Weathering is a natural process that breaks down all minerals and rocks and eventually transform them into soil. Without weathering there will be only rocks making plants, animals and life as we know it impossible. Such transformation leaves recognizable marks on the jade surface of burial jades as they underwent the same process similar to other minerals and rocks in a natural environment. Under a 40X magnification, these weathering marks including amorphous silicate, phyllocilicate clay, dissolution of nephrite crystals, and formation of iron oxides and iron hydroxides can be clearly seen as demonstrated on the Han disc magnified below.
Chemical weathering on a Han disc under 20X and 40X magnification..
Han disc surface magnified
Chemical weathering in relation to burial nephrite jade.
Weathering can be divided into physical and chemical weathering. Physical weathering refers to rock breaking apart due to natural forces like exposure to wind and water erosion, climatic heat expansion and contraction, shear force of ice and glacial into exfoliation and so on. Chemical weathering is chemical changes of the minerals in the rocks, induced by surface water, oxygen and carbon dioxide of the atmosphere. The result is the break down of minerals chemically and structurally, releasing cations into the environment, and eventually transform rocks into soil. All rocks contain more than one mineral. All minerals form crystal except when they are in the amorphous phase. A mineral is in amorphous phase when it maintains its chemical composition, but has lost its shape and crystal form. It is often seen in the burial jades as the whitish greyish pasty like material on the jade surface, often mistakenly referred to as calcification. Water is the main medium and the main driving force for chemical weathering. Also important are other variables like a hot, cold, dry or wet climate, the composition of parent minerals with different chemicals and crystal structures, and biological changes bring in by surrounding plants, animals and bacteria in the environment. All these make chemical weathering a very complex process. Chemical weathering is a well studied science in Geology, Geochemistry, Mineralogy, Clay Mineral studies, archeology and Environmental Science. Scientific papers on the subject come from scholars around the world. Changes seen on the burial jade surface so far have eluded explanation which underlies the reason why fake burial jades are so profusely produced. Since most burial jades are nephrite, an amphibole, knowing chemical weathering through these scientific papers on the mafic and felsic rocks; rocks and minerals that are iron rich silicates, provides a path for an authentication solution. Information comes mainly from clay mineral and geology scientific literatures. References are listed at the end of this segment.
The first stage of Chemical weathering and the formation of amorphous silicate.
Chemical weathering can be divided in two stages. Both stages can occur at the same time on the same surface of a mineral rock at various degree due to differences on the surface in drainage, micro pores size, and weakness points on the mineral, namely joints and cracks that can affect the chemical weathering effect. The mineral surface has different points of high energy, points where water flows through or retained. In burial jades high energy points are where the jade surface turns or drops off, the recesses and grooves from lines and cuts, and drill holes on the jade piece. These are areas where most weathering effects take place. Dissolution and leaching is the first stage of weathering. As water comes into contact of the mineral surface, it reacts with the chemical by replacing the cations, and in nephrite, calcium, magnesium and iron, that leach out in a higher ratio than the silicate. The result is the loss of cations and the fibrous nephrite crystals lose their shape and become amorphous. Amorphous silicate has a whitish to greyish color and appears pasty on the jade surface. A protonated surface about 10Å is formed. This is the surface where protonation, in other word the chemical reaction, takes place. Of significance is the protonated surface cannot be cleaned by ultrasound treatment, leaving a permanent mark on the jade surface, and a clue for authentication. (Y. Noack, F. Colin, D. Nahon, J. Delvigne, and L. Michaux. Secondary-Mineral formation during Natural weathering of pyroxene: review and thermodynamic approach. American Journal of Science, Vol. 293, February 1993. P. 111 – 134.) Extensive amorphous silicate formation can be seen on the Zhou (1046 – 256 BCE) jade man shown below. Notice the more heavy concentration of the whitish amorphous silicate beside the raised lines. The lines are positive relieves, formed by cutting down on both sides turning both sides into depressed grooves that retain water. Also when the jade piece was made, it creates fine granules from the cutting and drilling. It is well known in the scientific community that by simply breaking the mineral sample, these fine granules form. ( Mechanism of pyroxene and amphibole weathering – 1, Experimental studies of iron free minerals. Jacques Schotts, Robert A Berner and E Lennert Sjoberg; Geochimica et Comochimica Acta Vol.45, pp. 2123 -2135. 1981) These fine granules when meet with water, go into rapid dissolution skewing the scientific data. To clean them requires washing with a Hydrogen fluoride + Sulfuric acid solution. At the time the jade was made, because of the cutting and drilling, the cut lines and drill holes accumulate a large amount of such granules. These depressions also accumulate water and are high energy points. With more water available, rapid dissolution of these fine granules takes place, resulting in high concentration of the amorphous silicate in these depressions giving them a whitish delineated appearance well known in burial jades . The large amount of fine granules and water accumulation in drill holes also result in large amount of substrate inside the drill hole and formation of unusual secondary mineral products as we should see later. This accumulation of fine granules in the recess areas also can be seen on newly made jade pieces, and the higher concentration of the amorphous silicate in recess areas is greatly imitated by the fake jade makers. Notice also the multiple raised relieves on the surface of the jade man, a phenomena that will be discussed later.
Figure 30. Late Zhou to Qin jade man
More amorphous silicate accumulate on grooves from cutting
Weathering in the surface micro pores, a reason for color change in burial jades.
Weathering occurs on the surface as well as in the micro pore – micro crack system. These micro cracks measure 1µm in width, and as weathering continues lens shape etch pits form parallel to the c axis of the crystal. As more etch pits are formed, they coalesce and the micro pores enlarge widen up to 6µm. Changes on the surface is limited by water penetration, only to 0.05 µm to 0.12 µm, and sets a limit on weathering effect on the surface. Exception to this is in areas of large cracks and joints. These weaknesses allow water to penetrate deeper into the mineral as far as these cracks and joints extend. Clay minerals of the smectite group forms. Because of the size of the micro pores, transformation is at the molecular level, by solid state topotactic mechanism, pesudomorph from nephrite to smectite. Pseudomorph is when a mineral changes into another mineral chemically and physically without changing its shape. Smectite is a clay mineral group with at least 15 members. Their color vary from white to green, dark green close to black, yellow and brown. A yellow clayey plasma is formed. As weathering advances, parent mineral disappears inside the etch pits and voids lined by ferruginous material known as microboxworks form. Boxworks, also call Speleothem, are mineral structure formations when mineral erodes away leaving veins of mother mineral. Boxworks are found often in caves as seen in the picture below from the Elk Room, Wind Cave South Dakota. (Picture from the U S Park Service). As microboxworks
form inside the micropores, they can only seen by electron microscopy. Ferruginous projections called pendants extend from the microboxworks into the void. (MICHAEL ANTHONY VELBEL. WEATHERING OF HORNBLENDE TO FERRUGINOUS PRODUCTS BY A DISSOLUTION-REPRECIPITATION MECHANISM: PETROGRAPHY AND STOICHIOMETRY. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta Volume 45, Issue 11, November 1981, Pages 2123-2135.)These microboxwork and pendants exhibit the phenomenon of birefringence, meaning reflective light shine on them can only be seen at a certain angle. Several material exhibit birefringence and crystal is one of them. The specific of birefringence can be used to identify materials especially among minerals. The ferruginous material of the microboxwork are goethite, kaolinite and gibbsite. Smectite can weather into kaolinite. Both are clay minerals and such transformation occurs frequently. Hematite is also frequently found with amphibole weathering depending on the location in the world the parent mineral is from. Hematite is an iron oxide and has color of black, silvery grey, reddish brown and red. Goethite is an iron hydroxide and has color of black, brown, reddish brown and yellow. Kaolinite is a clay mineral with color of white to pale cream and yellow. Smectite has multiple members and they rang from yellow, brown, green and even black, depending on the amount of iron available. These weathering secondary products form inside the micropores and cracks of the nephrite, giving about 0.1 mm of the nephrite surface the color of brown, reddish brown yellow and may even black, the patina color of the burial jades. The Han beast on the left, and the Song frog on the right below have lost their original nephrite color and assume the color of the clay mineral and the iron oxyhydroxide inside their surface micro pores. Chemical weathering is the reason burial jades have such color. Understanding the process is key to identify fakes. When the burial jade pieces are looked at under the microscope obliquely, the color changes from the secondary products can be seen just underneath the surface in the micro pore system, whereas fake jades are dyed from top and remain on the surface.
Figure18. Song frog
Secondary products can be seen spilling out from the micro pores to form pin point dots on the jade surface as on the magnified picture below on the curve surface of the Song frog, more noticeable on the right lower corner of the picture.
Chemical weathering on the nephrite jade surface and formation of ferruginous crust and phyllosilicate clay crystals.
Other than inside the micro pore system, dissolution and leaching also occur on the jade surface resulting in etch pits formation as nephrite crystals dissolve. These pits are shallow due to the limit of water penetration. As in the micropores, when more etch pits are formed, they coalesce and enlarge. Amorphous silicate forms from leaching fills these etch pits. The surface of a Hongshan (4700 -2900 BCE) zoomorphic bird woman shown below demonstrates such effect. Notice that on the upper and lower part of the magnified picture on the right shows formation of phyllosilicate which has a yellowish shinny and grease like color with a reddish tint, an indication iron oxyhydroxide also present as weathering advances into the phyllosilicate / oxyhydroxide stage. Phyllosilicates are clay minerals which are silicates with a sheet like crystal structure. They can be divided into 1:1 or 2:1 clay, meaning, to put it simply, is that their structure can be 2 sheets which the Kaolin group belongs to, or 3 sheets which the smectite group belongs to. Recognizing phyllosillicate is important since they are frequently found on the surface of the burial jades.
Figure 67. Female bird zoomorphic.
Etch pits fill with amorphous silicate
With time and availability of water and oxygen in the enviroment, smectite forms a brown to yellow pasty plasma on the surface. This plasma like material forms a thin filament crust on top. According to a Polish study, this filament measures 20-30 µm, about 0.2 – 0.3 mm. Because it is transparent, the presence of this filament is hard to recognize till you come across some of the jade pieces that were dropped in the past resulting in cracking of this crust. On one Liangzhgu disc (3400-2250 BC) with a diameter of 2 inches, such filament can be demonstrated. Like all Liangzhu discs, this disc is carved only on one side. The underside is flat. On the front, it slopes down abrutly when it comes to the side making a very sharp edge. Under the microscope, cracks can be seen on a whitish yellowish crust filament that covers the whole jade piece. A small piece of the filament is lost, and through this window, the real jade surface can now be seen (see pictures below). Without the cracks, even under the microscope, it is difficult to recognize this crusty filament. The presence of this filament makes the jade surface looks like it has depth, as if it is under water when look through the microscope.
Figure 39. Liangzhu disc with cracks on the crust.
Figure 41. Magnification from figure 40.
Natural nephrite obtain from an alluvial mine of dried up river bed are encased in a rock like crust formed from a process called encrustation pseudomorph. ( Picture below).
As soon as jade pieces were buried inside a tomb, this encrustation pseudomorph process began. This crust takes hundreds of thousand years to develop, at an estimate 50 thousand years for half a cm. The longest burying time for Chinese burial jade is 7000 years. So the changes observed on the burial jade surface comes only from the early stage of this encrustation pseudomorph process as the buried jade forming the crust. Changes in association with this process occur. With available iron, Goethite/Hematite inclusion form inside the filament as seen on the back of this Zhou jade man below. These inclusions on the burial jade surface are superficial, form within the
Zhou kneeling man
smectite plasma filament when free iron from leaching is available. Black Hematite inclusions are also seen in this Han thin dragon below. Black inclusion are more
Han thin dragon
frequently found than red inclusions. Below is a Zhou jade bird with red inclusions within the plasma layer on his crown. Red inclusions are also likely hematite.
With progression of the weathering process, sheet like phyllocate (clay crystal), forms on the surface of the jade. They are more solid looking and less grease like as in the amorphous sillicate. These sheet like structures layer out and can have a reddish tint to solid reddish color indicating the presence of iron as seen on the Liangzhu (3400 – 2250 BC) disc below. Notice the demarcation of the phyosillicate (clay crystal) coming down from the upper left corner on the magnified photograph.
Figure 92. Liangzhu butterfly plaque with two god beasts.
Edge of phyllosilicate coming down from upper left corner
Some crystal form a vein like structure as on this Hongshan (4700 -2900 BC) pig dragon beast shown below. These are phyllosilicate clay crystals form on the surface. The formation of this uneven layer makes the surface appear it has holes on them, as
Vein like phyllosilicate
fake jade makers sand blast the surface to imitate. To appreciate this raised phyllosilicate layer the jade piece needs to be tilted to look at the surface obliquely. Only obliquely that many changes on the surface can be seen. The Xia (2700-1600 BCE) axe shown below has indistinct carvings on the surface easily contributed to aging as the cause of the loss of image clarity. Under the microscope, the reason becomes clear. The whole surface is under cover by a hard crust of clay crystal material. The raised nature of this clay
Crusty Phyllosilicate clay crystal
phyllosilicate crystal crust can be better seen if the axe is look at obliquely as below.
The brownish discoloration seen on the axe is due to iron presentation as black specs of hematite inclusions and silvery metal deposits are seen under the microscope (pictures below). The hair like patch on the right upper corner is not an artifact, as it can be found
in several other burial jade pieces. The Xia bracelet shown below also has such hair like crystal structures.
The exact nature of this structure is unclear. The closest resemblance is the illite crystal, a non expandable clay.
The presence of clay mineral on the surface of burial jades as a secondary product of chemical weathering, results in a well known phenomenon. It has long been known that some of the burial jades process an odor commonly referred to as the ‘tomb odor’. The odor does not come from the tomb, but from the clay produced on the jade. Clay is one of the few minerals that give out an odor. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-odors-of-minerals/ As clay material is formed on the surface of burial jades from chemical weathering, under certain conditions, such clay will give out an odor that jade collectors are so familiar with, and so mistaken with its origin.
Iron oxide mineral crystal formation on jade surface and in drill holes.
The clay phyllosilicate crystals are greyish in color and sheet like. They are however not the only product from chemical weathering as ferruginous materials are also produced from the weathering process, resulting in iron oxide and hydroxide minerals on the burial jade surface. Below is a Liangzhu plaque covered by a red crust, an indication of
iron. ( As a side note, this plaque is very important in Chinese history, as it can easily link the Hongshan and the Liangzhu culture to the Shang culture, integrating the Chinese culture into a truly 7,000 years one linage descence.) Under the microscope the red mineral forms crystal comparable to natural Hematite mineral as seen on a sample
Natural Hematite has silvery metal deposits shown clearly in the middle of the sample above. These type of metal deposits are also frequently found on surface of burial jades. The Liangzhu bead below shows such deposit on the upper right of the magnified
Liangzhu bead with metal deposit
Metal deposit on upper right
photo. These metal deposits appear as droplets, and they all show the birefringence effect, seen only at a certain angle, making finding them a difficult task at time. Below is a Zhou comb that also has the metal droplets on its surface, seen at the center of the magnified view below .
Metal droplets in association with the Hematite formation is not the only metallic finding on the burial jade surface. Small pin point like metallic shine with a bright golden yellow color are often seen on Han or older pieces. Unlike the droplets, which appear at random, these metal shines always appear in a line, be it curve or straight, and like the droplets, they also exhibit the birefringence effect. The presence of such lines can be demonstrated on the Hongshan beast below, seen in the middle of the magnified view.
Hongshan beast with metallic line
Tiny metallic points forming a line.
This type of metallic line formation can also seen on the Han beast below. The exact
Han beast with metallic line.
nature of these metallic points line is uncertain. However since they always appear in a line, they probably are related to the cleavages of the nephrite jade.
As weathering products form on the jade surface they crystalize. Within the drill holes due to the presence of large amount of fine granules from the drilling, and the larger amount of water available, result in a large amount of ferruginous substrate inside a cave like space, and needle like Hematite crystal forms. Below is a Hongshan bird with a worm on its head. Within the drill hole, needle Hematite crystal forms. This is not the
only Hongshan piece that has such crystal formation, indicating such crystals can be found in many genuine Hongshan pieces. Other crystal formations on the surface are more difficult to understand, like on this Hongshan birdman below.
Hongshan bird man
Unknown crystal formation
Effect of cleaning on jade surface.
Chinese jade collectors have always divided collectable jades into unearthed jades (出土玉), and jades from hereditary (傳世玉), It is difficult to understand why should there be such a division and what puts them apart, until the jades are looked at under the microscope. The unearthed ones retain all the markings from weathering, whereas the hereditary ones were cleaned by previous owners. What can be cleaned on the surface are the clay and ferruginous crust. Once this crust is removed, the protonated layer where the chemical reaction of the weathering process took place is exposed. The protonated layer cannot be clean even with ultra sound cleaning. Also the patina color of the burial jade, caused by the clay and ferruginous material produced inside the surface micro pores cannot be cleaned. Below is a Xia mask that has been cleaned in the
Xia mask previously cleaned with removal of the clay and ferruginous crust. The protonated layer and the patina color caused by the clay and ferruginous material in the surface micro pores cannot be cleaned.
