Chemical Weathering

Chemical Weathering

Han Disc
Han (221-206 BC)

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 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.

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

The Elk Room Boxwork

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.

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.

Song frog
Amorphous silicate spilling out of micropores.

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.

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.

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).

allevial nephrite
Partial removal of encasing rock to show the nephrite

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

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

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.

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

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

phyllosilicate crystal crust can be better seen if the axe is look at obliquely as below.

Xia axe
Xia axe oblique view

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

Xia axe
Hematite formation and hair like clay crystal.

in several other burial jade pieces.  The Xia bracelet shown below also has such hair like crystal structures.

Xia bracelet
Xia bracelet with hair like clay crystal
IMG_1742 (4)
Hair like clay crystal

The exact nature of this structure is unclear. The closest resemblance is the illite crystal, a non expandable clay.

Illite crystal, a non expanding clay

Another possibility is Byssolite, an Amphibole Supergroup, a variation of Actinolite.

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.   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

Liangzhu plaque)
Liangzhu plaque

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

Liangzhu plaque
Liangzhu plaque with red crystal formation, most likely Hematite.

below. (from Sandatlas ) 

hematite Morocco 8 cm
Natural Hematite

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

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.

This type of metallic line formation can also seen on the Han beast below.  The exact

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

Hongshan bird with worm on head
Hongshan bird 109-1 and 2needle hematite crystal 1
Needle Hematite crystal under microscope in drill hole.

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.

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

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

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).  

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 that reflects 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 artifacts except 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

 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. 

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 

C-dragon with raised relief.
C-dragon with multiple raised relief.


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 

Squatting beast raised reliefe

Squatting beast with raised relief and magnified view.

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,

Limonite pseudomorph after Siderite
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.

Native_copper_pseudomorph_after_aragonite,_by James St John Wakepedia,western_Bolivia
copper pseudomorph after aragonite. (From James St John, Wikipedia)

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.


1. 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.

2. M. Rozalen , M.E. Ramos F. Gervilla T. Kerestedjian S. Fiore F.J. Huertas .Dissolution study of tremolite and anthophyllite: pH effect on the reaction kinetics. Applied Geochemistry 49 (2014) 46-56

3. J. Cuadros. Clay crystal-chemical adaptability and transformation mechanisms. Clay minerals, (2012)47, 147-164.

4. D. Proust, J. Caillaud, C. Fontaine. Clay minerals in early Amphibole weathering: Tri- to Dioctahedral sequence as a function of crystallation sites in the Amphibole. The Clay Minerals Society, 2006.

5. D. Proust. Amphibole Weathering in a glaucophane-schist. Clay Mineral (1985) 20, 161-170

6. Aleksandra Daković, So this actually is wellAlessio Langella, and George E. Christidis. Clay crystal-chemical adaptability and transformation mechanisms. Clay Minerals, March 2015, v. 50, p. i-ii

7. JACQUES SCHOTT~, ROBERT A. BERNER and E. LENNART SJOHERGS. Mechanism of pyroxene and amphibole weathering-I. Experimental studies of iron-free minerals. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta Volume 45, Issue 11, November 1981, Pages 2123-2135

8. Robert A. Berner and Jacques Schott. Mechanism of pyroxene and amphibole weathering; II, Observations of soil grains. Am J Sci October 1, 1982 282:1214-1231; doi:10.2475/ajs.282.8.1214 

9. Frederick A. Cook. Raised relief on nephrite jade artifacts: observations, explanations and implications. Journal of Arcaeological Science, 40 (2013) 943-954.

10. Mariola Marszałek, Zofia Alexandrowicz, and Grzegorz Rzepa. Composition of weathering crusts on sandstones from natural outcrops and architectonic elements in an urban environment. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2014; 21: 14023–14036.


12. M. J . WILSON. Weathering of the primary rock-forming minerals: processes, products and rates. Clay Minerals (2004) 39, 233–266.

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.

Ancestor King Worship, the Indigenous Chinese Religion, from Liangzhu Culture to Shang, Zhou, and Han.


The ancestor king worship 皇祖崇拜 was the first documented religion in China from the Shang Oracle Bone script and writings on the ceremonial bronzes. The practice continued to Zhou and Han. But its history goes back to the Neolithic Liangzhu culture (3400 – 2250 BCE) where it originated. In here we will put forward a credible account of a religion so dominated the Chinese culture during the Shang and Zhou period but eventually disappeared after Han. Using literature quotes and interpretation of carvings on the nephrite jade, we will trace its original form in Liangzhu, how it migrated to Shang after the demise of the Liangzhu culture, and how it was replaced and eventually completely forgotten after the Han dynasty.

Liangzhu and the ancestor king worship

Ancestor king worship in Neolithic China

Ancestors worship is practiced throughout the world in various degree and form, from Asia, Africa, America to Europe. Particularly in China, ancestor worship in the form of the royalty linage is not only the main religion belief, but also forms the political structure of the society during the Neolithic to the Shang Dynasty (1600 -1046 BCE), way before Buddhism and Confucianism exist in China. Ancestors Worship was well established in the Shang and Zhou Dynasties. Clearly documented in the earliest Chinese writing, the Oracle Bone script, the usage of the bonzes and writing on them, the temple structure, and the town buildings formation, were all formulated to facilitate the practice of worshipping ancestors of the ruling class. In this form ancestor king worship forms the political structure of the Shang and Zhou society, and therefore not only as a religion, but also with a strong political implication. 祖先崇拜与中国早期国家 ( The origin of such political religion has been dated back to the Neolithic Longshan Culture period (3000- 1900 BCE), and some even placed it to the Yongshao Culture (5000 -3000 BCE). This assumption is based on that the Longshan and Yongshao cultures are the forerunners of the Shang and Zhou Dynasties and with this qualification, assumes the similarity of the political religion structure. Longshan culture was in the lower Yellow River Valley basin, occupying through Shandong, Henan, Shaanxi, and Shanxi provinces. Longshan greatly improved the farming and livestock raising techniques of the Yongshao culture and was noted for its black potteries.  However, both the Yongshao and Longshan cultures were without a written form of language. Also lacking were the bronze, temple and town structure of the Shang and Zhou that are essential proofs of ancestor king worship. In such absence, the assumption of ancestor king worship in the Yongshao and Longshan cultures is obviously not evidence based but only on an assumption. Yet evidence of ancestors worship in Neolithic China does exist and it is recorded on the nephrite jade of the Liangzhu Culture (3300 – 2300 BCE).  

The Liangzhu culture

The Neolithic Liangzhu culture (3300 – 2300 BCE) located in southeast China in the Yangtze River Delta was chronologically later than the Yongshao Culture (5000 – 3000 BCE) and in proximity to the Longshan Culture (3000 – 1900 BCE) both in time and in location south of the Shandong Longshan (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Neolithic cultures of China.

Liangzhu was a successful Neolithic culture producing massive amount of rice. Also was noted for its jade carving, producing China’s first silk, ivory, and lacquer wares. Especially jade, Liangzhu together with Hongshan (4700 – 2900 BCE) and Lingjiatan (3750 – 3000 BCE) formed the three notable jade cultures of Neolithic China.  Liangzhu built the largest city of the period with sophisticated town structure surrounded by clay walls.  Within the city are natural hills and manmade earth mounts structures surrounded by well managed waterways equipped with hydraulic system for flood control. Figure 2 is a model of one of the Liangzhu archeologic site, the Mojiaoshan Terrace, showing the palatial complex with buildings on an artificial mount. Notice a walkway leading to the left to a worship alters

Figure 2  Mojiaoshan palatial and alter complex model. (Picture from China Daily)

terraces artificial earth mount. Tombs are found on the alter level on the top. Within these tombs are large number of jade artifacts, an indication that these tombs belong to the ruling elites, kings of the Liangzhu culture. 90% of the Liangzhu culture jade artifacts are found in these tombs. Congs, discs, axes, tubes, and beads are the frequently seen Liangzhu jades with some in awe and D shape, and some come in three prongs. (The Dawn of the Chinese civilization: Jades of the Liangzhu Culture. The Liangzhu Culture Art Museum and the Art Museum. The Chinese University of Hong Kong. 1998.) These jades are ritual artifacts with spiritual emblems markings, images unique to the Liangzhu culture reflecting the Liangzhu religious beliefs and provides a doorway to a religion at the dawn of the Chinese culture.  The Cong and disc in particular have their origins in the Liangzhu culture and are two of the only six jade objects mentioned in the Zhou literature used to worship heaven and earth, giving evidence that the worship ceremony of Shang and Zhou has an origin in Liangzhu.

