"Bi" disc - ROM2005_3710_1


"Bi" disc

Medium:Worked and polished jade
Geography: China
Date: 2nd half of 3rd-early 2nd millennium BC
Period: Neolithic Longshan culture Shandong phase
0.5 x 9.9 cm
Object number: 960.241.7
Credit Line: The Dr. James M. Menzies Collection
Not on view
DescriptionThe ceremonial paraphernalia of Neolithic village chieftains included objects that took the form of simple tools, but which were imparted a special or ritual significance by their unusual material, jade. Signs of wear on the working edges of such implements led some scholars to the view that early jade tools were used for real work. Now, however, it is generally agreed that these arduously-carved jades must have been produced specifically for ritual use or as symbols of wealth or power. They certainly testify to the existence of a stratified society. The stone was rare, expensive, and difficult to work, and only people of high status possessed such objects. The original meaning or function of jade discs is unknown. Some scholars speculate that they were a symbol of the sun and the sky. Although their original significance is lost, jade discs continued to be made through much of Chinese history, and seem always to have conveyed an important symbolic meaning.
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