國立故宮博物院 National Palace Museum
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Exhibit Guide

Exhibit Themes

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Exhibit Themes
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The Northeast--The Essence of Jade and Spirit of Animals Buried in Round Altars and Square Tombs
 
Jade pig-dragon(open new window)
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Jade pig-dragon
Late Hung-shan Culture, approx. 5500-5000 years ago
Seven to eight thousand years ago, the Hsing-lung-wa Culture was distributed north of the Yen Mountains and west of the Liao River. The inhabitants there apparently enjoyed wearing earrings and made tools and goddess statuettes of jade and stone.

Five to six thousand years ago, the Hung-shan Culture reached new heights. In addition to constructing temples to a giant, painted goddess, they also built round sacrificial altars and square tombs. They carved animals from pieces of jade. Some of these were animals in the fetal position, others were birds with hooked beaks and beasts with fangs, and some had mesmerizing vortex eyes. This unusual blend of human, bird, and beast features in a single carving may imply that ancient shamans used the essence of jade and spirits of animals to pray to divine ancestors for protection.

 
The Lower Yellow River Valley--Peoples Worshipping Birds
Five or six thousand years ago, the people of the Ta-wen-k'ou Culture living on the Shantung peninsula could make white pottery and carve jade "yüeh" axes. Four thousand years ago, the people in this area developed standardized black pottery with openwork. By combining the large vortex eye popular in jade carvings in the northeast with the divine crown insignia "chieh (介)" from the lower valley of the Yangtze River, the Shantung Lung-shan Culture developed an elegant and profound image of the divine ancestor. They worshipped the flying bird and believed it was a messenger sent by the gods. A mask outlined by twisting lines became the predecessor of the animal-mask pattern found in the Bronze Age. This may also be related to images with earrings and long fangs from the middle Yangtze River valley.
White pottery "kuei" vessel(open new window)
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White pottery "kuei" vessel
Late Ta-wen-k ou Culture, approx. 5000-4600 years ago
Jade "kuei" tablet with human mask pattern(open new window)
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Jade "kuei" tablet with human mask pattern
Late Shantung Lung-shan Culture, approx. 4,300-4,000 years ago
 
The Lower Yangtze River Valley--Shamans Communicate with the Heavens and Earth Using Circular "Pi" and Square "Ts'ung" on Altars
 
Jade "ts'ung" tube(open new window)
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Jade "ts'ung" tube
Middle Liang-chu Culture, approx. 4900-4500 years ago
Six to seven thousand years ago, jade carvings began appearing in the lower valley of the Yangtze River, and by four to five thousand years ago, its development reached a peak. At this time, society was stratified, and powerful shamans held jade "yüeh" axes symbolic of their power at the altar. As later generations have mentioned, they used circular "pi" and square "ts'ung" to worship the heavens and the earth. Some "pi" and "ts'ung" have shallow carvings of mystical emblems, which are renditions of birds on altars. Masks with small and large eyes were carved on "ts'ung". There were also jade knives with crowns in the shape of the character for "chieh (介)" carved at the top. These were all revered as ritual objects.
Western Region of China--In the Times of the Yellow Emperor, Weapons were Made of Jade

In the north covered in loess and yellow earth, the flowing Yellow River gave birth to the splendid ancient Chinese culture. Inhabitant in this area excelled in pottery with patterns of multi-colored twisting and turning patterns. Compared to the animal motifs popular among the inhabitants in the coastal area to the east, they instead created simple yet potent jade objects with geometric designs. Their circular pi and square "ts'ung" were concrete realization of a universal view, which saw the heavens as round and he earth as square. The segmented pi disk and large circular jade designs may represent the concepts of continuity and eternity. The existence of edged jade objects in great numbers seems to bear out what is recorded in the annals of the Han Dynasties: "In the times of the Yellow Emperor, weapons were made were made of jade."

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