Subject:Re: Kevin's Shang jade and Gu Fang
Posted By: Bill Fri, Aug 29, 2008
Congratulation, Kevin! You have found your “gem” jade piece! Anita, thank you for posting all these here, it shows once a while if one tries hard enough one can still find some great jades.
In the origina message posted by you:
Both Anita and I just happened to post pictures and/or reference of another Shang disc that is similar to yours.
Anita said, “Your piece look very nice and posssibly authentic, without personal handling and better detailed pictures. I can not confirm.”
I commented, “Nice disc. I wonder if the picture shows the true color of your disc, or it is more a darker black green.” “Look at the circular carving lines (or marks) found on the surface of your disc, they were old and made with Tu. Hard to tell the material, color says serpentine but textures looks like nephrite, if I can just put it in my hand, I would be able to tell immediately. I can almost feel it would have that "heavy feel" of nephrite. Very good luster. Low resolution pictures are simple not good enough to tell too much about your disc.”
Diasai commented, “Qijia culture disc, nice object. From your bad photos it is impossible to say weather it is authentic or not. If authentic it is valuable. I presume it is authentic.”
Now another member commented:
“Both are very beautifull objects.
Bill, the pic you posted here clearly shows the lime deposits between the circles, created by the hearth humidity during the thousands or so years of being burried.
I'm very sure it cannot be removed easily at all.Very good sign of age.
On the other hand, Kevin's disc doesn't show any such signs.
Just an observation.”
Then you posted more pictures on a second thread.
Then Anita commented:
“I can not say, the condition is too good to be genuince, but the workmanship and material is supurb.
Any modern tool marks found? it is slipery or non-slipery when you use your thumb to rub on it?
I saw Shang and Neolithic jades without any kind of depisits, alterations, whithening, just like yesterday made exhibited at HK museum of art before. This piece is convincingly authentic.
To fake the neat work like this, not cheap and not easy.”
“If I remember correctly, there are six types of jade carvings in ancient China, the top two are jade Bi and jade cong (tsung). Jade bi are used for making offering (or sacrifice) to the sky (or heaven) while jade congs are used for making sacrifice to the earth.
Therefore jade bi were never intended for burials until Han dynasty when such bi became much more abundant and the Han dynasty people put a lot of important in extravagant burial. It is a also possible jade bi from earlier dynasties were being used in burial during Han or later dynasties and that may be why we would see Shang bi found in burial. However, during Shang dynasty, jade bi were not intended for burials. Now, on the other hands, one would find more congs in burial.
Now of course I can be wrong, but it would be an interesting topic for jade collectors to discuss, would it?”
Then the other member who commented that there was no weathering seen on Kevin’s disc commented:
“That this piece, or others, are made for burial or not is another story.
Old pieces are found deep in the ground, water or caves, whatever their use is.
If this disc was not made to follow it's owner to the coffin, it would still be burried and exposed when archeologist are digging some old sites.
I sometime goes around construction sites and have evaluate the deepness, according to the period of the shards I found.
In general, Qing dy, up to 2 metres deep, Ming deeper etc, etc...
I found some Tang dy shards at around 4 metres and a Han brick at about 5.
This is valid for the area where I live. Of course the deepness will depend of the nature of the soil of the area.
But yes, let's be LOGIC, such old pieces are not kept on someone mantelpiece for thousand of years.”
I had since found that there indeed were jade discs being found in Shang burial sites. There are three different Chinese terms used for jade disc based on the sizes of the jade portion and hole (or their ratio) of a disc.
Most of the large jade discs used for paying tributes to the Sky are always made of dark green jade without any decorations on them. (they were called Cang Bi, Cang means dark green and Bi means disc) They can be found as early as Neolithic times (including Liangzhu and Hongshan culture). Most of the Hongshan jade disc have sharp edges. The Liangzhu one were narrower on the outside edges and thicker inside. Some Shang discs did have collars. Beside using for paying tributes to the Sky, these disc were used for burial, some times more than one were being placed on the top or bottom of the deceased and sometimes just laying around the body. Some even were placed on top of the coffin. Some discs were actually used for decoration purposes and as ornaments. From some literatures a while ago, I also learned that at one time, some discs (smaller one I presume) were actually being laid on top of each other and placed inside a Cong. Disc were found more prevalently in Han burials.
The interesting questions regarding using “weathering” as a major criterion in deciding the “authenticity” and “age” of an archaic jade piece as suggested by one of the members here is actually nothing new. It was widely adapated as the “standard” by many of the Chicochai members. Many Chinese collectors also believe “Chum-sik” (color stain and/or weathering) and “Bao-jaing” (gel-like luster wrapped around the jade) must be present on an archaic jade piece for it to be genuine.
However, would it be possible that some of these archaic jade pieces including Keven’s jade disc had never be buried (either in a site or as burial goods). It is not uncommon for the royal valut of emperors in different dynasty to pass archaic jade collections from one emperor to the other. Then when it was overthrown by a different dynasty, the new dynasty just took over all the archaic jade carvings from the past dynasty.
Secondly, why would so many collectors would automatically assume that all archaic jade carvings would have weahtering or color stains found on them? Many dark green nephrite jade (made of actinolite or ferro-actinolite) carving are of such high quality (high S.G., high hardness) that almost no chemicals or soil environments can cause changes on them.
Thirdly, why would we assume all burial jades would have direct contacts with soil or water? Some of the Hongshan jades were buried inside stone coffins that were buried in high grounds. Many of the ancient wooden coffins were sometimes made of wood so dense that they would last over a thousand years without rotting. Many had special preservaties placed inside the coffin to keep the contents dry.
May be we should rethink about using “weathering” as the sole criterion in judging the authenticity and age of an archaic jade carving. Just like Anita said,
“I saw Shang and Neolithic jades without any kind of depisits, alterations, whithening, just like yesterday made exhibited at HK museum of art before.”
To me this will be evidence that using “weathering” alone as the SOLE criterion would be both invalid and absurd.