Bi disc

Large, flat disk made of gray and green jade with touches of black and brown with a hole in the center. Incised circle around outer edge of disk and around edge of interior hole.
Artist Unknown, China
771 BCE - 256 BCE
The “bi” disk originated among China’s Liangzhu culture around 3,000-2,500 B.C.E. The function and meaning of these disks are unknown. As late as the Han dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 220), jade disks performed a ritual function in aristocratic burials, where they were placed above the head, below the feet, and on the chest of the deceased. They were also depicted on painted burial shrouds of the second century B.C. In these paintings two dragons thread their way through a jade disk, going on their way from the nether world to the celestial realm. This suggests that jade disks may have been intended to help the deceased's soul in its journey to heaven. Although it is not certain that the disks functioned in this way in Neolithic times, the enormous labor involved in perfecting their abstract shape and lustrous finish is striking testimony to the reverence accorded them and their importance as a ceremonial object.
Museum purchase for the James Marshall Plumer Memorial Collection
1961/2.85A&B
Saturday, August 13, 2022
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