface
38Kg – 10$/g

Yurungkash River white jade boulder (oiled) with a russet colored surface
21Kg – 26$/g

Yurungkash River white jade boulder (oiled) with a russet colored surface
15Kg – 57$/g

Sunday
Aug102008

The making of the Beijing Olympic medals in jade

As well known to all of you, the backside of the Beijing Olympic Medals is made in white jade from Geermu (Qinghai) for the gold medal, greyish jade from Qiemo (Xinjiang) for the silver medal and green jade from Xinjiang for the bronze medal.

In the following pictures you will be seeing some of their manufacturing steps!

The ancient master for the Beijing Olympic Medal


Cutting the raw jade

The jade workshops

Cutting out the jade rings with a CNC milling machine

The finaly sizing of the outside diameter of the jade ring

Inspection and smooting the edges

Do you see the translucency?

A ring for a champion!

The masters in plaster of the metal part of the medal

The metal blanks for the bronze medal


The medal stamping die press

The wings of victory

The engraving and machining of the medal holder

Inspecting the machined medal holder

Assembling the bronze medal with the green jade ring


The metal part of the gold, silver and bronze medals ready for assembly

The medals ready for the Olympic Champions.

Images courtesy of www.beijing2008.cn

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