Reminant of the crust can be seen on the lip and the left side of the nose.
past with removal of the clay and ferruginous crust. The patina which results from the clay and ferruginous material inside the surface micro pores remains unchanged. Also note the protonated layer on the nose. In spite of the cleaning, remanents of the crust are frequently found, left behind in recess or obscure areas, as seen on the left side of the nose and the lip of the mask. Remanent of the crust is more pronounce on a thoroughly cleaned Han beast below, left behind notably on its left tail. Removing the crust also
Remanent of crust magnified.
Remanent of crust on left tail
exposes other markings from weathering as seen on the Han cicada below. Notice the loss of mineral crystal material on its right side of its head, both eyes and back, from the leaching and dissolution stage of weathering, resulting in shallow etch pits as if a small piece of the skin was removed, and formation of the protonated layer where the chemical reaction took place (on the magnified view).
Han cicada with loss of crystal material from the leaching and dissolution stage.
Loss of mineral from leaching and dissolution with frmation of etch pits and protonated layer.
How much burial jades can be cleaned, and whether they can be returned to their original nephrite luster is controversial. The National Museum in Beijing China has done just that showing several of their burial jades pieces returned to their original nephrite color. This promptly leads to Western archeological communities criticism, that such feat is impossible and suspicion that these are newly made fakes. The patina color change is due to the chemical weathering effects on the surface of the burial jade. Due to the limit of water penetration, such effect only limits to the surface 0.1 mm or so. It is therefore possible to grind off this topical 0.1 mm and the jade should return to its original nephrite color. However by doing so will also eliminate much of the details of the surface carving. The value of the burial jades lies not in the nephrite, but in the art and spirit of the carving thatreflects the thinking and culture of the carvers, people of the period of time. Any damage done to the carving will result in great loss. Further more, markings left from the chemical weathering are the strongest proof, and may be the only proof that the jade piece is authentic. Removing these markings by grinding the surface will render the piece losing all its identity, and hence no difference from a piece made nowadays.
Raised relief on nephrite jade artifact, what it is and confirmation of chemical weathering on Nephrite jades.
The only scientific article exploring burial nephrite jade with regard to geologic mineral changes is “Raised relief on nephrite jade artifacts: observations, explanations and implications. Journal of Arcaeological Science, 40 (2013) 943-954.” by Frederick A. Cook. This is truly an excellent pioneer work in this field that deserves all the respects given to a true insight into the chemical weathering on burial jades. In this article Professor Cook investigates the notion that raised relief can be found on the surface of burial nephrite jades, and the presence of such relief if proven genuine, can be used to confirm the authenticity of the artifact. The article provides confirmation to observations already discussed in this writing. However it also posts other questions that are worth looking into. The article divides the raise relief into two categories. One is a raised crystal, often single, but can be in groups. The other is a patch or areas higher and above the observed jade surface. These patches contain no raised crystal as in the other group, but are made up with fibrous normal nephrite crystals. Judging from the pictures of the artifact specimens in the article, one can easily see that all artifactsexcept number 4 the Neolithic Bi disc, and number 6 the circular bowl with a stand, the surface has been previously cleaned. (One side note is that judging from the bird headed hunter on the circular bowl, as compared to the bird headed people on the Han disc posted at the beginning of this chemical weathering writing, the circular bowl should be a Han piece and not Tang.) The patches being referred to as raised relief appear to be the remnant of the clay phyllosilicate crust left behind after the previous cleaning. The crust is above the surface, but certainly is not raised, a reason why underneath the patch normal fibrous nephrite crystals are found. Of some interest is specimen number 4, the Neolithic Bi Disc. This disc was not cleaned, and phyllosilicate clay on the surface is obvious, easily seen especially on the magnified view. Part of the disc was under cover from another disc. As a result less water was available on the part of the disc under cover, and that part of the disc has far less weathering effect, and hence far less clay phyllosilicate on the covered part of the disc surface, demonstrating the importance of water in chemical weathering.
Of the two groups, group one has the true raised relief, jades with a crystal on and above the nephrite jade surface. Raised relief are not frequently found, only may be on 5% of the burial jades. When it occurs, they usually are multiple, as seen on the picture of specimen 6 in the Raised Relief article, the circular bowl with a stand. Also by scrolling back to the top third figure of this writing, the Zhou jade man, one can see the raised relief on the surface are also multiple. Multiplicity of the raised relief is also the case on the three Hongshan jade pieces shown below. The first one is a squatting monster man
Multiple raised relief.
Figure32. Hongshan zoomorphic with raised relief.
with its raised relief magnified shown below. Notice the similarity of the raised relief on the monster man and those found on the circular bowl on figure 6.
Figure33. Magnified zoomorphic surface.
The next is a C-dragon with raised relief as shown below. When comparing the raised relief on the C-dragon and the monster man, one should put into consideration that the C- dragon measures 15 cm in length, whereas the monster man is only 4 cm in height. The size of the raised relief on the two pieces may be comparable. There are however differences between the two types of raised relieves. Those on the c-dragon are black
with silvery metal deposit on many of them, whereas those on the monster man are lighter in color with no metal deposit found. The third raised relief example is on a squatting beast shown below. The raised relief on the beast are also different from the
Figure 37. Hongshan zoomorphic pseudomorph
raised relief on the other two Hongshan pieces. Unlike those on the other two that are crystals in a cluster, those on the squatting beast are individual crystals. They also differ in texture, smooth with a Smokey semi transparent color and no metal deposit, a resemblance to Smoke Quartz. The differences between the raised relief on all three pieces indicate that they are probably different mineral crystals. There may be more than one kind of crystal forming raised relief.
The raised relief was thoroughly investigated scientifically in the article. Thin slides made from specimen 6, the bowl with stand, were chosen for petrographic microscopy and electron microprobe examination and analysis. The raised relief selected is a single pyroxene crystal, a diopside on the jade surface. There are other diopside crystals found, all at or near the surface of the bowl. The assumption is that these pyroxene crystals are formed during the nephrite metamorphic formation. As the nephrite was pushed from the crust of the earth to the surface, hydrothermal alteration continues the alteration of the diopside to tremolite. Since the pyroxene was present during metamorphism when the nephrite was formed, it has to be inside the nephrite before the jade piece was carved. If such is the case, the diopside should be found any where inside the nephrite, and should not only be at or near the surface. One interesting finding is that the red brown color on the surface of the bowl is limited to 0.1-0.2 mm of the surface, a finding consistent with the changes result from chemical weathering inside the surface micro pores due to the limit of water penetration as already discussed.
The raised relief is a large crystal, in this case a diopside, intersecting the surface, and surrounded by fibrous nephrite crystals. The nephrite crystals are in two forms, a coarse altered form found immediate to the diopside crystal, which in turn are surrounded by the more fine fibrous tremolite crystals. It is felt that the diopside crystal is altering into tremolite crystals, as in hydrothermal alteration, resulting in the tremolite fibrous mass. The diopside crystal shows twinning with coarse tremolite veins in between. Of more revealing are the electron microprobe analysis. (figure 11-12, table 2) Other than the diopside crystal and the fine and coarse tremolite crystals, hydrous phase material and chlorite are found. Because the hydrous phase materials are high in aluminum and magnesium it is determined that the hydrous materials are clay minerals, and chlorite will eventually alter into it. Of interest to note is that the altered tremolite, the hydrous phase material, and the chlorite are all high in iron oxide (FeO). The conclusion is that the clay is expansive. The expansion of the clay increases the volume resulting the diopside being pushed to the jade surface forming the raised relief. This conclusion is reasonable. However it does post some questions. The pushing due to the expansion of the clay is mechanical, and not gravitational dependent. Further more when the jades were buried, they were placed face up or down or side way. So the diopside crystal can be pushed in any direction and not necessary towards the surface. This assumption cannot explain why all the raised relief are at the surface of the jade. Also a well known fact about the expansive clay is that found around building foundations. The expansion can cause cracking of the foundations leading to crumbling of the building. Clay expansion within the jade should create large cracks around the diopside crystal. Micro cracks sre found in the round bowl specimen. Micro cracks are known to form during chemical weathering. The diameter of the micro pores on the nephrite are 1µ – 2 µ. Leaching and dissolution during chemical weathering leads to enlargement of the micro pores to 5µ and formation of micro cracks. Expansion and pushing should create much larger cracks, and with thousands of years of burial and pushing, may even lead to dislodgment of the diopside leaving behind a void. Such are not found leaving more questions to the assumption of clay expansion theory.
Excellent studies were done on the bowl with a stand specimen. Clearly the nephrite crystals around the diopside are altering. The assumption here is the diopside is altering into nephrite as in the metamorphic process under a hydrothermal effect. Hydrothermal activity in China concentrates in the south west. The rest of the country where the nephrite jades were buried has minimal hydrothermal activity especially in the north east where the Hongshan jades were buried, making encountering hydrothermal fluid highly unlikely. There is no doubt however that the nephrite crystals around the diopside are under going alternation. One other explanation is that the raised relief is a pseudomorph process. Pseudomorph takes place in surface temperature and pressure and it can also exhibit twinning. The tremolite crystals are altering into diopside. In other word all raised relief are alternation pseudomorphs after Tremolite. Pseudomorph alteration also explains why all raised relief are found at the surface. Two examples of pseudomorphs are shown below for comparison to the burial jade raise relief, a limonite pseudomorph after Siderite,
and a copper pseudomorph after aragonite. (picture from James St John, Wikipedia.) Regardless of what the raised relieves are, its presence should confirm the authenticity of the burial jade.
The article studies confirm nephrite chemical weathering secondary products. Chlorite has been reported, and it eventually alters into clay minerals Smectite and Kaolinite. The secondary products have also been described as ferruginous because of the high iron content. Iron secondary minerals are iron oxide Hematite, and iron hydroxide Goethite. MICHAEL ANTHONY VELBEL. WEATHERING OF HORNBLENDE TO FERRUGINOUS PRODUCTS BY A DISSOLUTION-REPRECIPITATION MECHANISM: PETROGRAPHY AND STOICHIOMETRY. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta Volume 45, Issue 11, November 1981, Pages 2123-2135.
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13. Jacques Schott. X-ray photoelectron studies of the mechanism of iron silicate dissolution during weathering. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta Volume 47, Issue 12, December 1983, Pages 2233-2240.
Jade in China has an 8,000-year history since the Neolithic time. Any stone with beauty is referred to as jade, and as nephrite is the one most available in China, has always been referred to as such. The importance of mutton fat white nephrite as jade was gradually replaced by green jadeite since its importation from Myanmar 250 years ago. Yet since before the Ming Dynasty nephrite is the only jade, nephrite will be the subject of discussion here. The distinction between nephrite and jadeite is important because they undergo a different chemical weathering pathway when buried and weathering chemical secondary products on the jade surface provides proof of period genuineness.
Throughout the Chinese history, different period has different representation of the period culture. Foundations of Chinese Art: From Neolithic pottery to modern Architecture. William Willetts. Thames and Hudson. London. 1965. In the Neolithic time, the Hongshan and Liangzhu cultures was jade. The Shang and Zhou Dynasties was bronze, with Han Dynasty lacquer wares and silk. Grey limestone Buddha statues, cave murals, and glazed pottery statues associated with the Tang Dynasty, and porcelain during the Ming and Qing Dynasty. Only jade broke through such period boundary and became the sole representation and symbol of the Chinese culture. Yet in different period, jade also has different styles, forms, and function, distinctly associates with the period culture. During the Neolithic time, the Hongshan and Liangzhu cultures, jade was regarded high in the spiritual realm, a medium between the ancestor kings and the shaman rulers. It deeply expressed religious beliefs and hence were important items in ritual and burial. Such spiritual association established the belief that jade has a mythical power that can protect both spiritually and morally, a belief that lasts till today. During the Shang and Zhou period, jade continued with the religious significance, but gradually became an expression of class distinction and wealth. As religious significance became less, class distinction and wealth expression became more. Jade decorated Han nobilities elaborately in life and at death. After Han, jade underwent a mark change. Absorbing Central Asian influence, jade even though remained as objects of the elites, became integrated into daily life. Jade items for daily necessities like plates for belt decoration, cups, dishes, and vases started to appear in Tang Dynasty. Significant influences also came from Buddhism and Taoism as both religions flourished in Tang China. Jade eventually lost all its religious significance and became objects of value for anyone who could afford and appreciate it, as decorative art objects and personal jewelries. In the occasional burial use, Jade was regarded rather as wealth with minimal religious significance.
The Tang Dynasty was one of the prosperous periods in Chinese history, due to trading with Central Asia through the Silk Road. The Silk Road also brought in religious and philosophical thinking leading to the meeting and acceptance of cultures from foreign lands. Religions of The Silk Road, Premodern Patterns of Globalization. Richard Foltz. 1999. Palgrave Macmillan. After the Han Dynasty, China underwent a chaotic, frequent warring period, starting with the Three Kingdoms (189CE -262CE), through the Sixteen Kingdoms of the five Barbarians (304CE – 439CE), and the North and South Dynasties (420 CE – 589 CE). A History of Chinese Civilization(illustrated, reprint, revised ed.). Jacques Gernet (1996). Cambridge University Press. The Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Barbarians and the North and South Dynasties, together known as the period of the Six Dynasties (222CE – 589 CE), was confusing and chaotic, but was also the time northern non-Han tribes and kingdoms mingled and eventually integrated culturally and ethnically into the Chinese society opening China to a new page into the Tang Dynasty. No doubt such change was significant as China subsequently was converted into Buddhism, a mark change from the ancestor king and ancestor worship of the Han and pre-Han religious belief.
Buddhism came to China during the first and second century BCE in the Han Dynasty. Before it came to China, Buddhism had already associated with a Greco element when the Seleucid Empire from the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great formed an alliance with the Indian Maurya Empire and established the Greco-Buddhism Bactrim Kingdom (250 BCE-125 BCE) that eventually became the Greco-Indian Kingdom of Yavanas (180 BCE-10 CE). The Yuechi, an Indo-European people in Northwestern China after the defeat by the Xiongnu, moved west to the Bactrim area and eventually established the Kushan Empire (30 CE- 375 CE) (貴霜). The Silk Road served as the conduit introducing the Greco element and Buddhism into China through the activity of trading. Religions of The Silk Road, Premodern Patterns of Globalization. Richard Foltz. 1999. Palgrave Macmillan. Such influence left marks on the Chinese culture reflecting on the Tang jade as we shall later see. The Tang period is more notable for silver wares, Buddhist sculptures and glazed pottery and jade is not known as a Tang accomplishment. In known excavated sites, jade is seldom found. Among the over two thousand relics in the most noted Tang excavation in Hejiacun in Shannsi, only twelve pieces were jade, with the remain silver and gold metal wares. Yet jade in the Tang dynasty has its own style and character, distinct from other periods and can stand out on its own.
Exploring the Chinese culture through the buried nephrites, one must realize the hazard associates with it. Forgery is notorious in the field. Images that posted online are near 100% fake and same can be said on pictures of jade in many self-proclaimed reference books. Using fake jades to explore historic culture of China is not only misleading, but also can cause harm by distorting facts. Ensuring the nephrite jades are genuine is essential, and to do that one has to understand how these nephrites were made. With that knowledge the tool marks left behind on the jade surface can be examined to ensure the jade piece was made with period tools. Also important are the chemical weathering effect. Nephrite when buried under the soil produced secondary chemical weathering products that are distinguishable. Both the tool marks and weathering products on the jade surface are not reproducible by fake jade makers at the present time and identifying them provides some assurance of the genuineness of the nephrites. Both effects can be observed clearly under a 40X stereo microscope and will be demonstrated on all pieces presented here.
Chinese Jade carving technique from Neolithic to Han
There is no recorded account of how jade was made in China until the Ming Dynasty when Song Yingxing published his book “Tiangong Kaiwu” (The Exploitation of the Works of Nature) in 1637. The book is an encyclopedia study of Chines technology of the time on all walk of life, in it also a detail description of jade making. Jade made before the Han Dynasty has very few tools make left on the surface to be observed. The account in Tiangong Kaiwu provides some clues of how earlier jade was made. Due to the hardness of nephrite, Mohs 6 to 6.5, very few materials were available to use for jade making. One thing for sure, the most important and the principal tool used in every step from cutting to grinding and polishing was the abrasive. Abrasive is made by grinding up hard stones like flint, quartz, agate, and nephrite, mixed with water or vegetable oil to make an emulsion. Only the abrasive with a hardness Mohs scale about 7, was hard enough to cut into the nephrite. From the Neolithic time till when the electric diamond tip drills were available, abrasive combining with various tools and techniques was the main way to make jade in China.