Images on the Liangzhu jades, The Holy Man 神人and the Holy Beast 神獸.

The unique images carved on the Liangzhu jade were initially labelled as the Holy Man and the Holy Beast. For lack of terminology the two terms will be used here in spite they are misnomers as neither the Holy Man a man, nor the Holy Beast a beast. The Holy Beast is an image of two eyes, often seen on the corners of a Cong (Figure 3). This image can also be found on tubes (Figure 4), beads (Figure 5), and axes (Figures 6).  When magnified (Figure 7), striated circular line markings are seen around the eyes interrupted by three groups of straight lines. Between and underneath the eyes are oval structures connected by short lines.

Figure 3.  Cong with the Holy Beast image at the corner.
Figure 4 Tube with Holy Beast image.
Figure 5 Holy Beast image on a bead.
Figure 6.  Holy Beast image on an axe.
Figure 7. Holy Beast image in magnification.

The Holy Man is an image most noted on a large Cong in the Zhejiang Province Museum. The nick named King Cong with a weight of 6.5 kilogram was excavated in the Liangzhu archeologic site in 1986. On it is an image of a man with a Holy Beast in the center as part of his body (Figure 8). This image can also be seen on a large Huang (Figure 9) and has been reproduced as an illustrated figure (Figure 10).

Figure 8. Holy Man image on the Liangzhu King Cong
Figure 9. Holy Man image on a Huang.
Figure10. Illustrated Holy Man image.

Markings on the Holy Beasts and the Holy Man

The image of the Holy Beast is labelled a beast because of the unusual concentric markings around the eyes and the ovoid and short straight lines on the nose and lip making it unfamiliar to the viewer. Given that the ovoid and straight lines markings are also on the body of the Holy Man, these markings have to be a structure found throughout the human body. If the eyes and nose are looked at as the face, there is only one body structure that carries such marking on both the face and the body, and that is the skeletal

Figure 11. Facial muscle.

muscle structure. The human face has no subcutaneous tissue and when the skin is removed, the facial muscles will be exposed (Figure 11). Around the eyes are the muscles Orbicularis Oculi (Figure 12). The function of this muscle is to close the upper and lower eye lids and the muscle is in concentric lines. To

Figure 12. Orbicularis Oculi muscle around the eye.

understand the marking on the Holy Man, one has to look at the skeletal muscle structure of a human body. Skeletal muscles are made up of bundles in sheath giving an appearance of straight lines when

Figure 13. Front view of the muscular structure.
Figure 14A. Cross section of a muscle bundle.
Figure 14B. Cross section of the lower leg.

looked at from the front (Figure 13). When the muscles are cut into cross sections, the muscle bundles appear in ovoid shapes (Figure 14A and B). The muscle structure comparison becomes more obvious when comparing the markings on the Holy Man plaque (Figure 15. Zhejiang Province Museum) to the human muscle markings. The Neolithic Liangzhu people put their artistic interpretation of the muscle structure on the Holy Man and the Holy Beast images. The question now is why, and what does muscle represent to the Liangzhu?  To answer that, one has first to understand the Chinese written characters.

Figure 15. Holy Man plaque in the Zhejiang Province Museum.

Muscle and ancestor connection from the Oracle Bone and the Bronze scripts.

Chinese written characters are often made up with sub scripts categorizing words into groups. The word water comes from the Oracle Bone script. Eventually it evolves into a subscript with three dots on the left to signify words related to water, like the word river 河, swim 泳, sea 海, and flow 流. The subscript can be on top like in the word grass 草, flower 花, and lily 蓮, with the grass and flower subscript on top grouping words related to vegetable plants. The subscript can also be on the right or below. The word 示 by itself means to show or to reveal. When used as a subscript on the left categorizes a group of words with a meaning of ceremonial worship and faith, like in the word god 神, temple 祠, worship 祀, bless and protect 祐, and ancestor 祖. When written on the left it can be slightly modified with the dot into a slash. 示 can also be used as a subscript on the bottom like in the word 崇 meaning worship and respect. 示 in the Oracle Bone script (Figure 16 A and B【每日一字】示:人之好我,示我周行-中央纪委网站 ( ) was at one time interpreted as a male genital with the two dots as the testicles and also a reference to the word ancestor 祖. For the sake of modesty and the official morality concern the male genital can no longer be mentioned. Now the official interpretation of the word 示 in the Oracle Bone script has changed into an ancestor name plate for worship. Words on Oracle Bone script can have more than one version and are pictorial representations of an idea or object. In this case one can easily see the resemblance of the word 示 to the male genital. Both interpretations of 示 in the Oracle Bone script, be it the male genital or an ancestor name plate for worship, are in the noun form. 示 in today’s meaning to show or to reveal is a verb.  Nouns and verbs in the Chinese language, unlike in the Western language, is

Figure 16A. Oracle bone script 示
Figure 16B.  Oracle Bone script 示

only in the meaning without a specific form change. But what to show or reveal on the Oracle Bone script, be it the male genital or the name plate for the ancestor for worship, has to be in reference to the ancestor 祖. In the verb form 示 means reveling the oracle, namely fortune or misfortune, from the ancestor. It also can mean the action of showing the ancestor himself.  Figure 17A is the word ancestor 祖 in the Oracle Bone script and figure 17B is the word in Bronze script. 祖 – 字源查询 – 汉字源流 – 查字网 (  One should notice the similarity between the word to show 示, and the word ancestor 祖. According to the scholar Guo Moruo (郭沫若), the word ancestor 祖 in the Oracle Bone script and the Bronze script, is a pictorial representation of a male genital, likely a phallus symbol representing the

Figure 17A. Oracle Bone script ancestor 祖
Figure 17B.  Bronze script ancestor 祖
Figure 18. The development of the word ancestor 祖

ancestor in the sense of fertility and manhood. The development and evolution of the word ancestor 祖 is shown in figure 18.祖(汉字)_百度百科 ( In figure 18, number 1 is the word ancestor 祖 in Shang (1600 – 1046 BCE) period Oracle Bone script. Number 2 is in Western Zhou (1046 – 771 BCE) period Bronze script. In the Spring and Autumn period (771 – 476 BCE) the word 示, to show was added to the left side as a subscript that has remained till today, grouping the word ancestor 祖 into the group of words of worship and faith. There are two other forms of variation of the word ancestor 祖 during the Warring States period (475 -221 BCE). Number 4 shows the word ancestor 祖 with the subscript 示 at the bottom and the phallic symbol of the earlier period word ancestor 祖 on top. Number 6 is also in the Warring States period. The subscript 示 to show is on the left hand side. On the right, on top is the phallic symbol of the Shang Oracle Bone script word ancestor 祖. Underneath the word ancestor 祖 is the Oracle Bone script word hand 手. The presence of the word hand inside the word ancestor 祖 indicates that the hand is required to show or reveal the ancestor during the ancestor worship cermony祭. The ceremony is to reveal 示 as on the left and holding the ancestor 祖above with a hand on the right. So, what is being held up as the ancestor? Before we go into that, there is one point to understand, and that is 示groups all words in ancestor worship.

Holding up the blood dripping flesh

The word 祭 (worship ceremony) in the Shang Oracle Bone script is a hand on the right holding a piece of meat or flesh dripping with blood on the left. (Figure 19). 祭(汉语汉字)_百度百科 (

Figure 19. Oracle Bone script worship ceremony 祭

 In the first Chinese dictionary 說文解字 written during 100 -121 AD, the description of the word 祭 is that a word subscript with 示 and holding a piece of flesh with a hand (從示, 以手持肉). The word therefore means that showing a blood dripping piece of flesh with a hand is the ancestor worship ceremony.  The often interpretation is that the flesh is an offering to the ancestor. Such explanation has a fault as one of the important ritual bronzes used in the worship ceremony is the Ting 鼎 and Ting is the ritual bronze to cook meat with or used to contain cooked meat for the offering. Therefore, meat used as an offering to the ancestor should be cooked, and not blood dripping raw meat. Furthermore, eating raw meat and drinking blood is a behavior considered barbaric and animal like that has never been a Chinese tradition. Using blood dripping meat as an offering to the ancestor is disrespectful, unconceivable, and simply cannot be the case. Unlike the later version of the word, the Oracle Bone script version 祭 does not have the subscript 示, a word that means to reveal or to show the ancestor king. 示 was added to in the Bronze script version (Figure 20:  2 and 3). Without 示 in the word 祭 implies that the meaning of 示is already within the context of a hand holding a piece of blood dripping flesh. Since 示 means revealing or showing

Figure 20.  Development of the word worship ceremony 祭

the ancestor and what the hand holds to show is the piece of blood dripping flesh, in this sense the piece of blood dripping flesh is the ancestor. Something should already be understood without the subscript 示. Showing a blood dripping flesh with a hand is showing the ancestor in the ancestor worship ceremony 祭. Of some note is the similarity of the word flesh or meat 肉 during the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States period (Figure 21: – 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8), highly resemble the word ancestor 祖 (Figure 17B, Figure 18: – 1 and 2, and within the words in 4, 5, 6). It is very likely that the word meat comes from the word ancestor, or vice versa. With the knowledge that the flesh is the ancestor we can now look at the meaning of the Liangzhu Holy Man.

