Eastern Zhou period, 5th century BC
Carved from a single jade pebble
These four discs of jade were for the decoration of a belt or pendant. The fact that they are linked without any joins represents an extraordinary piece of craftsmanship, since jade is such a difficult material to work. Its hardness is one of the many qualities which made jade so highly prized in ancient China.
This ornament clearly belonged to someone of high social status. A similar, though more elaborate piece, was found in the tomb of Marquis Yi, ruler of Zeng, who was buried around 433 BC. (The tomb was found in 1978, in Leigudun, Sui county, Hubei province)
Zeng was one of the smaller states that came under the rule of Chu. The Marquis of Zeng's massive tomb contained not only his coffin and those of eight attendants (who would be required for service in the next world), but thirteen further coffins in another chamber, and a room for chariot parts and weaponry. This tomb contained a magnificent assemblage of bronze bells, many musical and ritual vessels. Precious objects of lacquer, jade and gold also demonstrate his wealth and status.
J. Rawson (ed.), Mysteries of Ancient China: ne (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)
J. Rawson (ed.), The British Museum book of Chi (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)