Jade came at the dawn of Chinese civilization and many superb jade pieces were made in the Neolithic time, in the Hongshan and Liangzhu cultures. Using a string with abrasive application, the jade material was first cut into appropriate size and shape. It was then grinded down with stone, wood, and animal bones with abrasive, to give facial, hands, and feet features. This results in features being delineated with wide and shallow grooves instead of lines (Figure 1). Facial features are unique with bulging eyes
nose. The jade surface is well polished likely with fine abrasive resulting in little to no tool mark. Few engraving lines were used on the Hongshan jade with exception on the pig dragon where the mouth and eyes were marked with lines (Figure 2).Engraved
lines link the two eyes giving the pig dragon a look as if it is wearing a pair of spectacles, unique in Hongshan beasts. There are more engraved lines used on the Liangzhu jades (Figure 3). These narrow lines are straight and fine leading to speculations of how
these lines were inscribed, with one speculation that these lines were inscribed with shark tooth. However, it is more likely such lines were made with animal bone tools. Bone tools were used in China since the Paleolithic time illustrated in the article Paleolithic Bone Tools found from South China, Chinese Academy of Sciences. March 2, 2016. Phys.org. Paleolithic bone tools found from South China (phys.org) Both shark tooth and animal bones have the same Mohs hardness of 5 and with nephrite Mohs hardness 6-6.5, the help with Mohs scale 7 abrasive is essential. Using the bone made awls such lines can be easily engraved illustrating bone tools were important part of Neolithic jade making in China.
The most pronounce tool marks are found in drill holes and most drill holes are the through and through kind, likely for hanging of the jade piece. Some drill holes are drilled from only one side for the purpose of inserting a handle. Figure 4 is a hole drilled for such purposed found on the back of a Hongshan piece. Notice the shallow and irregular circular marks on the side wall of the hole.
These marks are left by the coarse abrasive driven in by the turning bone drill. The movement of the abrasive in an emulation resulted in irregular circular marks as on the drill hole wall. The edge of the bottom of the drill hole is depressed compared to the rest of the bottom, (red arrows) leading to a speculation at one time that the drill used was a piece of hollow bamboo. Bamboo is too soft for drilling into nephrite. It is also not strong enough to withstand the constant twisting that drilling requires. Animal long bones with the ends cut off will have a hollow center very much like that of a piece of bamboo, but hard and strong enough to withstand drilling into nephrite. Long bones when used as a drill will leave a mark with a depressed edge at the bottom. After the removal of the core left behind on the bottom a smoothing of it will result in a drill hole as in figure 4.
Some of the early drill holes on Chinese nephrite are drilled from both sides and they taper to the center presenting a puzzle as why they are drill this way. The reason is simply because the drilled used was a piece of animal long bone like the arm or thigh bone (humerus or femur) together with large amount coarse abrasive mixed with water. As the bone drill went down drilling, the friction created between the drill, abrasive, and the drill hole side wall decreased the diameter of the bone drill. The further the drill went down the smaller the diameter of the bone drill became. With the diameter of the drill smaller the drill hole also became smaller resulted in tapering to the center. The diameter of animal long bone tends to be in ratio of the length of the bone. If the drill hole is small the length of the bone will be short, and it may not reach to the other side of the drill hole. Fortunately, all animal long bones are in pair. Another bone drill of similar diameter is always available and can be used to drill from the other side. When the two sides meet in the center, a small notch is formed from the slight misalignment and the result of a drill hole tapering to the center without the knowledge or intention of the carver.
Drill holes especially on the Liangzhu jades are mostly drilled from both sides regardless the length. For many of the shorter drill holes, the reason of drilling from both sides cannot be that the bone drill is not long enough. When drilling with a modern-day electric drill and a steel drill bite, the drill bite goes down next to the wall of the drill hole and out directly on the other side. The drill hole is perfectly round, and the hole is straight and can be viewed from one side to the other. Drilling in the Neolithic time with a bone drill required a large amount of abrasive. Instead of the drill touching the side wall during the drilling, there was a thick layer of emulsion of abrasive mixture in between. The abrasive water mixture allowed the bone drill to move sideways during the drilling. Such movement resulted in the drill hole of antique jades not perfectly round and closer to oval (Figure 5, 6 and drill holes on figures 9, 10, and 11). The movement of the drill also made the exit to the other side unpredictable, and not
perfectly on the exact opposite side. This resulted in the two sides being unevenly lopsided, with one side higher or lower, and or more forward or backward than on the other side. If the drill hole were for hanging, the jade piece would be unevenly hung. To
compensate, the carver after the hole was half drilled, drilled from the appropriate place from the other side to ensure the two holes were evenly placed. Drilling from both sides also safe guarded human error of misjudgments of the carvers. Figure 6 is a Liangzhu three bird disc. On the back, one of the holes was drilled initially to halfway (Figure 7). The carver then drilled from the
front of the disc at the appropriate place where the hole also formed the eye of the bird (Figure 8). The two sides supposed to meet at the middle of the drill hole. Looking from the back, the mistake of the initial hole from the back, a human error by the carver becomes obvious (Figure 7 red arrow). The three holes on the disc if were just for the eyes of the birds, they did not need to be
drilled through and through. These holes probably had more function like attachment to headdresses or clothing as an ornament. In such case precise placement of both holes was essential and drilling from both sides was the only way to assure the correct location of the two holes on both sides. Movement of the drill in the drill hole also resulted in the hole tunnel not straight and looking from one side of the hole cannot fully view the other side. (see figure 5 and figure 8). To view the hole on the other side often the whole jade piece needs to be tilted. Also notice the shallow and irregular circular shape drill marks on the entrance of the drill holes on figure 7 and figure 8.
After the Neolithic time, jade carving in China can be roughly divided into two periods, before and after Han. Before Han, the Shang and Zhou period, jade making was very much a continuation of the Neolithic technique. Again, the material was first cut down to size and shape with line cutting. It was then grinded down to appropriate desire shape. Such technique also left little tool mark on the surface. Lines are utilized more often to delineate features and design. These lines were made by grinding down the sides to make them stand out rather than engraved in. Most of the Shang jades are flat with lines raised above the jade surface (Figures 9, 10 and 11). These lines are straight, uniform in width, with both sides of the line parallel. The line can expand out to
form a structure like the bird’s leg of the hair pin in figure 9. One can also say the same on the bird’s head and its comb as lines also expand into knobs at the terminal. The lines on figure 11 parrot expand out to form specific designs. Such line expansion is unique in Shang jades and so are the notches at the edge of the parrot crown in figure 11. Because the lines are raised, the more depressed area next to the lines accumulate amorphic silicate from weathering during burial. The greyish white amorphic silicate outlines the lines and makes the lines more stand out, giving the Shang jade as well as the Zhou jade a distinct look.
Jade carving in Zhou differs only in style and form from the Shang period. There are more round carved pieces in Zhou than in Shang. After the cutting to size and shape, the whole piece was carved by grinding leaving minimal tool mark on the surface. Like the Shang jades the Zhou jades are decorated fully with patterns unique for the period. The lines used are more raised above the surface than those on the Shang jades, into raised relief. These lines are straight, neatly constructed, and uniform in width throughout (Figure 12, 13, 14). Since these lines are formed by grinding down the side of the lines making the side lower than the line itself, and therefore becomes a place for accumulation of greyish white amorphic silicate, the secondary chemical weathering product produced during the 3000 years burial. The combination of raised lines and greyish white amorphic silicate gives the Shang and Zhou a unique look for identification. Most fake jade makers use carved in lines instead of the raised lines because it is easier to make. Jade pieces with carved in lines and called itself Shang and Zhou are fakes.
The jade making revolution of the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE)
There is no written record of how jade was made in China until Song Yingxing published “Tiangong Kaiwu” (The Exploitation of the Works of Nature) in 1637 during the Ming Dynasty. “Tiangong Kaiwu” is an encyclopedia of technology on all walks of life in China from farming, iron making, textile to gun powder making and their applications. In it a detail description of how jade was made with an extensive pictorial explanation. The process involved abrasive in all steps, starting with cutting the jade material with line or saw to size and shape. Instead of grinding down by hand, a spinning wheel was used. The spinning wheel was made of iron or wood and came in various sizes (Figure 15). Mounted on a grinding table and powered by foot paddles, the wheel was applied to the jade to be carved. As the wheel spin, an emulation of abrasive was added. The purpose of the wheel was to hold the
abrasive, and by pushing the spinning wheel against the mounted jade, as indicated by the counterweight on the wheel on figure 15, allowed the wheel to push the abrasive cutting into the hard jade surface. Notice the various size of wheels on the table behind, and the iron pot holding the abrasive emulation on the stool next to the carver. On the grinding table are a small hammer and an anvil, likely for minor chipping. The first step was to use the larger iron wheel and coarse abrasive for initial rough cutting. By going back and forth with the wheel the excess material was carved out to the rough shape desired. Next, by using a smaller iron wheel and finer abrasive, the finer detail and pattern of design was carved out. To polish, a wood wheel covered with dried gourd was used. The final step was buffing with a wood wheel lined with animal skin. All the wheel linings are seen hanging on the wall above the spinning wheels on figure15. Much finer abrasive was used for the polishing and buffing. After the polishing and buffing with fine abrasive, most of the tool marks on the jade surface are removed except within grooves and depressed areas like within or between engraved lines, and at the undersurface of the jade piece where polishing and buffing were difficult to get at, tracks made by the wheel and tool marks can still be found.
The description of the spinning wheel was written during the Ming Dynasty with no report of when the spinning wheel was first used. However, the spinning wheel leaves unique marks on the jade surface and these are clearly seen on the Han jades making the Han jades widely different from the Shang and Zhou. Lines used on Han are no longer carefully crafted out as raised reliefs like those on the Shang and Zhou and become casually carved into the jade surface. Figure 16 is a Han beast and figure 17 is a line on the beast surface under a 40X enlargement under a microscope. The neat and orderly raised relief lines now become uneven, wavy,
and disorderly. The side of the lines are no longer parallel and some part of the line wider than others. (Figure 18). The lines are cut in negative lines, a mark different from Shang and Zhou. Track marks made by the spinning wheels are now visible under the
microscope. Figure 19 is a Han owl. Compared to the more elaborate Shang Zhou carvings, the owl is more simple and crude. On figure 20, are track marks left by the spinning wheel showing between the red arrows the width of the wheel and marks left behind
by the abrasive in between. The wheel went back and forth resulting in more than one track mark with some crisscrossing from each other’s. Because the line itself is engraved in, it is lower than the jade surface, and greyish white amorphic silicate now is inside the line rather than on both sides of the line as on the Shang Zhou jades. The whitish amorphic silicate covers up the reddish iron rich Hematite inside the line. Outside and on both sides of the line the reddish Hematite is more prominent forming a slightly raised thicken crust.
The spinning wheel not only can leave marks on the jade surface like those on figure 20. The hesitancy of the carver can result in a specific track mark like those on figure 21 Han beast. The carver continued to pedal keeping the wheel turning. By slowing pushing the jade piece forward, a halfmoon like depression can form on the track, like those formed by a spinning wheel stuck in mud (Figure 22).
The power from the foot pedals is far greater than using hands for grinding and as a result the fast-spinning wheel and the power associates with it create a problem in controlling the carving. The speed and the power of the cutting enable the carver to work in haste resulting in carved lines become broken with chipping and extrusion into the jade outside of the lines as seen on figure 23 from the figure 21 Han beast. This is more frequently seen in circular arcs where the turning curve is tight. Such appearance on the jade surface is typical from the spinning wheel carving providing clue of the tool used. The spinning wheel also turns the neat and orderly Shang and Zhou carved raised relief lines into perfunctory.
The loss of the regularity and neatness into irregularity and free hand sloppiness has been described as the Han eight cuts. Eight is referred to the Chines figure eight (八) with one side wider than the other. It has also been described as crude, rough, and free, all fit perfectly into the Han jade carving description. The grinding table can turn to allow the spinning wheel to cut into the jade at an angle to create layers. Figure 24 is an enlargement of the area between the head and neck on the figure 16 Han beast. To carve this, the grinding table need to be tilted to allow the wheel to cut at an angle underneath.
The extensive use of the spinning wheel to carve jade no doubt was in the Han Dynasty. But there is indication that the spinning wheel was invented in the Zhou period. Figure 25 is a bear with raised relief lines, a Zhou design pattern and with a look of a Zhou
Dynasty jade bear. Under the microscope it tells a different story. On both sides of these raised lines are distinct spinning wheel marks indicating that these lines were not caved out by grinding down the sides, but with the spinning wheel cutting (Figure 26).
The underside of the bear is also not typical of a Zhou jade with unevenly cut groves of the Han and not the smooth grinded down Zhou type carving (Figure 27). In other word, this is a Zhou jade bear carved out with the spinning wheel. There are two
possibilities. One is the bear was carved in Zhou period with the newly invented spinning wheel. Another possibility is that the bear was caved in Han in the Zhou design, an imitation of the previous period. Figure 28 shows a portion of the curve line on the
bear. The wheel went off the track at the curve (shown by red arrows), but it did not break or chipped the jade like that on figure 23. What it shows is that the spinning wheel used on the bear has less speed and power than the one used on the Han beast and more likely that the bear was carved in the Zhou period using a newly invented less powerful spinning wheel. Also, judging from the spinning wheel was so widely used at the early Han period, the starting point probably was in an earlier period in Zhou.
The reddish-brown color on the bear is from the weathering product, probably Hematite, produced inside the surface micropores and microcracks during the time when the lade bear was buried. For the Chinese antique jade collectors there are two types of jade, the heirloom and the unearthed. The unearthed are the newly dug up and on it retained all the chemical weathering secondary products. The heirloom jades are those dug up long time ago and have been passed on in collectors’ hands from generation to generation for hundreds and may even be a thousand year. Chinese collectors have a habit of constant rubbing the jade with their hands and may employ scraper to scrap off the weathering products which the collectors consider as dirt, in an attempt to return the pre burial natural color and shine to the jade. The bear is an heirloom jade with most of the weathering products on the surface removed. Figure 29 is the undersurface of the bear. Red arrows indicate the scrape marks left from the previous scrapping. Despite the previous owners’ effort, large amount of secondary products of clay phyllosilicates (blue circle) and iron oxides (red raised plaques) are still found on the surface. The Hematite is inside the micropores and microcracks inside the jade surface and cannot
be removed by scrapping. Any jade piece labelled Han or Zhou with a natural jade white or greenish color are fakes. It is impossible to escape the natural law of Chemical Weathering when buried. Notice the wheel track marks inside the groove and the weathering product on top of the track marks.
After the defeat of Xiongnu, Han had direct access to Khotan, todays Hotan, the main source of nephrite. By using the spinning wheel, jade making in Han achieved great efficiency and far shorten the jade making time. Shang and Zhou together have a history of 1,866 years compared to Han 422 years. The amount of jade made in Han is no less than Shang and Zhou combined. The Han jades have its own beauty and character, all from the spinning wheel carving. The success of the spinning wheel in jade carving continues with little change in China for two thousand years, till the modern employment of the electric diamond tip drills.
