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Jade disc, bi

Jade disc, bi

A jade disc with a neatly cut round, central aperture. The surface of the jade is worked on both sides with a symmetrical design of spiral commas in relief. Around the inner and outer edges of the disc are two plain raised bands. The dark coloured green stone has a good degree of translucency and some areas of white veining. The stone is smoothly polished on both sides.

•  The exact origin and purpose of jade bi discs such as this is still unclear, however it is clear from excavations that they served some kind of ritual purpose. Often placed at the feet or directly underneath the deceased, sometimes in large numbers, the bi disc was intended as a gift, offering, rite and sacrifice, especially during the Spring and Autumn period (770 – 475 BC).1 A pale green bi disc of comparable form and design dated to the Eastern Zhou period 4th – 3rd century BC is in the British Museum2, and a further example of slightly larger size is in the National Palace Museum Taipei.3

1 Rawson, J. Chinese Jade – From the Neolithic to the Qing, London 1995, p. 247
2 Rawson, J. op cit. no. 15:2, p. 253
3 A Catalogue of the National Palace Museum’s Special Exhibition of Circular Jade, Taipei, 1995, nos. 73 and 74, pp. 118 – 119

China, late Eastern Zhou dynasty
or early Western Han dynasty
3rd – 2nd century BC
Diameter: 5 1/8 inches, 13 cm
Thickness: 1/8 inch, 0.4 cm

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