- Museum number
Man wearing an elaborate head-dress and traditional costume. Incised decoration. Pale green jade.
- Production date
950 BC (circa; Rawson 1995)
Height: 7 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Figures are rarely found in metropolitan Shang or early Zhou art, and when they do appear it is possible that they were imported from or stimulated by examples made in southern or southwestern China. The most spectacular examples of human figures are bronze sculptures from the sacrificial pits at Sanxingdui at Guanghan in Sichuan province. Much smaller but remarkably similar figures have been found at Baoji, within reach of the Zhou capital, and it seems probable that some fine jade figures, such as this one, were inspired by southern contacts.
Jades in which humans are shown with birds were also known in the south. When taken over by the Zhou, the human figures were gradually eliminated, leaving only the bird designs (see BM 1988.0422.1). So what looks like at first sight to be a simple change of taste from face patterns, 'taotie', to birds, turns out to be connected with much larger issues of contact with areas outside Zhou rule; contact which may have come about through war, trade or both. See also BM 1945.1017.38.
The way in which the garment hangs below the man's hands has prompted Hayashi Minao to place this type of jade figure within a small group which he has dated to the Western Zhou, following the find of such a figure in a Western Zhou tomb in the suburbs of Luoyang. Other figures in Hayashi Minao's group include a figure formerly in the David Weill Collection, Paris; a figure wearing a hat in the Winthorp Collection, Harvard university; a figure in the Joseph Hotung Collection, British Museum; and another figure in the British Museum (BM 1945.1017.38), wearing a hat that vaguely resembles the one of the Winthorp collection. This small group seems to belong to aproximately the same period, which may range from the late Shang to the middle Western Zhou. This group of figures is isolated in the context of other forms of material culture. Human figures hardly ever appear in either bronze or jade, and their uses are stereotyped: bronze heads and figures appear on chariot fittings and weapons, but hardly ever on vessels.
For a later, Eastern Zhou period small bead in the shape of a human figure see BM 1945.1017.86.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1935-6 International Exhibition of Chinese Art, Royal Academy of Arts, london
- Acquisition date
- Registration number