Figure 21. The development of the word meat 肉

The Liangzhu Holy Man 神人

The Holy Man is not as often seen as the Holy beasts but is the most significant figure carved on the Liangzhu jades (Figure 22). It is on some disc, short Congs, half discs in D shape and Hung, all objects for worship. On the head of the Holy Man is a bird shaped, beak pointing up ward feather crown. Underneath the crown is an upside-down trapezoid shape face and a body decorated with skeletal muscle marking, and a Holy Beast emblem in front of him as part of his body. To answer who is the Holy Man one has first

Figure 22. Liangzhu Holy Man 神人.

to look at the proto writing carved on clay wares, ivory, and bone objects in the Neolithic time. (中國上古文明考論. A Study of Early Chinese Civilization. 江林昌著. 上海教育出版社. 2005.)  The proto writing of the word “king “from the Neolithic culture Dawenkou (4100 – 2600 BCE) adjacent and north of Liangzhu (Figure 1), is a picture of a feather crown on top of an upside-down trapezoid (Figure 23). The head of the Holy Man wearing a feather crown with an upside-down trapezoid face thus denotes him the king. As we have seen muscle means ancestor and the muscle marking declares that the Holy Man is the ancestor. With his head defining him the king in proto writing, therefore the Holy Man is the ancestor king. On the face of the Holy Man is a pair of eyes with no eyelids, an open nostril with no nose, and a mouth showing

Figure23. Dawenkou protowriting word “king”.

 teeth with no lips.  Of note the face is the only part of the Holy Man with no muscle marking, depicting a face with no facial skin and muscle, the skull and face of a dead man. On the feet of the Holy Man are bird claws, three on each foot, echoing the bird shape feather crown on his head. Interpreting these we can say that the king at his death becomes the ancestor king. His spirit in his muscle transforms into a bird and into the image of the Holy Man. The Holy Beast in front of him has its significance as we shall later see. We shall also later see that the bird carries the spirit of the ancestor king and flies to the sun. The transformation of the king’s spirit into a bird makes the bird the representative of the ancestor king and an important emblem in the Liangzhu culture. This subsequently carries into the Shang and Zhou ancestor king worship culture, the reason why the bird is a frequent figure on the Shang And Zhou ceremonial bronze. On this Liangzhu jade disc are three birds as they were in the sun (Figure 24). Three is the number associates with royalty in Liangzhu; on the Holy Beast are three sets of straight lines around the eyes, three terraces on the earth pile worshipping alter, three claws on each of the Holy Man’s foot, and three birds on the disc. Three birds on the disc indicates that the birds are the ones carrying the spirit of the ancestor kings.  The association with the bird strongly speaks for the common root of the Liangzhu, Shang and Zhou ancestor king worship religion. More evidence to support this will be provided as we proceed.  

Figure 24. Liangzhu bird jade disc.

The Liangzhu Holy Beasts 神獸

The name Holy Beast is a misnomer as the prominent marking around the eyes are the Orbicular Oculi muscles found on the face of a person making the Holy Beast a man and not a beast. The mistake is made due to the failure to recognize the facial muscular structure and the unfamiliar pattern on the face leading to the erroneous beast label. There are two Holy Beast images as seen on this Liangzhu butterfly plaque (Figure 25), distinguishable by the upper one with no nose and the lower one with one.  Carved on the

Figure 25. Liangzhu butterfly plaque with both Holy Beast images.

corners of the Congs (Figure 3) are always the one with no nose.  The no nose one is also on beads (Figures 4 and 5), and on the axe (Figure 6). In contrast, the one on the Holy Man is always the one with a nose (Figure 22) and is also found on D-shaped ornaments, and on a column shaped bead (The Dawn of Chinese Civilization, Jades of the Liangzhu Culture, Art Museum, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. 1998. Figure 42, Figure 51).  The specific placement of the two Holy Beasts on different types of jade objects speaks for the different meaning representation of the two different Holy Beasts.  The Cong represents political power and the axe military power giving the power status identity to the ruling king, and beads are personal adornment. The Holy Beast without a nose is the emblem for the ruling king and by placing it on the Cong, axe, and beads marks the ruling king’s personal belongings. The one with a nose is always in the center of the Holy Man indicating that it is the emblem representing the ancestor king, kings in the past. The Holy Beast with a nose is also carved on the D-shape ornament and the column shaped bead that are items for ancestor king worship. Both Holy Beasts represent royalties, the ruling king, or the ancestor king. Such representation of royalties is legitimized by the three groups of straight lines around the eyes of both Holy Beasts. The Liangzhu culture was a male dominant tribal kingship with religious belief worshiping ancestor kings. The ancestor king worship continues to the Shang, Zhou periods, until Han when western philosophy and religious beliefs came through the Silk Road from the west and also through the northern nomadic tribes that eventually turned China culturally into another direction, replacing the indigenous ancestor king worship with Buddhism and to a culture we know today.    

The spirit of the ancestor king, the sun, and the bird.

Liangzhu has no written language, and we can only know about the ancestor king worship through images, the Holy Man, the Holy Beasts, and the bird, carved on the Liangzhu jades. The earliest written account of ancestor king worship is on the Shang Oracle Bone Script, followed by a large number of writings in the Zhou and Han Dynasties. However, the proto writings of Dawenkou, the Neolithic culture Northeast and adjacent to Liangzhu gives us a glimpse into the Liangzhu belief. {中國上古文明考論. A Study of Early Chinese Civilization. 江林昌著. 上海教育出版社. 2005. P.295-303, P.402-405.)  On the proto writing, the word ling 靈, meaning spirit, is written as a sun on top of a crescent moon. Inside the sun are circular curly markings that we know represent the cross section of muscle (Figure 26).  As the muscle

Figure 26. Dawenkou proto writing spirit, ling靈.

markings represent the ancestor king tells us that the spirit of the ancestor king is in the radiating sun. The sun, often mentioned in early classical Chinese literature, is being worshiped. In the book ‘The Classic of Mountain and Sea,” written during the Warring Stats period (481 -221 BCE), is this legend: “Xihe, the wife of Emperor Jun, gave birth to ten suns”. (<山海經. 大荒南經>,”羲和者,帝俊之妻,生十日”). Both Xihe and Emperor Jun are legendary characters of distant royalties, and the ten suns are progenies of the emperor that should be interpreted as ten kings. The emperor is Jun 俊, and his name Jun 俊 can be written as 浚, that in the Oracle Bone and Warring States script浚is a bird (Figure 27), <簡明篆刻正字字典>何崝主編, 湖北美術出版社 2002. P.133, implying that Emperor Jun is a bird. This has significance as we have seen from the Liangzhu Holy Man, the ancestor king transforms into a bird at his death. The title of

Figure 27. Jun浚 in Warring States scrip.

of Jun is di 帝. The Chinese words huang皇and di 帝 are both translated into English as emperor. But huang 皇is more earthly, more equivalent to the word king, whereas di帝 is more equivalent to God, a king higher up as in 上帝is refer to God. However, the two words are at time interchangeable. Both words also have a meaning of brightness radiating light with an implication that kings and emperors are suns and hence huang and di are often referred to as sons of the sky 天子.  (<中國上古文明考論>, 江林昌. 上海教育出版社,2005. P.395-396). The story of Yi 羿shot down the suns is intriguing.  According to Tian Wen 天問, a Warring States long poem, all of the ten sons of Emperor Jun came out into the sky as ten suns at once giving tremendous heat and light burning the land. As a result, severe draught caused famine and people were suffering.  Emperor Yao 堯 ordered the hero Yi 羿 to shoot down the suns with his bow and arrows.  Nine birds in the suns were killed and fell to earth, leaving one sun in the sky to give light. (<楚辭. 天問>王逸注云:”堯命羿仰射十日,中其九日,日中九鳥皆死,墮其羽翼”). Once the nine birds fell, the nine suns were gone. In this legend the suns represent the kings in the sky. When the spirit of the ancestor king is in the sky, he is the sun, and when he is on earth, he is the bird. The bird is the intermediate between the suns in the sky and representing the spirit of the ancestor king on earth. Both the ruling king and the ancestor king, huang皇 and di 帝, have the meaning of light and brightness and the implication that they are the suns.

