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Ritual Disc (Bi)

Artist/maker unknown, Chinese

Geography:
Made in China, Asia

Period:
Neolithic Period (10,000-c. 2100 BCE)

Date:
c. 2250 BCE, Liangzhu Culture (c. 3400-2250 BCE)

Medium:
Jade (nephrite); wood stand

Dimensions:
Diameter: 6 11/16 inches (17 cm) Thickness: 3/8 inches (1 cm)

Curatorial Department:
East Asian Art

* Gallery 236, Asian Art, second floor

Accession Number:
1944-20-497a,b

Credit Line:
Gift of Major General and Mrs. William Crozier, 1944

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Label:
Neolithic and archaic jades have been collected and treasured in China since antiquity. Jade discs are referred to as bi (pronounced bee) if the central hole is smaller than the radius of the body. Their use in Neolithic times is unknown, but in later ritual texts these discs were thought to symbolize heaven, and also served as symbols of rank. Displaying such a bi was particularly meaningful for an emperor, the “Son of Heaven,“ as it would have referred not only to antiquity but also to the ideals of rulership.


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