Chemical Weathering effect and the discoloration of the buried nephrites
It is well known that Chinese nephrites earlier than Song (960 CE-1279 CE) have a discoloration far different from the nephrite natural color. This phenomenon has long been taken for granted and no one has questioned or inquired into what gives such change. The mystery was so deep that people were at one time wondering where the black nephrite, something not found in China came from. The color change comes from chemical weathering, a natural process all underground minerals undergo. There are two types of weathering, physical and chemical weathering. Physical weathering occurs above ground from physical forces of wind, water flow, heat from the sun, cold from the frost, and so on. Chemical weathering occurs mainly underneath the soil from chemical reaction of the minerals with water as the medium. (References are on the blog “Chemical Weathering” on this site). Nephrite is a mineral of Actinolite and tremolite, two amphibole minerals. Under chemical weathering secondary products are produced. First, the nephrite undergoes dissolution that produces a greyish white amorphic silicate that accumulates in grooves and low depressed areas giving the carved nephrite a look specific to that period (See figures 9-14 and 20). The hydrolysis and oxidation phase results in two clay minerals, Smectite and Kaolinite, and two iron oxides, Hematite and Goethite. The clay mineral Smectite and Kaolinite are greyish to white in color. Unlike the amorphic silicate, the clay minerals form phyllosilicate, a sheet like crystal. Hematite may have a color of either deep red, brownish red, or deep grey. Goethite may have a color of yellow, red to deep brown, and can be black. The clay and iron oxides first form inside the micro pores and microcracks on the surface in the form of a ferruginous gel. The color of the discoloration of the nephrite depends on which clays and iron oxides formed, and their ratio in the gel formation. Such chemical reactions require water. Since water has a limited penetration into the nephrite, chemical reactions only limit to the topical layer of the nephrite. As the continue formation of the secondary products in the micropores microcracks cannot go deeper down into the nephrite they overflow onto the surface as a ferruginous gel forming a thin semitransparent layer. On the surface the phyllosilicate clays, and iron oxides crystalize. The color of the secondary products in the micropores and microcracks, and the crystals formed on the surface are what give the discoloration of the nephrite we all familiar with. All these changes only occur on the topical 0.1-0.15 mm. Yet the appearance gives a misleading impression that the whole nephrite has changed color. Figure 30 is a black color Shang comb. The black color comes from the weathering product, an iron
oxide likely Goethite produced inside the micropores microcrack that is black in color giving the comb a black color appearance. Chinese carvers only choose nephrite with white or green color with no blemish for carving and for that reason the comb cannot be black in its origin color. Clay phyllosilicate crystalized on the top. Because of the ferruginous nature of the secondary products, metallic deposit can be found (Figure 31 red circle). Notice the rough surface appearance on the comb is due to the crystallization
of the clay phyllosilicate on the surface and not due to the breakage of the jade as nephrite seldom breaks due to its hardness and crystal structure. Chemical weathering is a long natural process. It takes at least a thousand year for the secondary products to be visible on the nephrite surface and hence the discoloration only seen on Song or earlier jades.
Chemical weathering highly depends on water and the difference in water flow over different part of the jade piece results in various degree of weathering and different secondary products produced on the same surface. The result is different discoloration can be seen on the same jade piece as on the other side of the figure 16 Han beast (Figure 32). The Han beast is an heirloom jade
with most of the weathering products removed by previous owners. However, under a microscope identifiable weathering effect can be clearly detected on figure 33, the sheet like phyllosilicate clay crystal (black arrow), the more greyish brown mix from iron
oxide (blue arrow), and a silvery metallic shine line which is more often seen than the metallic deposit (red arrow). These metallic lines are often located at the edge of the phyllosilicate sheet, in a form of linear lined up granules with a silvery metallic reflection. Because the reflection is not at 90 degree, to see them requires holding the jade piece in hand and put the surface into the microscope focus and tilting the jade piece at various angle to examine the surface. Another demonstration of these metallic line is on the Han bead (Figure 34). The reddish-brown color indicates the secondary products on the bead is rich in iron. The shiny metallic granules are clearly seen at the edge of the phyllosilicate sheet in the form of a line (Figure 35 red arrow).
More secondary chemical weathering products can be demonstrated on the figure 36 Zhou huang. Typical of Zhou jade the lines are in raised reliefs and the Hematite in the micropores and microcracks turn the Huang into reddish brown in color. Areas between the reddish lines are lower and fill with greyish clay phyllosilicates. Their crystals may appear different depending on which type forms (Figure 37 red arrows and blue circle), as clay minerals have many forms, Smectite 22 and Kaolinite has several. When the amount of iron mix is less, they may appear white (left to the red arrows).
Weathering products produced depends greatly on the weather conditions of the area and the immediate surrounding. Figure 38 is a Zhou beast huang. Unlike the figure 36 Zhou huang, the beast huang has a greenish yellow color, and the phyllosilicate on it has
a crusty look, also differ from those on top of the figure 36 huang (Figure 39). Notice the crack is on the clay crystal and not on the huang. Cracks on nephrite are usually on the weathering product on the surface, and do not involve the jade itself. Jade artifacts
when first unearth were thoroughly washed with water. Water can only wash away soil on top but cannot wash away clay crystal formed from the chemical weathering process. Clay minerals give out an odor and the clay minerals inside the jade surface continue to give out the odor specific for clay hundreds of years after unearthed. Chinese antique jade collectors have long noticed this smell that they refer to as tomb smell. This odor cannot be gotten rid of despite of years of rubbing and scraping as the clay is inside the jade surface and cannot be reached resulting in the smell lingers to today.
The ferruginous gel formed in the micro pores microcracks overflowed to the jade surface forming a very thin semitransparent layer. (WEATHERING OF HORNBLENDE TO FERRUGINOUS PRODUCTS BY A DISSOLUTION-REPRECIPITATION MECHANISM: PETROGRAPHY AND STOICHIOMETRY”. MICHAEL ANTHONY VELBEL. Clays and Clay Minerals, Vol. 37, No. 6, 515-524, 1989.) The layer is difficult to see, only at the edge especially when it is lined with light reflecting granules like those on figure 35. Inside the thin gel layer of a Han thin beast (Figure 40) Hematite inclusions can be found (Figure 41 red circle). The Hematite inclusions have been mistaken for charcoal granules. No organic material like charcoal has been found in
nephrite. These inclusions are inside the gel layer and not in the nephrite itself. The thin beast is an unusual piece of jade, only 2 mm thick. The carver had to be skill with experience and would not have chosen a piece of jade with black blemish on it to carve
the thin beast. The black dots were not on the jade when it was carved and formed after the carving when it was buried inside the semitransparent ferruginous layer. Brownish red iron oxide deposits also form on the surface (Figure 41 red arrows).
Small, raised nodules can be found on the surface of the buried nephrite, often referred to as raised reliefs. When raised reliefs are seen they are multiple as on figure 42 Zhou jade man. These are pseudomorph formations, minerals taking the form of another mineral crystal. Figure 43 shows the magnified nodules on the Zhou jade man surface. Notice the shape of the crystal is different from those of the fibrous nephrite crystal and the surrounding clay. Therefore they should be referred to as pseudomorph after Tremolite. Pseudomorph takes at least 2,000 years to form and more often seen on the Hongshan nephrites.
Eurasian Steppe influence
The development from Han to Tang underwent a period highly influenced by the Eurasian steppe culture with link to the west. Such influence came as early as the late Warring States (475 BCE-221 BCE) from Nomadic tribes like Xiongnu, a confederation of nomadic tribes occupied todays Mongolia, Gansu, and Xinjiang. At the height of its power the Xiongnu Empire extended through the southern Siberia to the Caucasus. Xiongnu was one of the five barbarians, Di, Jie, Qiang, Xianbei with Xiongnu as the strongest confederation. These nomadic tribes were in the North and Northwest China with uncertain origin of proto-Mongols or proto-Turks. Yet there is no doubt much of the Eurasian influence on China came through these nomadic tribes. As nomadic tribes on horseback, their clothing included a belt. The period before the Tang Dynasty gold and silver were not indigenous to China. Through the gold and silver belt ornaments, harnesses and wooden decorations found in tombs in Northern China and throughout the Eurasian Steppe during the period from the late Warring States to the middle of Wester Han, such connection can be made. “The Transformation of Cultural Exchange between North China and the Eurasian Steppe from the Late Warring States Period to the Middle Western Han, Pan Ling (潘玲): Asian Archaeology 3 (2015): 95–106”.
The influence of the Silk Road through trading and spreading cultural and religion activities from Iran and Europe to China cannot be overly emphasized. Trading brought people into close contact in a peaceful manner transferring philosophical and religious thinking west to east throughout the silk road. Religions of The Silk Road, Premodern Patterns of Globalization. Richard Foltz. 1999. Palgrave Macmillan. Chapter one. For more than 3,000 years religions like Zoroastrianism, Nestorian Christian, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Manichaeism spread through the silk road with all ending up in China. Judaism and Islam still have communities in China. Zoroastrianism, Nestorian Christian, and Manichaeism all faded away, except Buddhism that has taken a strong root ever since. All of these indicate a strong link between Europe and China through the Eurasian Stepp. Of particular interest is Buddhism. The link with Buddhism occurred when the Seleucid Greek Kingdom established by the conquest of Alexander the Great of Macedonia allied with the Indian Maurya Empire establishing the Greco-Bactrim Empire (250 BCE-125 BCE) in today northern Pakistan and Afghanistan resulting in the flourishing of the Greco-Buddhism. The Yuezhi, an Indo-European people, after the defeat by the Xiongnu, moved from the Gansu Xinjiang region of today’s Northwestern China, into the Bactrim area, and eventually established the Kushan Empire in the early first century CE. Kushan kept the belief of the Greco-Buddhism tradition mixing it with Hinduism, and Zoroastrianism (Figure 44. Map of Kushan Empire. Kushanmap – Kushan Empire – Wikipedia ) The frequent contact between Han and the Kushan Empire through military engagements and royal marriage arrangements opened trade and also allowing Buddhism from Central Asia eventually into China establishing the link of influence between Central Asia, Europe, and China.
The Griffin and Winged beast connection
The introduction of Buddhism into China during the second century BCE also brought in art influences from Greece with the Seleucid Greco Buddhism connection. Figure sculpture with garment drapery, a Greek tradition, appeared as Buddhist sculptures in China. Such art form flourished during the Six Dynasty and Tang, and although there are obvious differences between the Greek sculptures and the Buddhas sculptures the influence from the west is no doubt there.A History of Chinese Civilization(illustrated, reprint, revised ed.). Jacques Gernet (1996). Cambridge University Press. Chapter V. Yet the western influence in art goes back to Han. In the southern rim of the Taklamakan desert in today’s Xinjiang China is Miran, an oasis town that flourish on the Silk Road between the 2nd and 5th century CE. Miran was part of the Shanshan Kingdom, an ancient Indo-European Tocharian Buddhist kingdom on the Silk Road (Figure 45. Tarimbecken 3. Jahrhundert – Shanshan – Wikipedia ) Buddhism was introduced to through
the Kushan Empire. A Buddhist monastery and several stupas archeologic sites are found in Miran. Wall paintings in the stupas of Buddha and his disciples are of Indo-European, so as an angel painting on the wall. (Figure 46 Fresco of Miran – Miran (Xinjiang) – Wikipedia). Another wall painting shows a man doing battle with a winged beast (Figure 47). ”漢代西域藝術中的希臘文化因素; 林梅村” Even though the head of the beast is no longer seen due to the loss of the upper part of the painting, the beast is still
recognizable as a griffin. Griffin according to the Encyclopedia of Britannica is a winged beast with an eagle’s head originated from the ancient cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean shore. “Griffin also spelled Griffon or gryphon, composite mythological creature with a lion’s body (winged or wingless) and a bird’s head, usually that of an eagle. The griffin was a favorite decorative motif in the ancient Middle Eastern and Mediterranean lands. Probably originating in the Levant in the 2nd millennium BCE, the griffin had spread throughout western Asia and into Greece by the 14th century BCE. The Asiatic griffin had a crested head, whereas the Minoan and Greek griffin usually had a mane of spiral curls. It was shown either recumbent or seated on its haunches, often paired with the sphinx; its function may have been protective”.griffin | Myth, Meaning, & Facts | Britannica There is a different between the griffin in Europe and those found in Asia with those in Europe with mane, and those in Asia have a crest on their heads. Figure 48 is an eighteen century French ink and ink wash drawing of a griffin. Notice both the griffins on the Miran
painting and on the French drawing have mane of the European griffin version. Figure 49 is a Han jade griffin that has no mane and, on its head, a floating crest, the version of the Asiatic griffin. The Han griffin is an heirloom jade with most of the weathering
product removed except on the more obscured areas under its wing and legs, and on its feet. Sheet like phyllosilicate clay crystals can be seen on its under body behind his legs (figure 50). On figure 51 under the griffin’s wing, within the green circle are crystal
of iron oxide and clay mix. The green arrows are pointing at the edge of the semitransparent ferruginous sheet and the red arrows at the spinning wheel tracks. More obvious spinning wheel marks are on the griffin’s eye (Figure 52) with chipping of the jade from the spinning wheel as it arced through tight angles.
The origin of the griffin no doubt is from the Eastern Mediterranean shore Levant area, brought in by the Eurasian Stepp nomadic tribes through the Silk Road. The griffin with an eagle head is seldom seen in China and the jade griffin in figure 49 may be the only one. Winged beasts with a lion or beast head unique to Han that can be traced to the nomadic tribes are more often seen on Han silk and lacquer wares (Figure 53). Beasts with hook beaks appeared on the gold belt buckles along the Eurasian Stepp during
the late Warring States and early Western Han period. The design changed to one with a beast’s head in later Han. “The Transformation of Cultural Exchange between North China and the Eurasian Steppe from the Late Warring States Period to the Middle Western Han, Pan Ling (潘玲): Asian Archaeology 3 (2015): 95–106”. Figure 54 is a Han jade with such a change, from one with the griffin eagle head to the one with a beast head. (Figure 54 is the other side of figure 40 Han thin beast). The wings
now are modified into two structures extending from the middle of the body. Another example is the jade Han winged beast on figure 55 with similar modified wings. Figure 55 Han beast is an heirloom jade with scrape marks and silicate remnant and
spinning wheel marks (Figure 56. Red circle and arrows). Worth noticing are the floating crests on the heads of the winged beasts on figures 53, 54, and 55 are the same as the floating crest on the head of the figure 49 griffin. It is thus reasonable to say that the griffin and the winged beast are the same, traceable back to the Eurasian Stepp as demonstrated on figure 57, a 3rd to 4th century
CE gold buckle from Xianbei, a nomadic tribe in Northern China with an origin from Southeastern Siberia (BeltBuckleXianbei3-4thcentury – 五胡十六国 – 维基百科，自由的百科全书 (wikipedia.org).On it are winged beasts with the same floating crests on the beast heads as on the other Han winged beasts and the Han jade griffin. Griffin and the winged beast or the modifications of it are widely seen on the Han silk, bronze mirror, and lacquer wares (Figure 58). Especially on the lacquer wares such design can be said unique to Han as it disappeared subsequently.
no doubt was along the Silk Road. The Buddha stature from the Kushan Empire (30-375 CE) in figure 60 Kushan Empire – Wikipedia tells us how the winged beast came to Han China. On the pedestal are two separate winged beasts, one on each side. The Greco-Buddhism connection now becomes obvious. The griffin winged beast came to Han as the protector of the religion.
Eventually they became guardian of the tombs of Han elites as the Penn Museum pair were. The tradition extended to the Southern Dynasty (420 CE – 589 CE). After Han and the Three Kingdoms, China eventually went into a chaotic period of the North and South Dynasties when the Northern Dynasties were controlled mostly by the nomadic tribes and the Southern Dynasties by the Hans. The capital of the Southern Dynasties was today Nanjing. In Nanjing there are more than 20 stone winged beast statures (Figure 61) Tianlu at Tomb of Xiao Luan (Emperor Ming of Qi), Jinglin, Danyang, Jiangsu, China – 南朝陵墓石刻 – 维基百科，自由的百科全书 (wikipedia.org) Like the Han winged beast statures, they were also tomb guardians and they were the last winged beast found as the winged beast disappear in Chinese history.
The Han winged beast come in variations from the eagle headed griffin to those with opposite spreading up and down wings, to beasts without wings, as in figure 62 Han beast. On the beast weathering chemical forms a hard crust on the body with areas mixed
with reddish iron oxide (Figure 63 red circle). Clear spinning wheel tracks can also be found (red arrows). Figure 62 beast can be compared to the Han beast on figure 64, a bigger version of the two measured 21 cm X 15 cm X 7 cm. The silicate crystals on the figure 64 beast are more needle like (Figure 65), and there are spinning wheel marks (red arrow). The variation of the width of the
cut grooves and lines are also the result of the spinning wheel cutting. All Han beasts share some common features in that the winged beasts have a floating crest on their heads except the two in the Penn museum. Instead of the floating crest, the Penn Museum pair have horns like those on figure 62 Han beast 1, and a beard like that on figure 64 Han beast 2. The Penn museum pair also have a frontal rib plate like that on the figure 49 Han Griffin. These common features indicate that these beasts are all variants of the same griffin winged beast from the Eastern Mediterranean shore. The winged beast griffin came to Han through the Silk Road brought in by the Stepp nomads influenced by the Greco Buddhism of Kushan and Shanshan. With the Greco Buddhism losing its favor to Indian Buddhism and Taoism in the subsequent Shui Tang period, the griffin winged beast of Han also lost favor in the Chinese culture and ceased to exist.