The elongated bird stand frame and the earth pile worshipping alter 堆土祭壇

On some Liangzhu jade discs, birds are carved flying individually or standing on an elongated platform. Within the platform is the bird representing the ancestor king (Figure 28).  Or in other the Dawenkou

Figure 28. Liangzhu bird on platform with a bird inside.

word ancestor king spirit of the sun and the crescent moon (Figure 29). In the proto writings of Dawenkou, a small hill or a pile soil is represented by an olive shaped frame (Figure 30). The elongated frames on figures 28 and 29 can then be interpreted as an earth mount hill within which are kings.  

Figure 29. Liangzhu bird on platform with the word spirit inside.
Figure 30.  Dawenkou proto writing earth mount hill.

Notice the three notches on the top of the elongated frame on each side representing three steps. The Liangzhu Mojigshan Palatial complex as seen on the model (Figure 2), has a pathway leading to the left to a worshiping mount constructed by piling up soil into three terraces.  Kings are buried on the mount as tombs where most jade artifacts are found. On top of the worshipping mount is an altar (Figure 31). Now we can see what the bird stand elongated platform represents is this Liangzhu earth pile worshipping mount altar where the ancestor king represented by the standing bird is worshiped. The earth pile mount

Figure 31. Liangzhu dirt pile worshipping mount.

is constructed with three terrace tiers, the number of Liangzhu royalty, also indicated by the three notches on each side of the elongated frame.  Kings are buried on the mount, shown with their emblems inside the elongated platform. On the alter being worshiped is the ancestor king in the form of a bird. The bird stand elongated platform is not only a remarkable pictorial representation of the worshipping earth mount alter, but it also embraces the whole religious belief of the Liangzhu culture.  

The demise of Liangzhu culture and the migration of ancestor king worship into Shang

The Liangzhu culture disappeared from the Yangtze Delta after 2250 BCE leaving the area barren with no inhabitants for 350 years. With no choice after the Yangtze Delta and the Lake Tai Basin became uninhabitable, people took their technologies, and migrated up north to the Yellow River where Chinese civilization began. In its time Liangzhu was the most advance Neolithic culture in China cultivating massive amount of rice as evidence by their storage. It has sophisticated stone tool for tilting, technology for well construction and produced the first silk and lacquer wares in the world.  All of these end up north forming the base for the Chinese civilization development. Liangzhu jade Congs are also found north along the Yellow River. Speculation is that the Congs were sold commercially by the Liangzhu people. Yet from the Liangzhu archeologic site, these Congs were owned only by the chiefs and kings and not the common people. Each king has one Cong placed by their chest in their grave to signify their nobility and power. If these Congs were sold it could only be from the kings, and it is highly unlikely for the kings to sell what represents their power and status. These jade Congs were brought by the kings as they migrated north and buried with them when they died as they were in their homeland. Why did the Liangzhu people massively migrated out of their homeland where they successfully thrived both culturally and economically for 1200 years is a puzzle. One popular theory is that global warming lead to sea rise and flooding of the whole Liangzhu area resulted in their demise. But such flooding will cover a large area and would also put the whole China coast including Japan, Korea, even part of India, and Egypt under water. There is no such evidence.  Another theory is local flooding was what caused the evacuation of the Liangzhu people. But evidence shows that the Liangzhu people were capable in managing floods by utilizing canals to divert water and had sophisticated hydraulic pump to manage flooding for 1,200 years. Setbacks of local flooding which Liangzhu must have managed frequently cannot be the reason to remove the whole population and rendered the land uninhabitable for 350 years. What happened has to be a large scale catastrophic natural disaster. To answer that we need to look at one disease that plagued all humanity since the dawn of civilization, malaria.

For certain malaria, a disease that plagued all Neolithic cultures was rampant in the Liangzhu society. During the Neolithic period farming and husbandry began. Human cleared trees to open up land for farming and with water irrigation created an ideal environment for mosquitos, the vector for the malaria parasite to thrive. Animal domestication also began during the Neolithic time, and these animals lived close to human served as the secondary host for the parasite. All these factors contributed to the flourishing of malaria during the Neolithic time. The Fever. How Malaria has ruled humankind for 5000,000 years, Sonia Shah. Sarah Crichton Books 2010 There are six types of plasmodium parasites that cause human malaria. Three of the most common ones in Asia are P. malariae, P. vivax and P. falciparum. All three are from interspecies crossing infection from apes’ parasites in Africa. Out of Africa: origins and evolution of the human malaria parasites Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. Int J Parasitol. 2017 Feb; 47(2-3): 87–97. Out of Africa: origins and evolution of the human malaria parasites Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax ( The species crossing event of P. malariae and P. vivax occurred more than 100,000 years ago. Modern Homo sapiens came out of Africa about 80,000 years ago and would have the disease when they were in Africa and also would have developed antibodies against the disease. As they migrated out of Africa, they carried these parasites as well as the antibodies with them. P. malariae and P. vivax arrived in Asia with the human migration and eventually P. vivax became the Asian predominant type. Both P. malariae and P. vivax were with the Liangzhu community for 1200 years.  P. malariae is the most benign form giving a tolerable insidious disease. P. vivax is more deadly. People infected can died from splenomegaly and organ failure and though it can relapse several times a year, it can also remain dormant for years. Liangzhu people with antibodies against the parasites and though both P. malariae and P. vivax were hinderances for the Liangzhu society could have coexist with the disease.  What brought in the Liangzhu demise is the third type P. Falciparum when it arrived in the Liangzhu community.

P. Falciparum is the most malignant and deadly of all malaria parasites. Of the 240 million malaria cases in the world in 2020 as reported by the World Health Organization, half of it were caused by P. falciparum, and was also the cause of nearly all of the 627, 000 death. The mostly affected are children under five. Other than severe anemia the parasite infected blood cells sequestered in organs blood vessels is the cause for organs failure. Involvement of the brain leads to cerebral malaria resulted in cerebral edema, severe headache coma and death. People recovered end up with neurologic deficit. Other problems can be abnormal bleeding, jaundice and unable to breath. P. falciparum also originated from a great ape parasite in Africa. Of all the malaria parasites the species crossing of P. Falciparum was the most recent, about 10, 000 years ago and therefore was after modern human have started migrating out of Africa. It came out of Africa following the later migration, transmitting from community to community. By the time it came to Liangzhu the global temperature was rising, and Liangzhu was a highly successful Neolithic community, progressively cultivating rice by clearing trees and developing canals for irrigation, surrounding the village community with water for defense, and extensively digging wells, creating an ideal environment for the flourishing of mosquitos. The successful cultivation of rice also resulted in population increase into densely populated villages. The Liangzhu community was the most ideal place for the rampant flourishing of the newly arrived P. falciparum. People with no antibodies in their bodies for the new parasite species ensured a pandemic not any different from the Black Death in the Fourteenth century Europe. The rapidly spreading malaria resulted in massive death in the population. In the Liangzhu archeologic site five to six people are found buried in one grave, and many are children. Massive death was not the only horrid. People who had cerebral malaria developed seizures and neurologic impairment. Children with cerebral edema had severe headache causing them screaming and crying only ended up in seizures, coma, and death. If they survived, they developed motor and speech impairment, abnormal movements like spastic quadriplegia, and self-destructive aggressive behaviors. Cerebral Malaria: Mechanisms of Brain Injury and Strategies for Improved Neurocognitive Outcome:  Richard Idro, Kevin MarshChandy C Johnhn & Charles R J Newton. Pediatric Research October 2010.  Cerebral Malaria: Mechanisms of Brain Injury and Strategies for Improved Neurocognitive Outcome | Pediatric Research (   Jaundice, abnormal bleeding, and difficulty in breathing added to frightening sights that lead to belief of demons and evil spirits plaguing the community and likely gives rise to the Taotai legend, an evil beast with an insatiable devouring appetite. The blame of the apocalypse went to the ancestor king spirit from not giving the people protection to that their ancestor kings turned evil against them. Massive migration took place taking their technologies and not their ancestor kings up north where the temperature was cooler less suitable for the P. falciparum parasite. It is interesting to note only the Cong with the Holy Beast representing the ruling kings were found along the Yangtze River and not jades with the Holy Man image or the Holy Beast with the nose that represents the ancestor king were found outside of Liangzhu, reflecting their abandonment. With the Liangzhu people gone there was no more water management and without farming the subsequent 350 years the area became a swamp leaving behind signs and misleading clues that the area was flooded. Scant groups of people left behind regressed back to a hunting and gathering culture. Regression of cultural activity is why the subsequent culture Maqiao (1900 -1200 BCE) is a more primitive one.

