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Ritual Disc (Bi)

Artist/maker unknown, Chinese

Made in China, Asia

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

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

Jade; wood stand

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

Curatorial Department:
East Asian Art

* Gallery 336, Asian Art, third floor, W73

Accession Number:

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

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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.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.