Lot 59B: Chinese Hongshan Crystal Zoomorphic Pendant

Artemis Gallery

July 20, 2017
Louisville, CO, US

More About this Item

Description: East Asia, China, Hong Shan Culture, ca. 3500 to 2200 BCE. Finely carved from a natural crystal in the form of a pig dragon, of an almost-circular form with a large central perforation so as to represent the fetal position, biconically drilled behind the head for suspension. The stone is mostly translucent with subtle golden hues, a less translucent off-white area, and mineral deposits highlighting incised areas. Scholars purport that the "pig-dragon" may have derived from the slit ring or jue form and was an important shape among the Hongshan culture. Size: 1.875" W x 2.125" H (4.8 cm x 5.4 cm)

A pig dragon or zhulong is a zoomorphic form with a pig-like head (though quite abstract) and elongated limbless body coiled around to the head and described as "suggestively fetal." Early pig dragons are thick and stubby, and later examples have more graceful, snakelike bodies. Along with the Hongshan culture's carved jade eagles, pig dragons were often used as grave goods. Pig bones have been found interred alongside humans at Hongshan burial sites, suggesting that the animal had some ritual significance. Scholars suggest that the pig dragon is the first representation of the Chinese dragon. The character for "dragon" in the earliest Chinese writing has a similar coiled form, as do later jade dragon amulets from the Shang period.

For many years, scholars believed that Chinese civilization began in the Yellow River valley, but now we know that there were actually earlier cultures both north and south of this region. The Hongshan culture, comprised of a group of Neolithic peoples who lived in the far northeast, in what is modern-day Liaoning province and Inner Mongolia, created a sophisticated society and erected elaborate ceremonial sites that oftentimes included valuable works like this natural rock crystal pig-dragon pendant.

Provenance: private Orange County, California, USA collection

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Condition Report: Only minor surface wear. Near choice. Suspension cord in photo not included.
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