Malaria is now under control in China with only occasional local occurrence.  But in ancient time, as in Rome and Greece, malaria was often described as evil wind or spirit. The P. falciparum scenario is the only one that can explain all the occurrence that leaded to the Liangzhu migration north. The descendants of Liangzhu became the Shang bird people and turned the Yellow River into the cradle of Chinese civilization instead of the Yangtze.  

Ancestor King Worship in Shang.            

From Liangzhu to Shang

The origin of the Shang people is a mystery with no one knows where they came from and speculation that they were nomadic people. Shang themselves claimed they were descendants of birds and on this Shang nephrite jade seal Shang laid such claim. “天命玄鳥,降而生商” 《詩經·商頌·玄鳥》. Apart from this seal there are only three seals known from the Shang Dynasty. In 1940 three bronze seals from the Yin Ruin, a Shang archeology site, were reported found by an antique dealer. These three seals, now in the Taipei Palace Museum, are in square shape, flat, with a ring like knob.  The seal presented here is made of nephrite jade (Figure 32). It is in square shape, measured 11 cm X 11 cm with a height 4.7cm, and a ring like knob.  In spite of extensive chemical weathering effect, four different shape beasts can be

Figure 32. Shang nephrite seal top with four beasts.

detected carved on the top on four sides. Under the microscope the ferruginous crust (Figure 33 blue arrows) and clusters of silvery metallic granules (Figure 34 blue circles) from chemical weathering can be

Figure 33. Shang seal ferruginous crust from chemical weathering
Figure 34. Shang seal silvery metallic granules from chemical weathering.

easily seen. On the four corners of the seal surface are four small rectangles with marking inside. In the middle is the word Shang 商 in the form of a bird (Figure 35). With the seal made of the best mutton nephrite, there is no doubt that this is the Shang royal seal. Putting the word Shang in the form of a bird on the royal seal is a self-recognition of Shang calling themselves the bird people. The word Shang 商 may just mean bird in the Shang script. The only culture that revered bird before Shang is the Liangzhu culture. The fact that Liangzhu Congs and Liangzhu technologies in farming, constructing wells, production of silk and lacquer wares were in Central China along the Yellow River, are strong evidence that Liangzhu after they evacuated their homeland, took their technologies, and migrated north to the Yellow River Central China. By saying that they were the bird people Shang was telling us that they were descendants of Liangzhu.

Figure 35. Shang seal surface with the word Shang商 in the form of a bird.

Liangzhu beliefs in the Shang Dynasty

The earliest written account on ancestor king worship comes from the Shang Oracle Bone script. During the Shang Dynasty ancestor king worship was a royal preoccupation dominated by ceremonies, preying, asking for blessing and revealing fortune or misfortune from the oracle with elaborate bonze artifacts for their extensive ceremonies. Shang worships Huang 皇, Di 帝, and gods of nature.” 商代主要有上帝,天地間自然神祗和祖先神三大信仰系統.”(宋鎮豪: <夏商社會生活史>,第459頁). Huangs are the ancestor kings, deities that also extend to their royal relatives. Di is the highest of all deities, a position from the promotion of the Huangs. With all deities come from the ancestor kings royal families the Shang religion in reality is a worship of the ancestor kings hierarchy.  All are in the sense of gods, to be preyed to and asked for blessings and protection. ” 商代宗教信仰的最大特點就是對上帝的崇拜,對祖先的崇拜和祭祀.”(史仲文,胡曉林:中國古代歷史文化的品性與特色.<中國全史>)但上帝其實也是皇祖,先王死後升天而成帝,”人王死後也可以稱帝.從武乙到帝乙,殷王對於死了的生父都以帝稱.”(胡厚宣:殷墟卜辭中的上帝和王帝,<歷史研究>1959年,第10期).  Shang also worships the gods of nature, a belief that goes back to the Neolithic time. In the Dawenkou proto writing, the word spirit (ling 靈) can be written as the sun and the moon on top of a hill (Figure 36). The sun and the moon signify the sky and the hill the earth, a combination representing

Figure 36. The Dawenkou word spirit (ling靈)

nature where dwells the spirit. The word spirit can also be represented by the sun with the muscle marking representing the spirit of the ancestor king (Figure 26). The deity in nature in effect is an extension of the ancestor king spirit. It makes the whole Shang religion a worship of ancestor royalties with a focus on the ancestor kings. There is Evidence that ancestor king worship in the Xia (2700 – 1600 BCE), Shang (!600 – 1046 BCE) and Zhou (1046 – 256 BCE) Dynasties has an origin in the Liangzhu culture. In the Xia, Shang. and Zhou, the worshipping platform and alter of these periods are soil piled mounts similar to that in Liangzhu. These mounts are formed by piling different color soil into a square platform, in an open area without cover, and surrounded by trees. 江林昌先生引述了陳剩勇先生在(中國第一王朝的崛起)所提出的六點,封土為社,社壇成方形,社壇用多種顏色泥土堆築,社壇為露天,社壇築在高地,社周圍有大樹等.結論是” 中原夏商周社壇正是淵源于良渚文化祭壇.” (中國上古文明考論 321-322頁). Using the same worshipping platform and altar implies that the worshipping ceremony of these periods are similar to that of the Liangzhu. In the Liangzhu belief, the Holy Man as carved on the jade is the ancestor king transformed at the king’s death when his spirit in his muscle becomes a bird carrying him to the sun. With the ancestor king’s spirit inside, the bird represents the ancestor king on earth and as a result an important emblem in the ancestor king worship ceremony. The bird is found on many Shang ceremonial bronzes. On this Shang jade vase (Figure 37) birds are carved prominently on the neck and the upper part

Figure 37. Shang jade ancestor worship vase.

of the vase body and also on the side as we later see. In spite of the shape similarity to today’s flower vase, the carving on the vase tells us that this vase has a significant religious ceremonial meaning and not function as a flower vase. A similar shape vase is seen on the head of a Hongshan bird (Figure 38) linking the Shang vase to the Hongshan period, emphasizing the significance of the bird in the religion belief in Neolithic China. 

Figure 38.  Hongshan bird with a vase on head.

On the lower part of the Shang jade vase body is a face of a beast (Figure 37), commonly referred to as the Taotie, and a frequent figure on the Shang ceremonial bonzes. Taotie is described as one of the four evil mythical beasts in the ancient text the “Classic of Mountains and seas 山海經”. There is however no evidence to show that the beast face on the ceremonial bronzes is Taotie. A Liangzhu jade butterfly plaque may provide a clue as to what the beast represents (Figure 39). On the upper section of the plaque is the face of a Liangzhu Holy Beast, and on the lower half is the face of the beast. Compare that to the Liangzhu butterfly plaque on figure 25 that has two Liangzhu Holy Beast figures, the upper half one without a nose, the emblem for the ruling king, and the lower half one with a nose, the emblem for the ancestor king. The beast face in figure 39 butterfly plaque occupies the lower half of the plaque, the position for the Holy Beast with a nose, also the emblem of the ancestor king. The two images of the beast face and the Holy Beast with a nose are interchangeable indicating that both the Holy Beast with the nose and the beast are equivalence and both are emblems for the ancestor king. It makes more sense as for the Shang religion preoccupied exclusively with ancestor king worship that an emblem of the ancestor king should be on the ceremonial bronzes. The beast face is that emblem and as such most appropriate for the ancestor king worship ceremony.  

Figure 39. Liangzhu butterfly plaque with the beast face.

