Description: Jade. China, Late Eastern Zhou, early Han period, 3rd - 2nd century BC
This very elaborate and rather monumental pectoral is composed of eleven agate rings linked together by numerous beads in carnelian, plus eight loose jue or slit-rings in agate. However, the reconstruction of the ornament, the spacing and positioning of the various elements is conjectural and the photographs aim at providing only a visual impression of how these different elements were eventually assembled together, without pretending to be philologically correct.
As the archaeological records suggest, it is highly probable instead that the agate rings and the carnelian beads were originally used to create several pendants and not just one single, large ornament as suggested by the hypothetical reconstruction. Eastern Zhou ornaments formed by beads and elements carved in jade, agate or rock-crystal are in fact simpler when compared to the Western Zhou composite pectorals from which they derive. In addition, large numbers of agate, turquoise and carnelian beads are found more often in late Western Zhou princely burials, such as those excavated at Tianma-Qucun, Beizhao, Quwo, Shanxi province: on the contrary, they become rarer or totally absent in the pendants and pectorals excavated from Eastern Zhou and early Western Han dynasty tombs. Faceted agate and rock-crystal rings were instead preferred and commonly used during these later periods, so it is possible that the complex ornament presented here may actually be formed by items belonging to different, though close, chronological periods. Beads worked in various shapes were used in massive amounts in late Western Zhou burials and not earlier than the 10th century BC: their almost sudden appearance in princely burials, their ample use over an area stretching from west China to Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan and Hebei provinces, the variety of the beads shapes and materials are all elements suggesting that the fashion for elaborate necklaces and pectorals was influenced by Western, non-Zhou people.
For a thorough discussion of the late Western Zhou complex ornaments and use of carnelian beads, see J. Rawson, "Ordering the Exotic. Ritual Practices in the Late Western and Early Eastern Zhou", Artibus Asiae, vol.73:1, 2013, pp.5-76.
A late Western Zhou jade, agate and quartz pectoral ornament was recently presented by J.J. Lally & Co., New York, in their exhibition Ancient Chinese Jade. From the Neolithic to the Han, April 2016, and it is reproduced in the accompanying catalogue with no.27.
In a former exhibition held in 1993, the same gallery presented instead a group of nine agate rings dated to the latter part of the Eastern Zhou period: published in J.J. Lally & Co., Chinese Archaic Jades and Bronzes from the Estate of Professor Max Loehr and Others, New York 1993, catalogue number 86.
This composite ornament was originally acquired by its present owner from S. Bernstein & Co., San Francisco, California.
红玛瑙珠, 玛瑙环, 玛瑙 玦串饰串饰 -东周
全面长 65 厘米
OVERALL LENGTH 65 CM
From a German 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.