The four jade royal seals of the sixteen kingdoms and the Southern Dynasties
After the collapse of Han, China went into a long chaotic and fragmented period. First came the Three Kingdoms (220 CE – 280 CE), followed by a brief unification into Jin (265 CE – 420 CE). In 316 CE the five barbarians forced the Jin empire to move south forming Eastern Jin. The north broke into the sixteen kingdoms (304 CE – 439 CE) of small and short-lived states ruled mostly by the five barbarians, Xiongnu, Xianbei, Di, Jie, and Qiang. The five barbarians or Wu were Mongolian, Tibetan and Turkic nomadic tribes in today’s Mongolia, north and northwestern China, with Xiongnu and Xianbei having root in the Eurasian Stepp. They established small states and kingdoms, fighting each other for power and territories and at the same time adopting the Chinese culture and system. Intermarriage and self-simulation eventually leaded to the disappearance of these tribes into Chinese history. It ended with Xianbei unified northern China into Northern Wei and the period of North and South Dynasties (420 Ce – 589 CE) began. China again unified under the Siu Dynasty (581 CE – 618 CE) under the ethnic Han with the nomadic tribes Sinicized. The melting of cultures and removal of hostile forces on the silk road brought in influences from the Eurasian Stepp and with the Silk Road ended directly in Chang’an the capital, all contributed to bringing in a golden age, the Tang Dynasty (618 CE – 907 CE). A History of Chinese civilization (illustrated, reprint, revised ed.). Jacques Gernet (1996). Cambridge University Press.
The sixteen kingdoms lasted 135 years and had 187 emperors and kings. Four jade royal seals of the sixteen kingdoms and their southern ethnic Han counterpart give us a glimpse of the cultural integration of the period. The royal titles are self-proclaimed or posthumous. The first seal is from King Jing (景王之印) (Figures 66 A, B). All four seals are the unearthed types retaining all the
weathering secondary products on the jade surface. On figure 66C are the weathering products on the King Jing seal. Within the red circle are crystals of pseudomorph mineral crystal and reddish iron oxide is at the lower part of the photo. Multiple pseudomorph formation can be seen without the microscope on the seal on figure 66A as raised reliefs.
Figure 67A and B is the seal for Emperor Gao (高帝之印). All four seal knobs are statues of men with no clothing in various posture, highly unusual for Chinese seals. Figure 67C is the weathering secondary products on Emperor Gao seal showing clay phyllosilicate crystalizing to form a pattern.
Figure 68A, B is the seal of Emperor Shun (順帝之印} and 68 C Shows weathering chemical on the seal surface. A crack is noted through the iron oxide phyllosilicate crystal. Often cracks are only on the weathering chemical. After frequent rubbing and scraping from collectors over generations, most of the chemical from weathering is removed and the cracks are gone with the removed chemicals and can no longer be seen. This leads to the belief by the collectors that jade has a mythical power of healing itself and heals itself of the cracks, a lasting belief till today..
The facial features of all four men on the seals use raised lines like those on the Zhou jades (Figure 68 D). There is no sign that spinning wheel was used to make these lines except what is shown on figure 68E, on the mouth of Emperor Shun seal. Within the red circle are metallic granules, and red arrows pointing to the edges of the phyllosilicate sheet. The mouth is a groove with raised edge. The width of the groove is uneven with some part wider than others, a feature not usually found on Zhou grinding down carving technique. A break (blue arrow) is also seen on the edge of the groove, also unusual for Zhou jade. The carver and the technique used may not be Chinese.
The fourth one (Figure 69A, B) is the seal from Emperor Gong (共帝之印). The word 恭 is written as 共. Both words have a common pronunciation and used interchangeably in this instance. The seal also features a naked man bearing a sword and shield. Figure 69C shows the sheet like ferro phyllosilicate crystals.
The four seals are similar with distinguishable differences. Bothe Emperor Shun (Figure 68 D) and Emperor Gong have round eyes and pointed ears (Figure 70), Emperor Gao (Figure 71) and King Jing (Figure 72) have round eyes with a center pupil and
round ears. Both Emperor Shun and Emperor Gong seals are one cm tall and larger than the Emperor Gao and King Jing seals. All these may indicate that there were two or more carvers, or groups of carvers. It is impossible to contribute the seals to a particular emperor or king. Of the 187 emperors and kings of the Sixteen Kingdoms many of them have the same title. Each of the emperor and king on the four seals has two to three individuals with the same title among the profusion of emperors and kings of the period, making contribution of the seal to a particular emperor or king impossible. Most of these emperor and kings belong to the five Wu, or barbarian nomadic tribes. The facial features of the four statues on the seal knobs are not Chinese. Also, no nude statue has been found in any Chinese jade carving except these four. Naked body statues are more known in Greece. Greek statues emphasize on the beauty of the human body. But no such indication in these four jade carvings. Only reference can be made are from the scantily clad Buddhist Miran monks ( Figure 73) Miran Stupa shrine MIII fragment – Miran (Xinjiang) – Wikipedia , and on the mural of the Mogao cave (Figure 74). Mural_in_275th_Cave_of_Mogao_Caves.png (507×458) (wikimedia.org) The
naked statues probably are tradition of the nomadic tribes with Buddhist belief from Miran and the Shanshan Empire. The script on the seals is Chinese making these seals hybrids of the nomadic tribes and the Chinese culture. The Six Dynasties period which includes the Sixteen Kingdoms and the South Dynasties, is a period of adaptation and simulation of the five barbarian nomadic tribes into Chinese culture, and eventually sinazation of these tribes leads to the disappearance of these nomadic people into the Chinese history. The four seals reflect the cultural as well as ethnic simulation of the time. A History of Chinese Civilization(illustrated, reprint, revised ed.). Jacques Gernet (1996). Cambridge University Press.
Jade of the Tang Dynasty.
Very few Tang Dynasty jade is known. Among the over two thousand relics in the most noted Tang excavation in Hejiacun in Shannsi, only twelve pieces are jade, with ten pieces of plates for a belt, a bracelet, and a long cup. All others are silver and gold metal wares. A question remains that these twelve jade pieces are rather imports made outside of China and not Tang. To find out the reason of such decline in Tang nephrite jade, Deng Shuping (探索歷史上的中亞玉作; 古宮學術季刊, 第三十三卷, 第三期), traced the Tang court official record and found during the Shui Tang period, only jade-made finished products were imported, and no raw jade material coming into China. China does not produce nephrite and has been importing nephrite from Yutian, today’s Hotan, since the Shang Dynasty. (See figure 45 map). During the Han Dynasty Yutian was under direct Han military control and nephrite material flowed into China without any obstacle. Topping this with the invention of the more efficient spinning wheel for jade making, resulted in the profusion of nephrite jade production during Han. The rise of the northern nomadic tribes during the Sixteen Kingdoms gave the control of the Silk Road to the nomadic tribes. Yutian only sent finished made jade products to Tang and no raw nephrite material. The lack of raw nephrite material is the reason why so few Tang jade is found.
The Han spinning wheel was used to make the Tang jade and tool marks of the wheel are frequently found on the surface. The traditional belief that jade should have its natural color and luster, especially back to a mutton fat white, leads to all unearth jade in China undergoes extensive cleaning including using ultrasound instrument. But ultimately some secondary weathering products should remain on the jade surface as nothing can escape the natural law of weathering. Lack of evidence of weathering chemical on the jade surface only indicates that the jade piece is recently made and does not undergo the thousand years burial. The jades found in the Hejiacun excavation in Shannsi show little chemical weathering effect in pictures. One reason may be that these relics were buried inside two large clay pots and that limited the exposure of the jade artifacts to water resulting in less weathering effect as oppose to if they were buried directly in soil. Yet weathering effect can still be seen on the long cup from the excavation, now in the Shannsi History Museum. ( 忍冬纹八曲长杯-馆藏精品-陕西历史博物馆 (陕西省文物交流中心) (sxhm.com) ). Known Tang jade from excavation is few making comparison to known Tang pieces difficult. The Tang jades presented here will be based on tool marks, weathering secondary products effect, pattern of design base on culture, and religion of Tang.
are cloud designs with a scrolling effect, a resemblance of the scrolling dendrite on the Tang silver. The design is an adaptation of the Eurasia silver combine with the more tradition Chinese cloud pattern, a hybrid adaptation. In the center within a circle is the word queen 后. The design is by inlaying silver wire into the nephrite, combining the silver metal technology with the traditional jade making. Grooves according to the design pattern were first made by cutting into the jade. Straight rigid bend at the turns indicates a thin wire was used to fill the grove (figure 76 blue arrow). For the metal wire be able to be pressed into the groove, the
wire needs to be malleable and to achieve that silver needs to be alloyed with gold. As the wire was pressed into the groove metal overflew onto the jade surface (Figure 76 red arrows). Inlaying metal into stone is not an easy task as the metal will not stay resulting in peeling off of the metal due to stone and metal expands and contracts at a different rate at the change of temperature. Inlaying silver and gold into jade will not be seen in China until the eighteenth century, when Emperor Qianlong (1711- 1799) introduced the technique from the Mughal Empire in Hindustan, today’s north India and Pakistan. The Tang Queen jade box is the only piece of jade inlayed with silver before the eighteenth century. What technique used to inlay the silver alloy into the Tang jade box and the inlay alloy does not peel off staying on for 1,600 years is a mystery.
Few tool marks are left on the jade surface and what can be found shows the use of the spinning wheel. Figure 77 is the bottom of the bottom half of the jade box. Around the raised ridge are clear marks of the spinning wheel (blue arrows) and as the wheel tracking around the ridge (red arrow). Spinning wheel marks in the form of skid marks can also be seen on the jade box lid at the edge (Figure 78). The jade box is very thin, about 2 mm in thickness. It is unlikely that the spinning wheel can cut it down to such a thin shell. The lack of tool mark and the smoothness of the shell indicate that the jade box was grinded down with abrasive by continue polishing.
Weathering effect can be seen on the outside of the jade box in a thin layer of silicate crystal as on figure 76. Highly likely the origin color of the jade box is mutton fat white and the weathering chemicals in the microcrack and micropore make it appear brownish yellow. More weathering effects are observed on the inside of the box. On the lid are three different types of mineral crystals (Figure 79). On the inside of the jade box are hair like crystal structures, some red and some black (Figure 80). Such hair
like structure can also be found on a spot on the edge of the lid (Figure 81). The nature of these hair like structure is unknown. Some of the Actinolite variations have hair like crystals (Figure 82) Actinolite Portugal – Actinolite – Wikipedia . Hopefully, science will one day resolve some of the weathering chemical mystery.
Fish dragon transformation.
In Chinese mythology a fish at the end of a waterfall leaps the dragon gate and transforms into a dragon. The origin of the legend is not known though the legend appears in the Tang Dynasty and not known in Han. It may have come from the Hinduism trinity that Vishnu the second person in the trinity, creator and protector of the universe, is also a large fish gifted with a horn, and the mythical significance of the fish comes to Tang through Buddhism. The Fish in Brahmanism and Buddhism (Illustrated). (siu.edu). The fish dragon transformation reflects the aspiration that a commoner in the Tang society can through study and the royal examination, transformed into a bureaucratic official achieving power and wealth. Figure 83 is a Tang fish dragon. The
carver was skill enough to put the center of gravity of the fish dragon on one foot, a skill seldom seen. Notice the dragon head retains some of Han winged beast features with the floating crest and horns. The fish dragon is an heirloom jade with most of the weathering chemicals removed. Remanent of clay silicate can still be seen (Figure 84 blue arrows). As all jade made after Han used the spinning wheel, tracks of the spinning wheel are seen on the surface (Figure 84 red arrows).
Figure 85 is another fish dragon, also an heirloom jade. On the surface, scrap marks from previous owner’s attempt to remove the weathering chemical are clearly seen (Figure 86 red circle). In spit of the effort, silicate crystals are present (Figure 87 blue arrows) as well as spinning wheel track marks (Figure 87 red arrows).
In the Tang society ordinary citizens are fish. To be respected one has to be promoted into the upper society as a bureaucratic official, an equivalence to the fish becoming a dragon. For the fish to become a dragon legend has it that fire from the sky must come down to burn off its tail. Tail burning becomes a congratulatory phase and officials receiving a promotion will have a tail burning banquet given by his colleagues as a celebration. Figure 88 is a Tang fish dragon with Its tail on fire in the process of
losing its tail, a sign of promotion and good luck. The tail burning fish dragon is also an heirloom jade with previous chemical removal. Large amount of iron oxide can still be detected in a crusty plaque form (Figure 89 blue circle) and iron oxide in the
A pearl inside the mouth of a dragon is first seen in the Shui Tang period, with an origination of the pearl from the Gandhara Buddhism. Stone Buddha statues of the Kushan Empire Greco Buddhism are decorated with necklaces with a clasp having two human or dragon figures holding a central pearl. 犍陀罗“龙珠”及其在中国的新发展｜中国龙珠图像考① (china.com.cn) The concept of a pearl inside the mouth of a dragon followed Buddhism to China and a dragon with a pearl in its mouth appeared in a Tang architecture arch. 犍陀罗“龙珠”及其在中国的新发展｜中国龙珠图像考① (china.com.cn) (Figure 18-2 of the reference) The pearl in dragon mouth has since stays in Chinese art and dragons are frequently depicted chasing a pearl. Figure 92 is a Tang fish dragon with a pearl in its mouth. The spinning wheel track marks can be seen under the phyllosilicate from weathering (Figure 93 red arrow).
Jade plates for belt are well known in the Tang Dynasty. Of the 12 pieces of jade from the Hejiacun excavation in Shannsi 10 are plates for a belt. Figure 94 A, B is a jade belt buckle. The front is a dragon head, and the back has an extension for attachment to sew on the belt, unlike the Han type which uses a hook making it detachable from the belt. Figure 95 shows weathering chemical and spinning wheel track marks on the jade surface.
Buddhism and Taoism
Elephant is revered in Buddhism. Queen Maya of Sakya dreamed of a white elephant that signifies royal dignity and authority, foretelling her pregnancy with Gautama Buddha. Elephant is not mention in Tang Dynasty in relation to Buddhism except this Tang jade elephant head (Figure 96A B). The elephant wears ornaments not unlike those seen today (Figure 97 Erawan – Cultural depictions of elephants – Wikipedia ). Figure 98 shows weathering chemicals and spinning wheel tracks (Figure 98 red circle) on the jade surface.
Bat is an animal both revered by Buddhism and Taoism. In Chinese the word bat has the same pronunciation as “Fu” 福 that has a meaning of blessings including wealth, health, longevity, bureaucratic position, and fertility. Bat becomes synonymous with Fu and is regarded as an animal that brings good fortune. Tang Buddhism also believes that Lohan, or the highest ranking of Buddha’s followers are transformed from bats. Figure 99 is a Tang jade bat. Figure 100 shows weathering chemicals and spinning wheel track marks on the jade surface.
Tang Dynasty is noted for its painted ceramic demon tomb guards to wear off evil spirits (Figure 101). Figure 102 is a Jade demon worn by the deceased as guardian and protection from evil spirits. Figure 103 shows weathering chemicals and spinning wheel track marks.
條較多, 尤以玉琮上細而密的直線與環眼圈的線條(圖2)引起各種猜測. 有以是鯊魚牙刻劃成. 但被忽略的是骨做的工具. 尖銳的骨具如錐子, 己在一萬一千年前舊石器時代出現在貴州(Paleolithic Bone Tools found from South China, Chinese Academy of Sciences. March 2, 2016. Phys.org). 從下面網鏈可進入這徵博從下面網鏈可進入這徵博, 也可看到這些工具的照片. https://phys.org/news/2016-03-paleolithic-bone-tools-south-china.html 骨的摩氏硬度(Mohs Scale) 是5, 與鯊魚牙相同. 與軟玉的6-6.5相差不遠, 骨具有多種形式. 能夠在玉面上刻劃線條就只有骨具.
As the world’s oldest continuous civilization, China’s history stretches back more than 5,000 years to the Neolithic time. Recent advances in Archeologic Science in China have also shone a light on the culture as it has never. As a civilization, jade has always played an important part ever since the dawn of Chinese history, revered as mysterious and precious. Carvers often express their religious beliefs in an artistic form, to adorn kings, queens, nobles, and influential leaders of the society and buried with them at their death. Since jadeite only came into China after the Ming Dynasty, Jade in China before the Ming Dynasty was always nephrite. As a mineral, nephrite can last thousands of years and are better preserved as an artifact than wood and may even better than clay wares and metal. To look into the society of the time, especially into their religious beliefs, is no better than through the buried nephrite. However, buried nephrite of Chinese antiquity is notorious with rampant forgeries to the point that fakes and genuine buried nephrites may not be distinguishable. Unfortunately, even the Chinese government may not be helpful in this regard. On the internet, imageries are near 100% fake jades. Self-proclaimed reference books post fake jade photos. Of the three Chinese Neolithic jade cultures, Hongshan (4700-2900 BC), Lingjiatan (3750-3000 BC), and Liangzhu (3400-2250 BC), Hongshan should be considered the earliest jade culture. But Hongshan jade is also the most chaotic. With so many fake Hongshan jade flooded the market, ironically, even the forgery carvers themselves may not have seen an authentic piece of Hongshan jade. As a result, fake Hongshan jade may not be a copy of the original, but merely something out of the fake jade carver’s imaginary. The tragic consequence is people, including the Chinese themselves, are unable to see the real face of the Chinese civilization.