Ancestor King Worship in Zhou

The bird and beast and the ancestor king spirit

A tribe of people west of Shang defeated Shang and formed the Zhou Dynasty. With the departure of the bird people, one may think ancestor king worship would pass. Yet Zhou was a continuation of the Shang Dynasty.  Bird and beast images continued on Zhou ceremonial bronzes and the ancestor king worship ceremony continued. Jade, a media that is regarded able to give protection and walls off evil, also was used to express religion belief. Figure 40 is a Zhou jade bird and figure 41 is a Zhou jade beast, both represent the ancestor king spirit indicating the religion still being practiced in Zhou.   

Figure 40.  Zhou jade bird.
Figure 41. Zhou jade beast.

Bird script and the ancestor king

A form of writing script called the bird and worm script (Figure 42, 43) with words written resembling birds and worms appeared in the Spring and Autumn period (771 – 453 BCE) during the Zhou Dynasty.

Figure 42. Bird script writing on a Zhou disc.
Figure 43. Worm script writing on a Zhou disc.

Bird and worm script appeared on weapons of kings of southern states Wu, Yue, Chu, Cai, Xu, and Song, most notably the bird script on the sword of Goujian, a Yue king, and the worm script on the spear of Fuchai, a Wu king. It was also found on jades like the ones on figures 42 and 43.  The bird and worm script were used on weapons of kings signifies the bird and worm script is reserved for royalties, and by putting it on jade means the script is related to spirits with a protective power, also the reason for putting the script on weapons. Writing the script in the form of a bird links it to the ancestor king spirit, to the deities that give the protective power. The use of bird and worm script declined after the fall of Zhou but were still in use mostly on seals for its decorative appearance. The belief in the spirit of ancestor king and the protective power it gives is lost forever.  

The Holy Beast in Zhou

Figure 44 is a jade disc with bird script writing, four words on each side of the disc surface and four words on the thick rim (figure 45). The bird script writing places the origin of the jade disc to the

Figure 44. Bird script on a thick disc.
Figure 45. Bird script on the rim of the disc.

southern states of Spring and Autumn.  Figure 46 is a disc with similar shape, size, and thickness. The similarity between Disc on figure 45 and figure 46 means they are both from the southern states of the

Figure 46.  Zhou thick disc with plain surface.

Spring and Autumn to the Warring States period. Unlike the disc on figure 45, the surfaces on disc 46 are plain with no carving. On the thick rim, instead of bird script writings, are three identical figure carvings (Figure 47). Although different from the Liangzhu Holy Beast, these three figures are still recognizable as the Liangzhu Holy Beast with a nose, the emblem for the ancestor king. Three is the number for Liangzhu royalty in the Liangzhu culture, further confirming that the three images on the rim are the Liangzhu Holy Beast with a nose, and thus gives proof that the Liangzhu ancestor king worship belief continued on to the Zhou period at least in the southern states of Wu, Yue, Chu, Cai, Xu, and Song. Some evidence shows that after the defeat by Zhou, some of the Shang people returned to their Liangzhu ancestor homeland in the south, bringing back the religion with them, and that may explain the Holy Beast figures on the disc.  

Figure 47. Liangzhu Holy Beast on a Zhou disc

Ancestor King Worship in Han

The bird and beast in Han

The belief associates with the bird and beast lingered into the Han Dynasty. Figures 48 and 49 are the front and back of a Han jade owl and figures 50 and 51 are the front and back of a bird. Notice the different markings on the back of the owl and the bird. The beast face on the back of the figure 50 bird is the same one on the Shang and Zhou ceremonial bronzes and also on the jade vase on figure 37. It can also be traced back to the beast face in Neolithic Hongshan as an emblem representing the ancestor king. The marking of the beast face on the back of the bird on figure 50 makes it credible to say that the bird is associated with the spirit of the ancestor king and the ancestor king worship.

Figure 48. Front of an owl.
Figure49. Back of the owl.
Figure 50. Front of a jade bird.
Figure 51. Back of the jade bird.

The bird and beast provide a traceable clue for ancestor king worship religious belief in ancient China. Figure 52 is a Han disc with bird emblem markings traceable back to Shang. On the side of the figure 37 Shang jade vase are two images pf the same bird as on the Han disc (Figure 53). That the birds on the Han jade disc have an origin in Shang speaks strongly that the religion belief in Han was not much different from the ancestor king worship in Shang.

Figure 52. Han jade disc with birds.
Figure 53.  Birds on the figure 37 Shang vase.

The royal bird on a royal seal

The bird represents the power of royalty and the spirit of the ancestor king. Figure 54 is a Han jade seal with a knob of a bird uniquely only to Han. The chemical weathering effect on the seal is appropriate for Han nephrite with the ferruginous crust embedded with Hematite inclusions (Figure 55). Tool marks left on the seal are from the spinning wheel with abrasive, recognizable by the tracks left on the carved lines. On the face of the seal are six words written in the early form of the official Han script 隸書 ,“Seal of a harmonic unity under the sky” 天下合同之印 (Figure 56). The wording points out that It is a seal of a peace treaty confirming the unification of the country. The bird is the emblem of kings and emperors past and present, representing the royal power giving credibility to the unification. The spirit of the ancestor kings in the bird gives the blessing, protection, and authorization to the country formation and therefore the knob of such a seal is the bird, pointing out the importance of the bird in the royal hierarchy.  

Figure 54. Han jade seal.
Figure 55. Ferruginous crust with Hematite inclusions.
Figure 56. Six words on the face of the seal.

Ancestor king worship on a disc

Jade discs are common artifact in ancient China and Large amount were found in the Liangzhu archeologic site. No one knows what the discs represents. Some speculate that they are money, from the shape similarity to the copper coins. The most frequently quoted explanation of the disc is from a Zhou text writing, “To worship the sky with the white disc and worship the earth with the yellow Cong. “以蒼壁禮天. 以黃琮禮地.; 周礼·春官·大宗伯”. The word 蒼means lack of color, or white. Ancient China believes the sky is round and hence to worship the sky with a round disc and the earth is square and therefore to worship the earth with a square tube Cong. But there can be another explanation. Figures 57 and 58 are the two sides of a Han disc.  On side A (Figure 57) are two men with a head of a bird chasing a winged

Figure 57.  Han disc side A
Figure 58. Han beast side B.

beast (Figure 59) and a bird (Figure 60).  On side B (Figure 58) there are two bird headed men and two winged beasts, and instead of the bird, a figure with a bird head and an abstract body (Figure 61).  The disappearance of the bird raises the possibility that the bird is a therianthrope transforming into a spirit

Figure 59. Han disc winged beast.
Figure 60.  Han disc bird.
Figure 61. Figure with a bird head and an abstract body.

with an abstract body, an entity in between the bird and the man with a bird head. The abstract body is the image of a spirit, and the bird head links it to the ancestor king. The bird man, the bird and the spirit are all the ancestor king in transition transformation and all of them are on a disc. In the Zhou and Han writings the bird carries the ancestor kings’ spirits into the sun and as a result kings and emperors have a meaning of radiance. 而日中有鳥,<山海經.大荒東經>,” 湯谷上有扶木,一日方至,一日方出,皆載於鳥”.With the bird and  the ancestor king spirit on the disc may just indicate that the jade disc itself in the form of the sun,  is the sun. Going back to the saying “To worship the sky with the white disc and worship the earth with the yellow Cong “, The jade disc is used to worship the sky because it represents the sun with the spirit of the ancestor king, the prim object of the worship. The Cong represents the power of the ruling king on earth and therefore is used to worship the earth. To use the disc or the Cong to worship the sky or the earth is because what the disc and the Cong represent, and not just because of their shapes. What is carved on the disc on figures 57 and 58 is a pictorial summary of the ancestor king worship belief of ancient China.

The beginning of an end

The presence of the winged beast on the disc (Figure 59) is significant. For it signifies the beginning of the end of the ancestor king worship religion that began in the Neolith Liangzhu culture, brought north by the migrating Liangzhu, and dominated the ancestor king worship in belief and ceremonies of Shang, Zhou to Han. This beast on the disc is different from those on the Shang bronzes and jade vase (Figure 37), on the Liangzhu butterfly plaque (Figure 39), and on the back of the Han jade bird (Figure 51). The beast on the Shang bronzes (figure 37 and 51) that sometimes being referred to as the Taotie has only the face and no wings. The beast on the disc has a body, two wings, and a floating crown on its head. The winged beast is also on other Han jades (Figures 62 and 63), lacquerware, bronze mirrors, and silk design, and has an origin from Achaemenid Persia around 6th to 4th BCE.  (See the blog on this web site “The Evolution of Chinese Jade making from Neolithic to Han, the Griffin winged beast Eurasian Stepp connection, and jade of the Tang Dynasty”).  It came from the Greco-Buddhism as the griffin to Han

Figure 62. Han jade winged beast.
Figure 63. Han winged beast.

