Cong were made by a number of Neolithic cultures and indeed continued to be made into the early historic period. They were one of the most important jade forms in the Liangzhu Neolithic culture, to which the current cong can probably be dated. C. 2500 BC, this culture flourished in the area around Lake Tai in Jiangsu province. It is noted for the use of jade, and in particular for the development of two forms - the disc bi and the cong. Although the cong is one of the most impressive of Neolithic jade shapes, its function is still not properly understood. It is usually, but not invariably, found together with discs bi in a burial context but the ritual significance cannot yet be ascertained for pieces from this early period.
Enigmatic face designs appear on many of the jade cong from the Liangzhu culture, but on a number of examples these have been simplified to a grouping of raised bars or circles, as on the current example. The height of these jades varies considerably, but usually the number of vertical elements making up their form and design is of an uneven number. In the current case there are nine such elements arranged vertically. Two similar cong, one with seven elements and the other with seventeen from the collection of Sir Joseph Hotung are discussed by J. Rawson in Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, British Museum Press, London, 1995, pp. 128-9, nos. 3:5 and 3:6, respectively. Another similarly shaped and decorated cong is discussed by Sun Zhixin in Chinese Jades, R. Scott (ed.), Colloquies on Art & Archaeology in Asia No. 18, Percival David Foundation, London, 1997, p. 58, pl. 19. This cong from Sidun, Changzhou, Jiangsu province has thirteen vertical elements.