Height: 4.800 cm
Length: 8.600 cm
On loan from a private collection OA 5:1
Room 33b: Chinese jade
Jade ornament for the top of an axe shaft
China, Neolithic period, Liangzhu culture, about 2500 BC
Whereas graves of the Hongshan culture (about 3800-2700 BC) might have held as many as twenty jade artefacts, those of the Liangzhu culture (about 3000-2000 BC) sometimes had as many as three hundred. These included bead necklaces and other decorative pieces such as this ornament for an axe. Many are carved with motifs derived from monster and human-like faces. The carving is often of the highest quality, with fine modulated relief, openwork and very complicated incised designs. The massive jade cong and discs and such fine personal jades as this example must have belonged to a society of considerable complexity.
Axes were decorated with a number of fittings: sections for the top and bottom of the handle, small beads in the shape of cong, and small inlays. This example takes the shape of an extended narrow rectangle, curved in three dimensions, which encloses the slot which would have fitted over the wooden handle of the axe. Axe shaft ornaments have been found of varying degrees of workmanship, but very few are as elaborate or as well-made as this one.
J. Rawson, Chinese jade: from the Neolith (London, The British Museum Press, 1995, reprinted 2002)