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Collection

An image of Cong ritual jade by
Alternate image of Cong ritual jade by

China

Title
Cong ritual jade
Other titles:
Zong ritual jade
Ritual jade 'cong'
Place of origin
China
Period
Shang dynasty circa 1600 - 1100 BCE → China
Year
12th century BCE-11th century BCE
Media category
Jade
Materials used
jade
Dimensions

8.2 x 4.5 x 4.5 cm

Credit
Gift of Graham E. Fraser 1993
Accession number
331.1993
Location
Not on display
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' (Acc.no. 187.1988) 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 example of a 'cong' is made of brownish yellow stone with brown veins and a partially glassy polish. Unlike the richly ornamented examples from the early period, most jade 'cong' from the Western Zhou dynasty were without any decoration.

‘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.).