Jade Disc, Bi

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

Diameter: 9 5⁄8 inches, 24.5 cm

Thickness: 5⁄8 inches, 1.5 cm

A jade bi-disc of circular form and 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 reddish-brown tone with strong all-over white veining. The disc is completely unadorned and the surface is well polished on both sides.


A circular jade disc is known as bi in Chinese art. Although the bi disc is said to be symbolic of heaven, its origin and purpose remain somewhat obscure. In the Liangzhu culture, circular jades were ritual objects used in all kinds of religious ceremonies. It has been suggested that bi discs were symbolic of wealth or status; numerous discs have been found in burials, usually placed at the feet of the deceased or underneath the body. An alternative theory is that they were used as talismans for the exorcism of and protection from evil. Warfare weapons produced at the same time may have inspired the overall blade-like design of these discs. Plain, undecorated jade bi discs of large size appear to have been a specialty of jade craftsmen of the Liangzhu culture. A similar bi disc of overall greenish tones is in the collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei.[1]

  1. A Catalogue of the National Palace Museum’s Special Exhibition of Circular Jade, Taipei, 1995, no. 48, pp. 88-9