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AN IMPORTANT AND VERY RARE TURQUOISE-INLAID AND JADE-INSET BRONZE AXE, QI
AN IMPORTANT AND VERY RARE TURQUOISE-INLAID AND JADE-INSET BRONZE AXE, QI
AN IMPORTANT AND VERY RARE TURQUOISE-INLAID AND JADE-INSET BRONZE AXE, QI
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AN IMPORTANT AND VERY RARE TURQUOISE-INLAID AND JADE-INSET BRONZE AXE, QI

SHANG DYNASTY, C. 1600-1046 BC

Details
AN IMPORTANT AND VERY RARE TURQUOISE-INLAID AND JADE-INSET BRONZE AXE, QI

SHANG DYNASTY, C. 1600-1046 BC
With a gently curved cutting edge and long notched sides, the thin jade blade is pierced with two holes and connected to the bronze socket cast with an openwork taotie mask below the plain nei with a hole and the butt with a turquoise-inlaid taotie mask.
8 1/8 in. (21 cm.) long, box
Provenance
John Sparks, London
Chen’s Curios Co., Taipei
Lantien Shanfang Collection, acquired in Taipei in 1991
Literature
Orientations, April 1992
Nien-Hsi Foundation Taipei 1995 Calendar, April

Condition report

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Lot Essay

First used as weapons during the Erlitou period, jade qi were adapted as ceremonial objects during the Shang and Western Zhou periods. Qi are found in two different shapes, one rectangular, as exemplified by the present lot, the other rounded square, both with notches on the sides. It is extremely rare to find a jade qi fitted with a turquoise-inlaid bronze handle, and there only appears to be one other examples of this type, which is in The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, see Chinese Jades: Archaic and Modern from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, London, 1977, pl. II, fig. b (fig. 1). The present qi is unique for the unusual depiction of a‘dual-mask’ motif. One mask is represented by turquoise inlay on the handle, while the other is on the bronze socket with openwork eyebrows, bulging eyes and an openwork mouth revealing teeth. It is also interesting to note that the style of the handle seen on the current qi is very similar to that found on a type of blade known as yue, such as a bronze example with a ‘Yaqi’ inscription excavated from the tomb of the Shang queen Fu Hao at Yinxu, Anyang, Henan province. The connection between the current qi and yue, supports the view propounded by the Chinese archaeologist Lin Yun (1939-) that ‘qi is a special type of yue, that is essentially a yue with tooth-like notches’. The superb craftmanship and the unusual depiction of a ‘dual-mask’ motif seen on the current qi suggest that it belonged to a person of distinguished status during the Shang dynasty.

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