Jade disc bi

Jade disc, bi

China, late Neolithic period Liangzhu culture, c. 3000 – 2000 BC

Diameter: 8 7/8 inches, 22.5 cm
Thickness: 1/2 inch, 1.2 cm

A jade bi disc of uneven thickness. Its central, circular aperture is cut from both sides, leaving a ridge in the centre and visible grinding lines to either side of it. The stone is of predominantly celadon green tone with areas of reddish-brown inclusions all-over and a few dark grey speckles and white veining. Some calcified areas are visible. The disc is completely unadorned and its surface is well polished on both sides.


In China, a circular jade disc is known as bi. While the precise purpose of the bi disc is unclear, the large numbers found in some burial tombs suggest that they were a means for the deceased to show their wealth.1  An alternative theory is that they were used as talismans for the exorcism of and protection from evil. A jade bi-disc of similar size is in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei.2 Another comparable jade bi-disc of similar texture and size is in the collection of the British Museum.3

  1. Rawson, J. Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, London, The British Museum Press, 1995, p. 130
  2. A Catalogue of the National Palace Museum’s Special Exhibition of Circular Jade, Taipei, 1995, no. 48, pp. 88-9
  3. Rawson, J. op. cit. no. 4:6, p. 136