Description: Jade. China, Late Neolithic period, Liangzhu culture, ca.3300-2200 B.C Despite the small size, this bead is finely worked and presents all the elements that can be seen on larger cong. It looks like a hollowed cylinder with an external,squared profile which is conferred to it by the projections onto which the two types of Liangzhu jade masks are minutely incised. It is decorated with two registers carved with the anthropomorphic mask alternating with the one with animal features. The round eye of this human-like mask is set at the centre and on the sides of the small cong so that it is shared by both masks carved at the corners. The parallel, striated bands on the top border of the bead form a continuous band. The zoomorphic masks are instead fully detailed: there are only two of them since each one occupies two of the four sides of the small cong. Another interesting feature of this miniature cong is the strong discolouration of the stone, which has turned to an almost opaque, white colour, while the surface of the jade is covered by reddish lines signaling the presence of oxidised iron content in the stone. It is likely that this alteration was artificially induced through ritual burning of the jades at the time of burial, as seen on excavated artefacts from Liangzhu culture sites such as the two elite cemeteries of Fanshan and Yaoshan in Yuhan County, Zhejiang. Though this bead may have been strung together with several others to compose elaborate necklaces reserved for the members of the Liangzhu elite, archaeological evidence indicates that these small jades might also have been used to ornate ritual jade weapons such as yue-type axes: the beads were probably hung by small ropes passing through the wooden shaft of the weapon, as their position in the tombs and association with yue axes seem to suggest. This miniature cong can be compared to similar ones excavated from Liangzhu culture sites, such as those reproduced in Liangzhu wenhua yuqi, nos.70 and 175-177, and in Huang Xuanpei, Gems of the Liangzhu culture, no.69. 玉獸面紋琮形墜 -良渚文化, 公元前33世紀-前22世紀 高 4.9 厘米 HEIGHT 4.9 CM, DIAMETER 2.3 CM x 2.3 CM From an Austro-Hungarian collection
Notes: All jades in this catalogue will soon be published in the forthcoming jade book by FILIPPO SALVIATI: "THE MYSTERIOUS STONE - Archaic and Antique Chinese Jades from Neolithic to Han from Private Collections".
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Professor Salviati teaches Chinese Art at the University "La Sapienza" in Rome, Faculty of Oriental Studies, and is one of the world's most recognized jade experts, specialized in archaic jades until the Song Dynasty. Hi-resolution pictures of all jades are to be found in our web-site, and can be enlarged so that handwork, age-related traces of weathering, as well as colors are very well recognizable.