China when Greco- Buddhism was introduced from the nomadic tribes and the Bactrim and Kushan Empires.  Buddhism starts to flourish in China after Han and dominated the Chinese religious belief till today, replacing the indigenous ancestor king worship belief that was eventually abandoned and forgotten. The only shadow left is the form of ancestor worship still practice today by the common Chinese people. The winged beast on the Han disc signifies a turning point of a passing religion and the coming of Buddhism that eventually dominates the Chinese culture.

The Evolution of Chinese Jade making from Neolithic to Han, the Griffin winged beast Eurasian Stepp connection, and jade of the Tang Dynasty.

The Evolution of Chinese Jade making from Neolithic to Han, the Griffin winged beast Eurasian Stepp connection, and jade of the Tang Dynasty.


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.

Neolithic jade carving (Hongshan 4700 BCE-2900 BCE, Liangzhu 3400 BCE- 2250 BCE)

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

Figure 1. Hongshan beast.

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

Figure 2. Liangzhu pig dragon with line prescribed eyes and mouth.

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

Figure 3. Liangzhu cong.

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. Paleolithic bone tools found from South China (  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.

Figure 4. Hongshan drill 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

Figure 5. An oval shape Hongshan drill hole.

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

Figure 6. Liangzhu three birds plaque.

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

Figure 7. One of the drill holes on the back of the three birds plaque.

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

Figure 8. Figure 7 drill hole view from front.

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.

Shang (!600 BCE – 1046 BCE) and Zhou (1046 BCE – 256 BCE) jade carving

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

Figure 9. Shang hair pin.
Figure 10. Shang fish.
Figure 11. Shang parrot.

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.

Figure 12. Zhou ram.
Figure 13. Zhou jade man.
Figure 14. Zhou bird.

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

Figure 15. Han spinning wheel carving.

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,

Figure 16. Han beast.
Figure 17. Engraved in line by the spinning wheel on figure 16 Han beast.

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

Figure 18. Uneven engraved line by the spinning wheel on Han beast.

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

Figure 19. Han owl.
Figure 20. Spinning wheel track marks on Han owl.

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).

Figure 21. Han beast.
Figure 22. Half-moon like track marks on Han beast

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.

Figure 23. Breaks on lines as spinning wheel turns during carving.

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.

Figure 24. Layer carving with the spinning wheel.

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

Figure 25. Bear with Zhou pattern.

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).  

Figure 26. Spinning wheel track marks on jade bear.

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

Figure 27. Underside of jade bear.

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

Figure 28. Track marks made by the spinning wheel on the bear.

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

Figure 29. Under surface of the bear with spinning wheel marks and weathering products.

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

Figure 30. Shang comb.

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

Figure 31. Metallic deposit on Shang comb.

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

Figure 32. The other side of Figure 16 Han beast.

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

Figure 33. Weathering chemicals on figure 32 Han beast.

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).   

Figure 34. Han bead.
Figure 35. Metallic reflection line on edge of phyllosilicate crystal sheet.

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).  

Figure 36. Zhou Huang.
Figure 37. Weathering chemical on Zhou Huang.

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

Figure 38. Beast Huang.

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

Figure 39. Weathering chemical on beast huang.

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

Figure 40. Han thin beast.

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

Figure 41. Weathering chemical on Han thin beast.

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.  

Figure 42. Han jade man.
Figure 43. Han jade man pseudomorph nodules crystal.

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.   

Figure 44. Map of Kushan Empire.

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

Figure 45. Map of Miran.

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

Figure 46. Miran angel wall painting.
Figure 47. Miran winged beast wall painting.

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

Figure 48. 18th century French ink and ink wash drawing of a griffin.

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

Figure 49. Han jade griffin.

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

Figure 50. Phyllosilicate sheet crystal between the leg and wing of jade griffin.

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.   

Figure 51. Weathering chemicals on the jade griffin.
Figure 52. Spinning wheel track marks on the eye of the griffin.

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

Figure 53. Winged beast on Han lacquer ware.

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

Figure 54. Han thin winged beast.

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

Figure 55. Han jade winged beast.
Figure 56. Han winged beast weathering chemical and spinning wheel track.

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

Figure 57. Xianbei winged beasts on golden belt buckle.

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 ( 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.

Figure 58. Han winged beast lacquer ware design.


Two Han winged beast stone sculptures are in the collection of the Penn Museum in Philadelphia. Expedition Magazine – Penn Museum This pair of winged beasts from Hebei North China, together with the one in Musee Guimet in Paris, are the only known Han winged beast stone sculptures. Griffin and the winged beast date back to the 6th to 4th century BCE seen on this Persian Achaemenid gold plaque with a pair of horned winged beast-griffin (Figure 59).  Plaque with horned lion-griffins | Achaemenid | Achaemenid | The Metropolitan Museum of Art ( The journey of the griffin winged beast from Persia to China

Figure 59. Plaque with horned loon-griffin.

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.

Figure 60. Kushan Buddha figure with winged beasts on the pedestal.

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 ( 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.

Figure 61. Six Dynasties winged beast.

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

Figure 62. Han jade beast 1.
Figure 63. Weathering chemical on Han jade beast 1.

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

Figure 64. Han jade beast 2.
Figure 65. Spinning wheel tracks and weathering chemical crystal on Han jade beast 2.

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

Figure 66A. King Jing seal.
Figure 66B. King Jing seal.

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 66C. King Jing seal weathering chemical.

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 67A. Emperor Gao seal.
Figure 67B. Emperor Gao seal.
Figure 67C. Emperor Gao weathering chemical crystal.

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..

Figure 68A. Emperor Shun seal.
Figure 68B. Emperor Shun seal.
Figure 68C. Emperor Shun weathering chemical.

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.

Figure 68D. Emperor Shun facial features.
Figure 68E. Emperor Shun seal weathering chemicals and tool marks.

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.

Figure 69A. Emperor Gong seal.
Figure 69B. Emperor Gong seal.
Figure 69C. Emperor Gong seal weathering chemicals.

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

Figure 70. Emperor Gong, s round eyes and pointed ears.
Figure 71. Eyes with pup[ls and rounded ears of Emperor Gao.
Figure 72. King Jing’s facial features, eyes with pupils and round ears.

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) (  The

Figure 73. Monks on Miran wall painting.
Figure 74. Mogao cave mural.

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) ( ). 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.

The Queen jade box

Tang Dynasty is noted for silver and gold metal wares, a tradition introduced through the Silk Road from Eurasia and with the silver making technique also came with the Eurasia artistic influence. Often found on the Tang silver are scrolling foliate and grape tendril vines, typically as on the lot 546 Tang stem cup Tang Dynasty Masterpieces of Early Chinese Gold and Silver from Dr. Johan Carl Kempe at Christie’s NY, 12 September 2019 – Alain.R.Truong ( . Figure 75 is a Tang jade box. On it

Figure 75. Tang jade box.

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

Figure 76. Metal inlay on jade box.

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.  

Figure 77. Spinning wheel tracks on bottom of jade box.
Figure 78. Spinning wheel track marks on jade box lid.

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

Figure 79. Weathering chemical forming silicate crystal on the inside of the jade box.

Figure 80. Hair like crystals on the inside of the jade box lid.
Figure 81. More hair like crystal on the lid.

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.

Figure 82. Actinolite variation hair like crystals

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). (  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

Figure 83. Tang fish dragon.

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 84. Fish dragon weathering chemicals and spinning wheel track marks.

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).

Figure 85. Tang fish dragon.
Figure 86. Scrape marks on fish dragon.
Figure 87. Weathering chemicals and spinning wheel track marks on fish dragon.

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

Figure 88. fish dragon burning tail.

