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Collection

An image of 'Bi' disc by

China

Title
'Bi' disc
Other titles:
Ritual disc 'bi'
Place of origin
China
Period
Western Zhou circa 1100 - 771 BCEZhou dynasty circa 1100 - 256 BCE → China
Year
1027 BCE-0771 BCE
Media category
Jade
Materials used
jade
Dimensions

0.8 cm x 15.5 cm

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Credit
Gift of Graham E. Fraser 1988
Accession number
187.1988
Location
Lower Asian gallery
Further information

'Bi', a disc with a central perforation, and 'cong', a roughly square cross-section with a circular bore, are two of the most familiar jade ritual objects of ancient China. The number of 'bi' and 'cong' discovered throughout late Neolithic and Bronze Age tombs and burial sites is testimony to their significance in ancient rituals and ceremonies, although their meaning and function remain uncertain. As Western Zhou ritual texts refer to 'bi' and 'cong' as offerings to heaven and earth respectively, they have become symbols of heaven and earth. They were usually found together in tombs.

The gallery's example of a 'bi' is a rich, opaque green. The term 'bi' has been applied to discs with small central holes. If the hole is larger in proportion to the whole area of the disc, then the jade is generally known as a 'huang' in Chinese. Like the 'bi' disc, the 'huang' ring is also a major type of ancient ritual jade, existing in China as early as the 5th millennium BCE. Two types were popular; the plain ring and the ring with a central vertical collar. The gallery's 'huang' ring (Acc.no. 289.1996) is a rich, opaque, creamy green with milkish and brown patches or veins.

‘The Asian Collections: Art Gallery of New South Wales’. pg.73
© 2003 Trustees, Art Gallery of New South Wales

Bibliography (1)

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Bronzes and Jades', Sydney, 2003, 73 (colour illus.).

Exhibition history (1)

Conversations through the Asian collections, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Oct 2014–05 Sep 2015