Jade bi

From China, Shang dynasty, about 1500-1050 BC 
Inscribed AD 1790

Inscribed with a poetic reflection on the object by the Qianlong emperor

The Qianlong emperor (reigned 1736-95) was a great collector of antiquities. He managed to acquire many famous old paintings, bronzes, porcelains and jades for the imperial collection. This policy led some connoisseurs to commission copies of their prized paintings, so they would not lose the originals to the emperor.

The emperor not only wanted to possess these things, he wanted to put his seal on them, or to write a poem or other comment on them. He did this most often with paintings, but he also carved his thoughts on special ceramics and jades.

Qianlong owned more jades than anyone in Chinese history, his collection spanning the precious material's history. This jade bi ring or disc, dates to the Shang dynasty (about 1500-1050 BC). The emperor's inscription says that his poetic imagination was stirred by its subtle and exquisite shape, and the quality of the jade from which it was made.

Find in the collection online

More information


J. Rawson, Chinese jade: from the Neolith (London, The British Museum Press, 1995, reprinted 2002)

S.J. Vainker, Chinese pottery and porcelain, (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)


Height: 1 cm
Diameter: 15 cm


Museum number

Asia OA 1937.4-16.140



Find in the collection online

Related products


A History of the World in 100 objects

By Neil MacGregor

Accompanies the BBC Radio 4 series

This object features in A History of the World in 100 objects

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore