Height: 4.600 cm
Width: 7.600 cm
On loan from a private collection OA 1:4
Room 33b: Chinese jade
Jade coiled dragon
China, Neolithic period, Hongshan culture, around 3500 BC
It was long believed that Chinese civilization began in the Yellow River valley, but we now know that there were many earlier cultures both to the north and south of this area. From about 3800 to 2700 BC a group of Neolithic peoples known now as the Hongshan culture lived in the far north-east, in what is today Liaoning province and Inner Mongolia. The Hongshan were a sophisticated society that built impressive ceremonial sites.
Jade was obviously highly valued by the Hongshan; artefacts made of jade were sometimes the only items placed in tombs along with the body of the deceased.
Major types of jade of this period include discs with holes and hoof-shaped objects that may have been ornaments worn in the hair. This coiled dragon is an example of another important shape, today known as a 'pig-dragon', which may have been derived from the slit ring, or jue. Many jade artefacts that survive from this period were used as pendants and some seem to have been attached to clothing or to the body.
J. Rawson, Chinese jade: from the Neolith (London, The British Museum Press, 1995, reprinted 2002)