The Hongshan archeology sites were discovered in the early 1920s. Between 1983 and 2003, the Liaoning Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology undertook a series of extensive excavations of the sites. Other than many significant archeologic artifacts, 100 pieces of jade were obtained. These 100 pieces also include those damaged and incomplete. Some scholars estimate that 90% of the jade artifacts were removed illegally before the official excavations. But if you take 10% is 100 pieces, the total number of Hongshan jade is only 1000. Compare that with the hundreds of thousands and may even be a million fake Hongshan jade on the market today, one can easily see genuine Hongshan jade is a rarity. Hongshan culture, despite the fact being Neolithic, obtained high artistic levels in their jade carvings, even in today’s standard. Replacing such artistic achievement by the distasteful jade carvings of today distort not only the origin of the Chinese culture but also disrespectful for the cultural heritage of their ancestors.
Because of the rampant forgery, it is imperative that the Hongshan jade pieces presented here must be genuine, and the proof of such has to be in the authentication. Traditional authentication is comparing the jade piece to a known unearth relic. However, because the Hongshan jade obtained from the excavation is only 10%, it cannot be representative, and comparing the jade piece to the excavated ones is meaningless. Authentication must rely on the recognition of tool marks and color change on the jade surface. It is especially important to the color change that results from the weathering process of the mineral nephrite (see the article Chemical Weathering on this web site). The method of authentication will be presented. Only with some certainty that the jade pieces are genuine, that looking through them into the art and beliefs of the Hongshan society 5,000 years ago can make sense.
Hongshan culture (4700BCE-2900BCE) was one of the Neolithic cultures in North-Eastern China, stretching north from southwestern Inner Mongolia, south to northern Heibei, and East to Liaoning. The name that applies to this vast area includes over one thousand village archeology sites of the same culture. In 1908 the Japanese archeologist Ryuzo Torii first discovered the site. Limited excavations were carried out by French and Japanese areological teams in the 1930s. It was not until 1983 to 2003 that the Liaoning Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology undertook a series of extensive excavations. It becomes known that the Hongshan culture was based on Xinglongwa Culture and Zhaobaogou Culture and was the most advanced culture in northeast China of the time, advanced from hunting and gathering into farming communities. Stone tools were used for hunting, fishing, farming, pottery making, as well as for jade carving. The most significant finds were a goddess temple with a life-size painted head of the goddess, round sacrificial altars, and square stone tombs. Within the graves, a variety of jade articles were found as sole buried objects with no other artifacts such as pottery or stone tools. Jade, as the only buried objects, indicated that they were objects of religious belief rather than objects of earthly value. Hongshan produced jade objects of varies form. Most notably were the C-dragons, pig dragons, beast in human form, animals, insects, and birds, with the more abstract form the hooked cloud plaque. Despite being a Neolithic culture, Hongshan produced many of the jade pieces with high artistic levels comparable even in today’s standard.
Hongshan culture had developed highly sophisticated pottery made with metal molds from fine red clay decorated with black geometric patterns. Pottery was mainly bowls, plates, pots, and cups for daily use. Among the pottery was a bottomless round tube that could not carry food and drinks, making it an unlikely utensil object (Figure 1). These tubes were found in large tombs lining the sides of the grave. The
geometric black paint pattern on the tubs was also unique, unlike those on other pottery, indicating that these tubes most likely had a religious function. Six female clay figurines in pregnancy were also found, linking the culture to fertility worship (Figure 2). Such
religious beliefs in pregnancy and the bottomless tube, also are reflected firmly in many Hongshan jade pieces, as we shall see later.
Authentication of the Hongshan Jade
The most notable and well known about Hongshan culture is its jade, with the C-dragon and the pig dragon as the most representative. Others are animal forms of beast, birds, tortoise, the horseshoes, and the hook cloud plaques. Elizabeth Childs-Johnson’s paper “Jades of the Hongshan culture: the dragon and fertility cult worship.” https://www.persee.fr/doc/arasi_0004-3958_1991_num_46_1_1303 listed all the jade pieces from the official excavation with drawings and can be regarded as the most reliable reference source in the study of the Hongshan jades. These jades have a beauty of its own and can truly represent the culture on its own right. Unfortunately, because 90% of the Hongshan jades were lost before the excavation, the excavated jades can only give a glimpse of its true nature.
Most of the Hongshan jades are small, ranging from 3 cm to 8cm in length. Larger pieces can be as long as 18cm, with some hook cloud plaque as long as 28cm. The size of the Hongshan jades is similar to Chinese jades from other periods before the Qing Dynasty (1644- 1912 AD). To understand this size uniformity, one has first to look at Hetian. Jade rough or raw jade has been coming from Hetian since the Shang Dynasty (1600 BCE – 1046 BCE). Hetian jades are from pebbles in the stream and small boulders from riverbeds. These pebbles and boulders are small in size, and hence the size of the jade rough limited the size of the jade pieces carved. It was not until the early Qing Dynasty that jade veins in the mountain were mined. For sure, Hongshan jade rough did not come from Hetian. It is also highly unlikely that Hongshan people were able to mine jade veins in the mountain. The size of the Hongshan jade pieces indicates that the source of the jade rough should be similar and was also from streams and riverbeds. For such reason, any Hongshan jade bigger than 30cm should be highly suspicious for modern day forgery. Traditionally comparing the shape and style of the carving of a jade piece to a known unearthed piece is the first step of authentication. However, since the majority of the Hongshan jades are lost, the unearth pieces may not represent the culture. Authentication here will look at tool marks and color change on the jade surface. Such color change is the result of secondary products formation from chemical weathering when the jade was buried.
Tool marks identification
The most important thing about tool marks on the Hongshan jades is not the tool marks, but rather the lack of it. In 2004 the British Museum published a paper “The identification of carving techniques on Chinese jade, Margaret Sax, Nigel D. Meek, Carol Michaelson, Andrew P. Middleton; Journal of Archaeological Science 31 (2004) 1413-1428”. The authors examined six pieces of Chinese jades that belonged to the British Museum for carving tool marks. Positive molds were made for any tool marks found under a microscope. The molds were then examined under an electron microscope to determine the carving technique of the jades. Of the six pieces, one was a Hongshan bird. After a thorough examination, the only tool mark found on the Hongshan bird was line cutting marks inside the drill holes at the top of where the two holes met. The lack of tool marks on the surface probably was due to the polishing at the time of the carving and the subsequent weathering effects on the jade surface, as the authors explained. If we look at the Hongshan jade, the technique employed by the Hongshan jade carvers was principally grinding and polishing. To make the feature to be delineated to stand out, the material around the feature was ground down to make shallow and wide grooves, as seen on the facial feature of an eye and nose (Figure 3 and Figure 6), and around hand and arm (Figure 4). Thin carve in lines was seldom used except on pig dragons, especially on the larger ones. Such a technique of grinding and polishing was done with
abrasive, which results in a smooth surface with no tool marks. A good example is the bird figure in figure 6. Another carving technique used was line cutting, also with the help of abrasive, as demonstrated on the mouth (Fig. 5). The cutting on the mouth is straight, but the flexibility of the line results in the floor of the mouth not leveled.
Drill holes are significant features of the Hongshan jades. Most of the smaller pieces, 8 cm or smaller, have drill holes. Larger pieces bigger than 14 cm, as a rule, do not have drill holes. Such finding means that smaller pieces were used as hanging pieces to adorn the body, whereas larger pieces were statues. There are two types of drill holes. One type is direct through and through round holes from one side to the other, as seen on the bird behind the eyes (Figure 6). The other type is a two communicating holes
diagonally drilled from the same surface (Figure 7). These types of drill holes are often
referred to as the ox nose holes and are exclusively associated with the Hongshan jades. The resemblance to an ox nose can be easily seen with the extension of the part outside of the opening of the hole. Drilling such holes requires the drill placed at an angle on the jade surface. The position of the drill is the cause of the hole widening into an ox nose shape. In many of these diagonally drilled holes, like those in figure 7, such assertion is accurate. But in some ox nose holes, like the one on the C-dragons and hook cloud plaques, may have a different reason. These holes are not diagonally drilled and the holes are not on the same surface. These are through and through holes from one side to the other side, and yet they all have the extension ox nose part (Figures 8a, b, figure 9a, b, and figure10). Drilling a through and through hole, the drill is placed at ninety degrees
to the jade surface. The placement of the drill in this position will not cause the formation of the ox nose part (see the round through and through hole in figure 6). The ox nose part of the holes on the C-dragon and the hook cloud plaque must be an add on to the through and through holes, placed intentionally. Notice the ox nose parts are also pointing at different directions. On figure 8a, b, C-dragon, the directions are upward and downward. On the C-dragon in figure 9a, b, the directions are forward and backward. On
figure 10, hook cloud plaque, the ox nose parts are pointing upward to either side. Notice
the pig dragon on the back of the C-dragon in figure 8a, b, the round hole on it does not have the ox nose part. The ox nose parts are only on the C-dragon. A C-dragon and a hook cloud plaque without the ox nose on the round through and through holes should be highly suspicious for modern day forgery.
The Hongshan culture eventually disappeared from Chinese history, and with it the same surface diagonally drilled holes. All subsequent hanging holes on Chinese jades were the round through and through type. It was not until the middle of the 20th century when mass-produced fake Hongshan jades came into the market that these same surface diagonally drilled holes returned to China. The same surface diagonally drilled holes do not necessarily have the ox nose part (Figure 11). This type of drilled holes was
used extensively on the netsukes in Japan (figure 12a and b), before they came back to
China. No one knows when and by whom the netsukes were created. The earliest netsukes are of the late eighteenth century. The fact that there is no drill hole in the world drilled on the same surface other than on Hongshan jades, raises the question of the relationship between the netsuke and the Hongshan jades. The Japanese netsukes have a high resemblance to the small size Hongshan jades. Adding to that the circumstance around the Hongshan site discovery was also interesting. The Hongshan archeologic site was first discovered in 1908 by the Japanese archeologist Ryuzio Torii. He was at that time a teacher in Mongolia for the royal family. For no known reason, Ryuzio Torii went hundreds of miles straight to the Hongshan site, without searching as if he knew where the site was and became the first person who discovered the Hongshan site. No doubt netsukes have the origin and root in Japan. But evidence points to a likely scenario that some Hongshan jades came into Japan during the late eighteen century and greatly influenced the netsukes development.
Not all Hongshan jades are lack of tool mark. The most apparent drill mark left behind a Hongshan jade is on this drill hole (Figure 13). The hole is not thoroughly
through and is on a 17.5 cm X 15.75 cm hook cloud plaque behind the face of a beast (figure 14). On the side of the drill hole are circular, irregular, and shallow marks, a sign
that it was drilled with a hand drill with abrasive, as in contrast to marks made with modern drills that are deep and regular, similar to marks left behind from a screw. Also, notice that the edge of the bottom of the drill hole is deeper than the center. This indicates that the drilling was done with a center hollow drill, and hence the pressure was applied only on the edge at the part of the drill where it was solid. Abrasive was used and because only the solid part of the drill was effective, drilling was only at the edge of the hole, at the solid part of the drill. As the drill went down the side of the drill hole, the hollow drill left a core in the center. The core was then removed by chipping, and the bottom smoothed. Speculation has been that the hollow drill was a piece of bamboo. But the softness of the bamboo makes it unlikely to be the drill for the much harder nephrite surface. The diameter of many of these drill holes are small, often 3 – 4 mm. To drill such a small size hole, a piece of bamboo of similar diameter must be used. Bamboo of this size will not be able to withstand the constant twisting during the drilling. The more likely candidate for such a drill is a piece of an animal long bone, like an arm or leg bone. Bone has a hardness of 5 on the Mohs scale, like that of iron, making it a much suitable tool than bamboo. The readily available bone is also known used as a tool since the Paleolithic time in China.
It has long known that Long drill holes in Neolithic China tend to taper to the center and are drilled from both sides. The reason for such a tapering effect is because only one piece of bone was used as a drill for half of the hole. During the drilling, friction and rubbing of the drill against the side wall decreased the diameter of the bone drill as it went down. As a result, the hole tapered towards the center. Because all animal long bones are hollow in the center, the drilling creates a central core in the center of the drill hole. The small diameter of the drill hole requires a small animal bone with small long bone diameter. Since the diameter of the bone was relative to the length and as the drill hole tends to have a small diameter, the piece of bone used also tends to be short. For the longer drill hole, it was necessary to drill from the other side. The same tapering effect to the center will result. When the two sides met in the middle, the core was released and dropped out. Due to the slight imperfection of alignment, it always left behind a small notch in the middle of the drill hole. As animal long bones came in pair, a similar diameter size and length bone drill could be easily obtained for drilling from the other side. Drilling in such a way was the most efficient with the least effort.
Identifying modern tool marks on the jade surface is one way to identify forgeries. Recognizing toll marks of the period, together with recognizing changes on the jade surface resulting from chemical weathering, are essential to separate the genuine from the fake buried nephrite.
Chemical weathering effects
For centuries people know that Chines buried nephrites underwent a color change from its original natural state to a greyish, brownish, reddish, and may even be blackish discoloration. Such changes are taken for granted, and no one knows why, and no one has asked any question of what causes such a change. However, simulating such a change of color on the nephrite surface is the principle way to make forgeries. Therefore, recognizing the actual natural color change and knowing the reason for such change on the jade surface is crucial to identify the fakes from the genuine. The buried nephrite color change comes from the secondary products produced from the chemical weathering process when the nephrites were buried. All minerals and rocks undergo the weathering process in a natural environment. There are two types of weathering, physical weathering from wind and water erosion, expansion and contraction from frost and snow, and invasion from animal and plant when rocks and minerals are above ground. Chemical Weathering is a chemical process of the interaction of minerals and water when they encounter underground. Chinese nephrites were buried in graves and tombs, some like Hongshan jades for over five thousand years. Secondary products from the weathering process form inside the micropores and microcracks of the nephrite. Because there is a limit to how deep water can penetrate the nephrite surface, as more secondary products are formed with time, the limitation of how deep it can go into the nephrite forces the secondary products overflow from the micropores and microcracks onto the jade surface. As the secondary chemical products spill onto the surface, they form crystals with specific color different from the nephrite. Because all the secondary products have their own color, the crystallization of such products on the jade surface, together with the secondary products form inside the micropore and microcracks of the nephrite, is the reason for the color change on the buried nephrite. The changes in the nephrite only occur on the topical 0.1 – 0.2 mm. The limitation of the changes to only such a thin layer is the reason why using spectroscopy and x-ray diffraction in the laboratory to test the buried nephrite only gives the answer that it is nephrite and does not verify the chemical weathering effect on the surface. The chemical weathering effect can be easily observed under a 40X magnification stereo microscope. It must be emphasized that none of these changes has been confirmed scientifically. All are based on the correlation between observation and reference from Chemical Weathering literature. (See the Nephrite Fundamental and Chemical Weathering Blogs on this site). Hopefully scientific confirmations will eventually come. But the observation of the changes is accurate enough to identify genuine buried nephrites from forgeries as we look into the Hongshan jades from this perspective.
Nephrite can be considered as a mineral even though it composes of Actinolite and Tremolite. Chemically It is a calcium, magnesium, and iron-rich silicate belonging to the amphibole group and has a needle-like fibrous crystal structure (Figure 15). Iron is what gives color to Nephrite. Tremolite is rich in magnesium and therefore
white, and Actinolite is rich in iron and therefore has the color of green, yellow, brown, and even black. The proportion of Tremolite and Actinolite in Nephrite determines the color of the nephrite. Today any Nephrite containing more than eighty percent of Tremolite is considered Hetian mutton fat jade regardless of its origin. Within the nephrite, there are micropores and micro-cracks seen only under an electron microscope (Figure 16). Such micropores and micro-cracks play a crucial role in
Chemical Weathering and color change on the jade surface, as we shall see.
Igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks form the crust of the earth. Igneous and metamorphic rocks form in the earth mantle under high temperature and pressure. As they move into the low temperature and low-pressure crust, they become unstable. Physical weathering first breaks up rocks into smaller boulders and pebbles. Chemical weathering eventually reduces them into more stable minerals, releasing cations, forming clay. Clay minerals, together with sand, hummus, and water, become soil. Without weathering there will be no soil and without soil, there will be no plant and no animal life. Life as we know it will not be possible, emphasizing the importance of weathering in nature. Water is the most crucial element of weathering. As a result, weathering is a slower process in cold and arid areas and less pronounced than in wet and hot regions. Within the same area, weathering effects can be different on the same rocks and minerals due to differences in water flow, and the surrounding environment of the rocks. Even on the same pebble, varying degrees of weathering can be observed in different parts due to the influence of water flow. All of these are important to remember when observing the chemical weathering effect on the buried nephrite. The differences in location of the buried site, over hundreds or thousands of years in the change of water flow, periods of wet and dry weather change, and shifting of soil can all influence the weathering effect observed on the buried nephrites, and are important to consider when looking at the weathering effect.
Dissolution and leeching are the initial steps of Chemical Weathering. In nephrite, calcium, magnesium, and potassium leach out, flowed with water, and eventually lost to the sea, contributing to the salinity of the seawater. Silicate also leeches out, but in proportion to a lesser extent. The loss of cations leads to crystal structure change and amorphous silicate forms. Often the whitish-grey amorphous silicate appears on the nephrite surface is mistaken as calcium (Figure 17). On many fake buried
nephrites white powder is randomly placed on the surface to simulate the amorphous silicate. Notice in figure 17, the distribution of the amorphous silicate has a pattern. During the jade carving, a large amount of fine nephrite granules was produced and left around the cut lines, in groves, depressions, and drill holes, places where polishing was unlikely to reach. Such areas also tended to retain water. The dissolution of these fine granules into amorphous silicate resulted in an appearance as if the amorphous silicate was outlining the lines and groves, as shown in figure 17. It is also the reason why large amounts of such whitish-grey amorphous silicate are often found inside drill holes obscuring tool marks.
Leeching and dissolution enlarge micropores and microcracks. Hydrolysis and oxidation also take place, and secondary products form. Nephrite, as a member of the amphibole group, forms clay minerals Smectite and Kaolinite, and iron oxides Hematite and Goethite. The clay minerals have a white to greyish, yellowish color. The iron oxides Hematite has a deep red to brownish red color but also can be dark grey. The other iron oxide Goethite can be yellow, red, deep brown, and can also be black. The formation of the secondary products on the jade surface is the basis of color change on buried nephrites. As hydrolysis and oxidation require water, water determines all changes seen on the nephrite, and since the penetration of water into the nephrite surface is limited, only 100 to 150 angstroms from scientific studies, changes are only limited to an extremely thin topical layer. Secondary products first form in the micropores and microcracks as a ferruginous gel-like substance. Depending on the secondary products formed, the buried nephrite color starts to change into the secondary product color in the micropores and microcracks. At first the nephrite loses its luster, and as more products form, the color begins to change as in the Song frog in figure 18. Due to the lack of water penetration, as more secondary products formed,
micropores and microcracks behave as they are plugged. Continue formation of the secondary products results in the spilling of the ferruginous gel onto the surface of the nephrite forming a crust, and eventually crystallize. Similar changes also are seen on the nephrite pebbles found in streams. Many of the secondary products developed on the surface may have washed away by the water stream. But iron oxides Hematite and Goethite can crystalize, and a reddish, yellowish skin can form on the surface together with greyish clay phyllosilicate (Figure 19).
Throughout Chinese history, collectors consider there are two types of buried nephrites, those newly unearthed, and those in collectors’ hands for generations. Those newly unearthed retain all the chemical weathering effect. Those that have been in collector’s hand underwent surface cleansing. Chinese collectors habitually rub and may even scrap the jade surface to clean what they consider dirt in an attempt to return the jade to its pre buried color. Many hundreds of years of such rubbing and cleaning results in the removal of the crust made of secondary products, exposing the jade surface with the secondary products still in the micropores and microcracks. Figure 20 is a Han (221 -206 BC) beast that has been in collectors’ hands for hundreds of years. Frequent
rubbing, scraping, and cleaning results in the removal of the secondary products, exposing the jade surface. Figure 21 shows the Han beast surface under a 40X stereotactic microscope. During the dissolution and leaching phase, due to the loss of substance, the surface micropores enlarge, and eventually, they coalesce forming an elongated shallow pit as if the jade has lost a small piece of skin as shown in figure 21. A brownish protonation layer where the chemical reaction took place, form at the bottom
of the pit. The protonation layer is only a few atoms thick and cannot be removed with ultrasound cleaning. The red arrows point to two thin silvery lines with a metallic shine. Such silvery lines are frequently seen on the buried nephrite surface. Most of them are in single file straight lines, with some seen at the edge of the crust edge. Because the angle of reflection of such lines is not ninety degrees, to see these lines, one must hold the jade piece to put it into the microscope focus, tilting the surface to look at the surface at different angles. The nature of these metallic lines is not clear. But in some, they seem to be formed by tiny metallic granules. Looking under the microscope obliquely by tilting the jade is also the best way to appreciate the thickness of the crust and the crystal formation of the secondary products on the jade surface. Notice there are phyllosilicate crystals of the clay mineral remain on the right side of figure 21, despite hundreds of years of rubbing and cleaning by many generations of owners.
Most of the metallic lines are silver. Less often seen are the golden yellow metallic lines. Figure 22 is a Hongshan zoomorphic. Under the microscope (Figure 23a),
the edge of a semitransparent, smooth ferruginous crust can be seen at the center with golden-yellow granules forming a line (in red circle). Below the red circle are phyllosilicate crystals of clay mineral formation. The greyish-white material has a look of irregular thicken plaque made up of sheet-like crystal of the phyllosilicate. All of these are on top of a darkish red iron oxide that encases the whole beast zoomorphic, giving the beast a reddish look (Figure 23b). In figure 23b under a 24X stereo microscope, at an oblique view, the secondary product of iron oxide, likely Hematite, can be view covering
the surface of the zoomorphic beast. The iron oxide covering is what gives the apparent color change of the nephrite. In another view of the zoomorphic beast in figure 22, greyish white phyllosilicate clay crystals are on top of the iron oxide crystals (Figure 23c). Notice also the straight silvery metal line indicated by the red arrow. The appearance of
the buried nephrite is the result of the secondary products from Chemical Weathering accumulating on the jade surface. The iron oxide encasing with phyllosilicate crystal formation on top is also illustrated by the Neolithic disc on the front cover of Jessica Rawson’s book. “Chinese Jade, From the Neolithic to the Qing.”
Silvery metallic granules are often in a line. Those on the Hongshan zoomorphic on top of a worm (Figure 24) are in a group. Figure 25 is the magnified view of the jade surface with a group of metallic granules marked in a red circle. Around these
granules are the sheet-like phyllosilicate crystals of the clay minerals. Viewing buried nephrite with naked eyes can be deceptive. The surface on the C-dragon – pig dragon in figure 26 appears damaged on observation. Such an effect is often simulated by fake jade makers with sandblasting, and color manipulation by driving in dye and paint with heat
and Ph, to obtain such appearance. Under the microscope, it becomes evident that such appearance is not damaged but is due to the accumulation of secondary weathering products on the surface, entirely different from that on the fake jades. In other words, weathering changes on the buried nephrites cannot be simulated, and recognizing such changes is a good tool for authentication.
As a group, Hongshan jades are buried the longest, for 5,000 to 6,000 years. The long burial time results in a large amount of secondary product accumulation on the surface, and hence with the most pronounce chemical weathering effects. Two clay minerals are formed, Smectite and Kaolinite. Clay minerals are phyllosilicates that form sheet-like crystals, and the accumulation of the crystals is what gives the irregular appearance of the surface. Figure 27 is the magnification of the C-dragon – pig dragon surface. Notice the thicking of the greyish-white crystals is what gives the appearance of
an irregular surface. Crystals have structure as noted on the right side of the magnified field, as opposed to the fake jades with white powder forming a thick paste. As the phyllosilicates come from a ferruginous gel, the presence of iron oxides gives the color a brownish tint. Variation of crystal form exits in different parts of the same jade piece due to many sub members of the clay minerals form various shapes of crystal. Smectite has 22 members, and Kaolinite has several. Figure 28 is the magnification of a different part of the C-dragon – pig dragon. Notice the difference of the crystal formation, more elongated and string-like than in figure 27. Chemical weathering is a very complicated
process, and much of it is still unknown. Various chemical reactions and numerous mineral formations result in different locations of the same piece of jade with different effects seen under a microscope. Simulation on fake jades is uniform throughout. Understanding this will significantly help in forgery identification.
Very few minerals give out an odor, and clay mineral is one of them, giving out the smell associated with soil. Chinese antique jades’ collectors have long known that buried nephritis has a scent that they referred to as tomb smell. This scent comes from the clay minerals formed from the chemical weathering process. Accumulation of clay mineral from the chemical weathering process on the jade surface increases with time, and only when enough clay minerals form on the jade surface that the buried nephrites can give out such odor. As a result, such odor comes only from jades Han or older, and the older the jade, the stronger the smell.
Crystals on the jade surface formed from the chemical weathering can have different shapes and forms. Figure 28a, also a magnification of the C-dragon – pig dragon, shows a patch of tile shape crystal within the two red circles. Such often found in
isolated patches crystals likely is pseudomorph formation. Pseudomorphs are minerals with chemical substances of one kind and a mineral crystal form of another kind as it alternates from one mineral to another. Pseudomorphs, often referred to as Raised Relief on Chinese nephrites, form in the geochemical world, when conditions become suitable. An example of natural pseudomorph is in figure 29, a Limonite pseudomorph after Siderite. Nephrites, when buried, return to the geochemical world, and pseudomorphs
form. As pseudomorphs take time to develop, they only occur on nephrites Han or older. When they occur, they are multiple. Figure 30 shows a late Zhou to Qin (201-206 AD). Jade man with numerous nodules on the body. Under microscopic magnification, these
nodules are formed by tile like crystals (Figure 31). Raised relief or pseudomorphs are
more often found in Hongshan jades for the apparent reason of the Hongshan jades’ longest burial time. Figure 32 is a Hongshan zoomorphic beast with multiple raised relief
on its body. Under the microscope reveals the similarity of the tile like crystal structure of these nodules to those in figure 31 (Figure 33). One difference between the two is that
there are metallic granules found on the nodules on the zoomorphic beast (Figure 33a), whereas metallic granules are not found on the jade man. Such a difference may indicate
that the chemical composition of the nodules is different between the zoomorphic beast and the jade man and that iron oxide are present in the secondary products in the zoomorphic beast giving the zoomorphic beast a reddish color. Pseudomorphs alter from the original mineral to a new mineral depending on the environmental influence. Raised relief on one jade surface may be a different mineral from raised relief on another jade surface. Figure 34 is a natural Agate pseudomorph. Notice the similarity of the crystal
arrangement between the Agate pseudomorph and those on the jade man (figure 30 and 31), and on the Hongshan zoomorphic (Figure 32 and 33). Figure 35 is another Hongshan
zoomorphic beast. The pseudomorph on this zoomorphic beast (Figure 36) is completely
different from those on the jade man and the zoomorphic beast in figure 32 and more like the Limonite pseudomorph in figure 29. The different types of pseudomorph are further demonstrated in figure 37, another Hongshan zoomorphic. The pseudomorphs
on its body all have a Smoke Quartz appearance (Figure 38). All of these say that the
raised relief on the buried nephrite may have different chemical compositions. There is one essential consideration when comparing pseudomorphs on the jade surface to the naturally occurring ones. The naturally occurring pseudomorphs are in general ten thousand years or older, whereas the pseudomorphs on the jade surface are at the most 6 thousand years old.
The chemical weathering process continues to take place within the surface micropores and microcracks of the jade surface, producing a ferruginous gel-like substance that eventually spills onto the jade surface, forming a thin semi-transparent crust. Such crust is hard to discern under the microscope unless the semitransparent crust is cracked, as on this Liangzhu (3400-2250 BC) disc with three birds (Figure 39).The
crack becomes apparent when the disc is examined under the microscope ( Figure 40). A
small piece of the crust is lost, exposing the undersurface of the disc seen in the area within the red circle and on further magnification (Figure 41). The defect on the crust
can now be seen, providing proof that such a crust exists. The ferruginous substance can thicken into a plaque on the jade surface. Figure 42 is another magnification view of figure 26, the C – dragon pig dragon. Amid greyish-yellow phyllosilicate crystals is a clear
plaque with an edge adjoining the clay phyllosilicate. At the center of the plaque, are silvery metal granules forming a straight line, identified within two red arrows. The presence of these metallic granules affirms the plaque is ferruginous. The color and the semi-transparency of the plaque are frequently mistaken as the jade surface looking at it with naked eyes and widely simulated by fake jade makers by covering part of the fake jade with dye and other parts without. Seeing such a pattern of an exposed jade surface can be a clue of forgeries.
The presence of the weathering crust on the jade surface is a good indication that the jade piece is genuine. This thin crust is only about 0.1 to 0.2 mm in thickness, comprising of clay phyllosilicate and iron oxide minerals. Many geochemical changes can be observed on this thin crust. Figure 43 is a Hongshan pig dragon beast. On it is a
group of brownish granules within the semitransparent crust (Figure 44). Such granules
black or deep brown in color and often referred to as charcoal, are Hematite inclusions formed inside the ferruginous gel. Hematite can also be reddish-brown. When it forms as a crust, it creates an optical illusion that the jade piece is reddish-brown in color, as we have already seen on the zoomorphic beast in figure 23. Figure 45 is a Han beast disc. A
magnified oblique view reveal the coloring is due to surface Hematite encrusting (Figure 46). Iron oxide encrusting is a frequent finding in Hongshan jades, as on this Hongshan
zoomorphic insect beast (Figure 47). Again, to appreciate the presence of the crust, an
oblique view under the microscope is essential (Figure 48). The different colors on the
jade surface is due to the different mineral formed. The red and black are from iron oxides, and the greyish white is from the clay minerals. Figure 49 is another view of figure 47, the zoomorphic insect beast. The crust essentially becomes the jade surface
taking on the color of the secondary products as well as defects like the cracks that are in the crust rather than in the jade (Figure 49). Weathering product iron oxide in the crust can result in various colors of the Hongshan jade. The color change on the Hongshan eagle in figure 50, is likely from Goethite, as also likely the Hongshan bird zoomorphic in
figure 51 that has a distinct crystal formation (Figure 52a). Figure 52b is an oblique view
of the jade surface. The iron oxide crystals are clearly on the surface of the jade piece. The beautiful color on the Neolithic disc on the cover of Jessica Rawson’s book, “Chinese Jade, from the Neolithic to the Qing” is not a natural color. The color is from the iron oxide formed on the jade surface similar to on the zoomorphic bird in figure 52.
There is a mineral formation unique to Hongshan jade. Figure 53 is a
Hongshan bird with a worm on its head. The unique mineral finding is inside the drill hole as in figure 54. The pin-like crystal is an iron oxide, most likely Goethite. Drill holes
preserve water and have a cave-like environment suitable for mineral development. This phenomenon is rarely seen as such mineral formation is uncommon. Although fragments of this type of mineral can be found inside other drill holes, a fully developed formation can only be found in one other Hongshan Jade, a zoomorphic with a beard (Figure 55). Inside its two obliquely drilled holes on its back are multiple of such mineral formations( Figure 56).
The key to distinguishing a genuine buried nephrite from forgeries is to recognize the color change on the jade surface comes from the secondary weathering products, clay minerals, and iron oxides. Only when the secondary product crystals are seen on the surface, authenticity can be ensured.
Through Jade to Hongshan cultural beliefs
Throughout Chinese history, jade has been regarded as a stone with mysterious power, a belief especially true during the Neolithic period, and hence jade was exclusively the medium for expressing religious beliefs. As with any art form, such expression reflects the thinking of the carver. Through jade, the carver presents his thought and outlook of his world and his perception of beauty to the viewers. With the Hongshan culture leaving no written record, jade provides a path for a glimpse of the thinking and the religious beliefs of the culture. Artistically, Hongshan jade, even with all the limits of being a Neolithic culture, attains a high artistic level, not less than any subsequent Chinese culture periods, thousands of years after.
The majority of the Hongshan jades are small, measured 3 to 8 centimeters. Most of the small piece has hanging holes like those discussed in the drill mark section above, indicating that such small pieces are for hanging on the body. None of the large pieces, which can measure up to eighteen centimeters, has hanging holes, except the hook cloud plaque (Figure 57), that can measure to 23 centimeters. With drilled holes on
top and to the sides, the Hook Cloud plaque most likely was for hanging on the human body. Some speculation that the plaque is an abstraction for a religious belief. Other large pieces longer than 15 centimeters like the zoomorphic beast in figure 35, and the zoomorphic insect beast in figure 47, as a rule, do not have drill holes as they probably are statues rather than a hanging piece.
