Description: Jade. China, Late Neolithic period, Qijia culture, c.2200-1900 BC
This long, substantial blade with a chisel-like profile is carved in a semi-translucent, mottled green jade. One side has a long brown-coloured streak which runs almost through the entire length of the blade and becomes thicker towards the cutting edge: it is probably part of the skin which covered the jade block from which the blade was sliced out. The body of the blade gets thinner towards the sides and the cutting edge, which is slightly convex, contrasts with the straight butt. Two holes of different size and drilled from opposite sides of the jade are aligned along the central axis: on one side of the blade there is a long groove which runs from the centre of the butt and gradually disappears towards the cutting edge.
The shape of the blade recalls similar chisel-shaped blades or "ritual sceptres" found in sites of the Dawenkou (c.4000-2500 BC) and Longshan (c.2500-1700 BC) cultures of eastern China. However, the type of jade, workmanship and shape suggests an attribution to the late Neolithic cultures which flourished in North-west China, and more specifically Qijia: it is possible that the blade represents a local adaptation of a shape derived from other cultures, as it happens with the cong tubes and the bi discs found in Qijia culture sites in north-west China and ultimately derived from Liangzhu culture (c.3300-2200 BC) models.
Two long chisel-like blades similar to the present one and with grooves on the surface, in the Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop, are published in M. Loehr and L. G. Fitzgerald Huber, Ancient Chinese Jades, Cambridge 1975, n.200 and 201 (object numbers 1943.50.5 and 1943.50.70, image at http://www.harvardartmuseums.org/collections/object/205135?position=0).
Another comparable, slightly longer blade (27.6 x 7.4 cm) but carved in an ivory coloured jade with dark spots and from the Edward and Louise B. Sonneschein collection is in the Art Institute, Chicago (object number 1950.215). Like the present one, it has two holes of different sizes and drilled from opposite directions:
A blade with a similar longitudinal cut in the middle, part of the Robert H. Ellsworth (1929-2014) collection, was auctioned at Christie's New York on 19 March 2015, Sale 11420, Lot 542:
玉锛 - 新石器時代晚期，齊家文化, 公元前2200-1900
长 25.4 厘米 - 宽 6.4 厘米
LENGTH 25.4 CM - WIDTH 6.4 CM
From an Italian 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.