Most of the Hongshan jades are beasts with human characteristics, a form of zoomorphic. These beasts zoomorphic intermingle with birds and insects often on top of the head of the beast. The pig dragons and C-dragons are a class of its own. Chinese scholars believe they are the forerunners of the Chinese dragon. Their faces, however, resemble that of a Hongshan beast (Figures 58 and figures 9a and b). The pig dragon is
more versatile and often combines with another subject, as with the C-dragon in figure 26. More often, the pig dragon combines with the zoomorphic beast (Figure 43), and in figure 58, in semi human form with a pair of human legs. A more complex pig dragon is in figure 59, one with a zoomorphic beast head, losing the characteristic pig dragon eyes connected with a pair of lines, and a pair of insect or bird wings. Both pig dragons in figure 58 and 59 give an impression that the pig dragon can evolve into other forms. In
another word, it is a therianthrope rather than a zoomorphic. It is quite often that the Hongshan animal and beast, as the pig dragon in figure 59, take more than one form. In figure 47, the zoomorphic beast is also part insect, and in figure 55, the zoomorphic beast is part bird and part insect. The combination forms may mean the Hongshan beast, man, insect, and bird can evolve into each other and are more likely therianthropes.
The Hongshan beasts and animals are not necessary a zoomorphic with more than one entity in one form but can occur as two different individuals. Figure 60 is a pig
dragon on top of a beast, and figure 61 is a beast on top of a pig dragon. Notice both the
pig dragon and the beast in figure 60 are facing the same direction, and the beast and the pig dragon in figure 61 are facing the opposite direction. Direction pointing is often a theme in the Hongshan culture, as we have seen on the ox nose part of the through and through drill holes on the C-dragon (Figures 8 and 9). Figure 62 is a beast. On its back is
an owl facing opposite to the beast, resulting in both the beast and the owl showing the front (Figure 63). The beast zoomorphic in figure 64 also has an owl on its back. But in
this case, it is the owl’s back we are seeing as the beast and owl are facing the same direction (Figure 65). Figure 66a and b is a bird standing facing forward on top of a zoomorphic beast. This statue was a pair. Unfortunately, figure 66 is the only one in my
collection. The other statue, the bird on top of the zoomorphic beast, faces backward. The theme of direction pointing, at a time in the same direction, and in others in a direct opposite is consistent in Hongshan jades. These Hongshan jade carvings illustrate clearly the concept of the same and opposite in the form of direction, as we shall see later also in the form of the two different sexes.
The goddess temple and the six pregnant female clay figurines excavated from the Hongshan archeologic site lead to the belief that Hongshan is a fertility worship culture. Hongshan is also the only Chinese culture period that displays the female figure in their jade art by carving breasts on the female characters, as on the female bird
zoomorphic (Figure 67), and the two female beasts zoomorphic (Figures 68 and 69). All female characters have round eyes and all female beasts zoomorphic sit in a semi kneeling position on their legs. This sitting position is like that of the later Shang and Zhou period, tracing back a long tradition. The male counterpart has almond-shaped eyes, and most of the male beast squats (Figure 70), with less often sits on the ground (Figure 71). Both the male and female may stand. Notice also are the two different types
of horns on the female zoomorphic in figure 68 and the male zoomorphic in figure 70. It is possible that these are not horns of the beasts, but headgears or even hairstyle of the Hongshan period. The shape of the eyes differs between males and females with female eyes round, and the male eyes almond-shaped, provides clear identification of gender in human, beast, bird, or insect. Most birds have round eyes. The almond-shaped eyes on the bird in figure 72 distinct him as a male, a contrast to the round eye bird in figure 53,
the female bird zoomorphic in figure 67, and the female beast in figure 68. Males and females are often in pairs, and when they are in pair, each faces a different direction. Figure 73 is a pair of males and female zoomorphic beasts with each facing an opposite
direction. The two zoomorphic beasts of opposite sexes in figure 74 facing up and down. Figure 75 is a pair of bird beast zoomorphic, back to back in two directions with the smaller round eye female on the back of the bigger almond eye male. The opposite position emphasizes the contrast of male and female consistent with the opposite directions indicated by the ox nose on the C-dragons, and the opposite directions facing by the zoomorphic, birds and beasts. What it shows is the idea of opposing directions of front and back, forward and backward, up and down, female and male, are in one, a philosophy that may well be the embryonic beginning of Yin and Yang.
Pregnancy is a theme in the Hongshan religious belief. From the excavation of the Hongshan archeology site, there are six pregnant female figurines. Such theme of pregnancy also reflects in the jade carving. Figure 76 is a pregnant beast zoomorphic.
Unfortunately, none of the figurines retains the head. Having human-like breasts in these figurines may not mean they are human, as seen in figure 67, the female bird zoomorphic also have human-like breasts and a bird head. The zoomorphic in figure 76 has a protruding abdomen indicating pregnancy. The head of the beast has a C-dragon crown and a pair of two lines connected eyes. A connection of eyes in such a manner is only in the pig dragon. The combination brings in the importance of the C-dragon and the pig dragon in relation to life. Such a combination also confirms that the beast is a therianthrope as it shows more of a change from the human, beast, to C-dragon and pig dragon as opposite to a zoomorphic, a human in beast form.
A unique bottomless tube (Figure 1) thought to be religion related is also a subject of the jade carvings. Figure 77a and b is a turtle climbing up such a bottomless tube, and figure
78 shows a bottomless tube on the feet of a bird zoomorphic. The association of the bottomless tube, the turtle, and the bird zoomorphic may indicate the Hongshan
religious belief is related to nature, an interrelationship between humans and birds, insects, and beast. Both the bottomless tube and the jades are found only in graves, making such a relationship likely an afterlife belief.
Often found in Hongshan carved nephrites are insects, birds, and beasts on top of a larger beast zoomorphic. Figure 79 a and b is a beast zoomorphic with two
winged insects on its head. The eyes of the insects become the beast zoomorphic eyes. Figure 80 a and b is a small beast on top of a larger beast zoomorphic. Figure 81 a and b
is a bird on a beast zoomorphic, and figure 82 a and b is a double-headed beast on a larger beast zoomorphic. These carvings further demonstrate the close interrelationship
between human, beast, bird, and insect in the Hongshan belief. All the zoomorphic with an insect, bird, or a small beast on their head have almond shaped eyes indicating they are male beasts. The eyes of the beast zoomorphic in figure 79 are the eyes of the insects. But the squatting position tells that the beast is a male. There are also carvings with a human face. Figure 83 a and b is a man’s face and figure 84 a and b is a man’s face with two legs attached to it. Both have a winged insect on top of their heads. The similarity in
position, as well as the similarity of the insects on their heads, may indicate the male beast zoomorphic and man are interchangeable and identical. The meaning of the insect, bird, and beast on the heads of man and beast cannot be known. But that it only associates with males indicates male is a special class. Only other human face on the carvings is this female beast zoomorphic with a human face mask behind her head (figure 85 a, and b). No insect, bird, or beast appears on the head of the female zoomorphic, a distinct difference from the male counterpart.
Hongshan was a Neolithic culture 6,000 years ago. To many people today, the culture was primitive. Such an assumption is reflected in people who carve forgeries, creating jade pieces they believe primitive and call them Hongshan jade. Without the opportunity to see an authentic Hongshan jade artifact, the fake jade carvers produce inferior objects out of their imagination of what they believe a Neolithic primitive culture artifact. Such imagery permeates Chinese society today. Yet the Neolithic people of Hongshan carved out jade pieces that are both technically and artistically advance even in today’s standard. The technique they used was principally grinding with abrasive, leaving behind a smooth jade surface with minimal tool marks. The most frequently found tool marks are inside drill holes. Drill holes are made with bone drills and abrasives, leaving behind shallow, irregular and circular marks on the side of the drill hole (see figure 13). Most of the Hongshan jades are round three dimensional. Without the benefit of today’s instruments, the Hongshan carvers were able to carve zoomorphic beasts squatting on their two feet, essentially putting the center of gravity of the mass onto two small points ( figures 32, 37,80 and 84), something that today’s fake jade carvers cannot achieve. Most of the jades are superb artistically. Consider the beautiful geometric curve of the C-dragon (figure 9), the line management of the female beast (figure 22), the imaginative birdman (figure 51), and the balance in the abstraction of the hook cloud plaque (figure57). One can go on and on. If one cannot see artistic beauty in a Hongshan jade piece, one can very much doubt the authenticity of it.
Using abrasive has always been the foundation of jade carving in China. From the Neolithic time to the Zhou Dynasty, the technique was grinding with the use of abrasive, a tedious and time-consuming process, but left behind a smooth jade surface with little to no tool mark. During the Han Dynasty, latches came into use also working with abrasive. Jade carving became more efficient, required far less time to accomplish, but also left behind distinctive tool marks. Such a technique very much continues to the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912) resulting in tool mark similarity between the jade made before Han and after Han.
Jade of each period and dynasty has different style and characteristic. Hongshan jades are of no exception. Hongshan carvers often combine two characters into one piece, a form that has not seen in any period of Chinese jade. Such a combination often presented creatively. Figures 86 a, b, and c show a beast combining with a cicada. The front is the beast, the back the cicada and with the bottom the cicada
face. Hongshan carvers also have a sense of humor. Figure 87 a, b, and c is a piece that looking at it from one side is a face (figure 87a). Turn the piece around, and there is another face (figure 87 b). The back side is a frog on a leaf (figure 87 c). The Hongshan
jade is genuinely an art form in no sense inferior to any other period. Notice the crack line on figure 87a. The crack line is curved an indication the crack is on the secondary weathering chemical. If it is on the jade itself, it will be straight due to the structure of the nephrite crystals. Also, notice the similarity between the human face in figure 87a and the cicada face in figure 86c, consistent with the Hongshan theme of interchangeability and intermigration between humans and animals.
From Hongshan to Han
One of the mysteries in Chinese antiquity is the meaning of a beast face that appeared on the Shang (1600 BCE – 1046 BCE) and Zhou (1046 BCE – 256 BCE) bronze ceremonial wares (Figure 88). The beast face also appears on a Shang jade vase (Figure 89 a and b). The origin or the meaning of such a beast face has led to many speculations
with no answer for certain. Tracing back, the only resemblance of the Shang beast face is the face of the Hongshan zoomorphic beast. The question is that can the Shang beast face has an origin in the Hongshan beast zoomorphic. Figure 90 is the face of the Hongshan zoomorphic beast with a bird on his head (Figure 66a and b) and look again at figure 86a
the beast face in front of the cicada. Figure 91 is the Hongshan zoomorphic beast in front of the hook cloud plaque in figure 14. The hook cloud plaque is an abstraction that has a
ligious meaning. The presence of it behind the zoomorphic beast gives the zoomorphic beast a religious significance. When comparing the three Hongshan beast faces, figures 86a, 90 and 91, to the Shang bronze and jade vase beast faces in figures 88 and 89, the similarity between all these faces is there, making it very likely that the Shang beast face has an origin in the Hongshan zoomorphic beast.
But if that is the case, why did the people of Shang carve the Hongshan zoomorphic beast face onto their ceremonial bronze wares. The answer lies in two Liangzhu culture (3400 BCE – 2250 BCE) jade butterfly plaques (figure 92 and figure 93).
Liangzhu is another Neolithic jade culture in China, overlapping in time with Hongshan (4700 – 2900 BC), coexisting at the same time for five hundred years. Physically they were a thousand miles apart. The Liangzhu culture has three images carved on their jades, the godman 神人 (figure 94), and the two god beasts 神獸 seen in figure 92. The godman is the ancestor king, and the two misnomer god beasts are symbols of human representing the
present living king and the ancestor king. The lower god beast with a nose in figure 92 is the symbol of the ancestor king and therefore is carved on the body of the godman, the ancestor king, in figure 94. The upper god beast without a nose in figure 92 is the symbol of the present living king, and therefore is carved on the cones, axes and beads, personal belongings of the current living king. (The explanations of the godman and god beasts are found in the blog post “良渚神人神獸的意義及其宗教中心思想,” in this web site). Except for the one on the lower part of the butterfly plaque in figure 93. the Liangzhu culture has never carved the beast face on their jades. This beast face is the first-ever beast face in Chinese history, predating the Shang (1600 BCE – 1046 BCE) by at least one thousand years. As the beast face is not part of the Liangzhu culture, there must be a base for this beast face carving, and the only possible source is the Hongshan zoomorphic beast. In figure 92, the Liangzhu god beast with a nose occupies the lower position of the butterfly plaque. In figure 93, that position is replaced by the beast face. Since the Liangzhu god beast with a nose is the symbol of the ancestor king, the replacement of it with the beast face indicates the beast face carries the same meaning, that It is also a symbol of the ancestor king. The Shang ceremony is to worship and honor the ancestor kings. It is, therefore, logical to have the beast face, a symbol of the ancestor king carved on the ceremonial bronzes.
Since the Neolithic time, in the subsequent periods in Chinese art, the beast face is not as frequently seen on the jades as on the bronze. It appears on a Zhou Dynasty disc as abstract designs (figure 95). It also appears on a seal (figures 96a and b). This seal
has a beast knob, and on the four sides, four beast faces. Four characters are on the seal surface 黃漢起印. The name indicates that it is the seal of a general 黃蓋in Han of the Three Kingdoms period (220 -280 AD). After Han, the beast face is no longer seen in China. The disappearance has to do with the tremendous change in Chinese culture after Han. Both the bird and the beast face represent the ancestor king, with the beast face as the symbol, and the bird believed to be the medium of the ancestor king’s soul when he makes his journey to the sun (explanation in “渚神人神獸的義及其宗教中心思想”). Such religious belief is the reason why both the beast face and the bird are on the ceremonial bronze and the Shang jade vase (figure 89a). After the Han Dynasty, Buddhism came to China. Buddhism replaced the original religious belief of ancestor king worship and with it the ancestor king symbol of the beast face and the bird. Yet ancestor worship remains in Chinese society even today. The Hongshan and Liangzhu spirit are still deep in Chinese culture.
Hongshan religious beliefs
The Hongshan jades present a pattern through which it opens a path to the thinking and beliefs of the carvers. The finding of the goddess’s head and the pregnant female figurines at the temple site show Hongshan was a fertility worship culture. This belief is also reflected in jade in the pregnant therianthrope (figure 76). The bottomless clay tube thought to be of religious significance is also found in the jade carving (figures 77 and 78). Jades are buried in graves and should express the religious belief of the afterlife apart from the fertility worship associated with the temple. Often the jade carvings are zoomorphic beasts, semi-human, with birds and insects. Some combine more than one as if it is in transformation, a therianthrope rather than a zoomorphic (Figure 59). Such a transformation afterlife may indicate the Hongshan belief in reincarnation or transmigration after death. Reincarnation or transmigration is a universal human belief shared by people in India, ancient Greek and, Rome, natives in North America and Australia. That this is may also a belief in the Hongshan culture should not be a surprise.
The Hongshan zoomorphic beast, birds and insects, all show a clear distinction between males and females, with males have almond-shaped eyes and females have round eyes. Male and female are often set in one piece facing the opposite direction (figures 73, 74, and 75). The concept of opposing directions and yet form as one is also shown by the ox nose part of the round drill holes on the C-dragons and the opposing direction facing by the zoomorphic beasts and birds on the same jade piece ( figures 63, 64 and 65). This thinking, together with the male and female opposing but complement each other into one piece, is very much in line with the Yin and Yang philosophy that comes later into the Chinese culture.
Hongshan jade also gives us a glimpse into a Neolithic society, a society with men and women playing different roles, the males into the position of kings, and females into the role of fertility. The beast zoomorphic in the Hongshan culture and the godman, god beasts in the Liangzhu culture, all represent ancestor kings’ worship that passed on to the Shang Dynasty and influences the Chinese culture even today.
2004年大英博物館發表了一篇論文,(The identification of carving techniques on Chinese jade, Margaret Sax, Nigel D. Meek, Carol Michaelson, Andrew P. Middleton; Journal of Archaeological Science 31 (2004) 1413-1428). 作者把六件大英博物館所藏中國玉器玉面上的工具留痕打模, 然後用電子顯微鏡檢看所得模型, 以鑒定留痕是從那種工具所留下. 六件玉器中有一件紅山玉鳥. 但在玉鳥上, 並没有找到留痕, 唯一找到的是在掛洞中的頂上兩洞相接處, 留有拉線切割的痕跡. 紅山玉器被埋在地下有五六千年, 可說是世上埋在地下最久被雕刻過的軟玉, 因而化學風化的程度最深, 而風化可把工具痕跡遮蓋. 且紅山玉器主要是磨製, 平滑的玉面經打磨後, 留下極少的工具痕跡, 鳥獸人物的刻劃, 主要是用淺而寬的坑. 線條也是淺而寬(圖3), 眼鼻都是宊出