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

Figure 89. Weathering chemicals on burning tail fish dragon.
Figure 90. Hematite crystal in burning tail fish dragon mouth.

micropores and microcracks is what give the reddish-brown color of the fish dragon. Crystalized iron oxide is in its mouth (Figure 90). Without analysis it is difficult to say exactly what these crystals are. One possibility is that they are Hematite Variants. Photographs of mineral No. 46395: Hematite var. Kidney Ore from Alston Moor, Cumbria, England ( Figure 91 shows spinning wheel marks on the jade surface.

Figure 91. Spinning wheel tracks on burning tail fish dragon.

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 (   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 ( (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). 

Figure 92. Fish dragon with a pearl in its mouth.
Figure 93. Fish dragon with a pearl, weathering chemicals anf spinning wheel track marks.

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.   

Figure 94A. Dragon head belt buckle.
Figure 94B. Back of belt buckle.
Figure 95. Belt buckle weathering chemicals and spinning wheel tracks.

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.  

Figure 96A. Tang jade elephant.
Figure 96B. Back of the jade elephant.
Figure 97. Buddhas elephant
Figure 98. Spinning wheel tracks and weathering chemicals on jade elephant.

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.   

Figure 99. Tang jade bat.
Figure 100. Jade bat weathering chemical and spinning wheel track marks.

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.

Figure 101. Tang painted ceramic tomb guardian.
Figure 101. Tang jade tomb guardian.
Figure 103. Tang jade tom guardian weathering chemicals and spinning wheel track marks.





玉在中華文化己有八千年的歷史. 始於新器時代的玉器, 可説是開中華文化之端, 在悠長的中華文化裏, 在不同的時期與朝代,有各别不同的劃時代文化代表. 新石器時代紅山良渚文化是玉器, 商周時代是青銅器, 漢代絲綢與漆器, 唐代石雕,彩陶與金銀器, 明清瓷器. 唯有玉器能貫穿這劃時代區分, 從新石器時代一直盛行至今,而成中華文化的代表. 這劃時代區分也見於玉器上, 不同時期與朝代的玉器, 有個别不同的特色, 反映出當時社會文化與思想, 玉在新石器時代就被推崇至最高景介, 成為信仰表達與祭祀的媒介. 從商周至漢, 玉慢慢地走進代表了權貴階級與財富, 但信仰祭祀的表逹還存在. 這種權貴地位與信仰的表達, 還能見於隋唐時代的玉器. 唐代可説是這種表現的最後一站, 宋元明清, 玉器走向民間, 玉雖還能代表財富, 但玉器主要反映當時社會人民的藝術思想愛好, 生活所需與身上裝飾的藝術結晶, 玉全面走向社會大眾化, 信仰表現在玉器上消失, 留下的只有影子.

玉器在隋唐時代, 並不是當時藝術文化的成就代表. 提起唐代没有人會聯想到玉器. 但隋唐時代不單有玉器, 也同等地反影當時的社會文化, 而有著佛道教的色彩. 隋唐文化接受了極大的西域文化影響, 而與漢代文化起 了一定的變化. 漢文化本承自紅山, 良渚, 商,周. 在宗教信仰上,可說是中華的本有文化,中亞西域文化的傳入, 使隋唐文化染上了深厚的外地色彩. 從印度傳入的佛教,代去了漢及以前的皇祖崇拜信仰. 長久的遺忘成為對古玉紋飾的不認識, 也使後世人對漢及以前的古玉蒙上了一層神祕的色彩. 在格式上, 從新石器時代, 夏商周至漢, 被稱為上古玉.而隋唐, 宋, 元, 明, 清至現今歸為近代風格. 上古玉著重精神思想, 宗教與身份的表現, 玉器著重於禮祭及陪葬. 近代玉著重一般人民思想及社會生活 所需. 因而玉帶板, 玉碗, 玉杯等日常用品開始出現在隋唐. 這轉變來至從中亞西域傳入的影響, 使中華文化進入一個重要的演變. 而這演變也表現在玉器上.

唐代玉器, 在風格上與漢代玉器大為有異. 中亞文化與彿教的傳入, 使隋唐文化起了極大變化. 佛教的傳入始於漢代, 盛行於兩晉南北朝, 至隋唐而大盛,中國自此成為佛教信仰的國家. 彿教代去了漢以前皇祖崇拜的思想. 在漢及以前沒有的巨大石雕佛像與壁畫出現在中國. 緊隨著彿教是中亞文化的傳入. 帶著中亞色彩的金銀器皿, 也同時出現在中國. 就以唐代何家村出土大部份是金銀器皿. 説出金銀器在隋唐的盛行.在玉器上,何家村出土的玉帶壁及白玉八曲杯, 不論在用途, 樣式及紋式上, 都帶著濃厚的中亞色彩. (鄧淑蘋: 探索歷史上的中亞玉作; 古宮學術季刊, 第三十三卷, 第三期). 然而中亞文化的進入,可從玉器上追尋至漢代. 這從西來的影響, 將會在下細說.但如要以中國古玉來追尋中亞文化的傳入與影響, 有一個很大的弱點.眾所皆知大部份自稱古玉的, 都是當代贗品. 如以贗品來討論漢唐玉器, 不但會失去意義, 且成誤導. 所以在討論前,首先要分别出真偽. 要分别出真偽就要先明白古玉的雕刻,及軟玉被埋在地下所產生的化學風化. 有了這些知識,才可從玉面上的工具留痕, 及化學風化所產生的次礦物在玉面上留下的變化. 來証明玉件的真偽. 本篇上的工具留痕與風化來的泌色,皆是40倍體視顯微鏡下所見. 



中國做玉的程序一直要到明代才有記錄. 如何做玉只能從玉面上工具留痕來作估量.新石器時代的紅山與良渚文化, 首先以拉繩沾上解玉砂,把玉料切割成適當的大小與型狀. 再以竹, 木或石加上解玉砂, 把玉一點一點地慢慢磨成器. 解玉砂是用瑪瑙, 石英, 砮, 燧石等堅硬石料擂碎成砂, 再混與水而成. 解玉砂可說是做玉的主要工具. 不論是做玉的那一個程序, 從切割, 磨低, 鑽洞到拋光, 都要加上解玉砂. 新石器時代玉器主要是磨成, 所以玉面光滑, 留下很少的做玉痕跡.紅山與良渚玉器面上都有刻劃的線條. 紅山玉器的線條出現在豬龍的嘴部與相連的兩眼(圖1). 良渚玉器上線條較多, 尤以玉琮上

圖1. 紅山豬龍眼與嘴

圖2. 良渚玉琮上線條

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. 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.  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.

  新石器時代玉器留下最顯著的做玉痕跡是在鑽洞內. 圖3是一紅山鑽洞. 洞壁上可看到從鑽的旋轉, 解玉沙留下的淺而不規則的螺旋痕. 洞底邊上比中間低陷. 洞底的成因是鑽是中空, 鑽的壓力因只在洞底邊上,故做成洞底邊較低下的

圖3. 紅山玉器鑽洞

鑽痕, 中空的鑽使洞的中間留下一玉柱芯, 做玉藝人把玉柱芯打掉,再把洞底磨平. 圖3的鑽洞便形成. 由於鑽是中空有以是竹, 但竹的硬度不夠且柔軟, 不能抵受不停的轉扭. 能鑽進軟玉應是堅硬的骨器.把小勳物的臂或腿的長骨兩頭截斷, 中空的管狀鑽便形成. 鑽這些洞應為骨鑽再加以解玉砂.

紅山鑽洞都是從兩邊鑽入. 長的洞洞口較寬中間較窄成哪叭狀. 這形狀是因為所用的鑽是 把兩頭截斷的動物臂或腿的長骨加上解玉沙鑽洞. 骨鑽與洞壁的摩擦引至骨鑽愈往下鑽口徑愈小. 鑽洞也因此愈往中間愈窄. 動物骨的口徑與長度成正比例. 如果鑽的洞小,用的骨的口徑也要小, 但也會 因而做成長度不夠鑽至另一邊. 但動物長骨都是一對. 另一同口徑長骨可從另一邊鑽入. 洞在中間相連接, 柱芯也在兩邊連接時掉下. 鑽洞因而成哪叭狀. 骨鑽的長度不夠是洞要從兩邊鑽的一個原因.                  

短的紅山鑽洞也是從兩邊鑽. 原因肯定不是骨鑽太短. 紅山與良渚包括商周甚而漢的鑽洞,並不是如現今用電鑽所鑽出的洞.現代電鑽貼著洞壁而鑽. 鑽洞直, 洞口成正圓. 上古玉上的鑽洞並不是正圓上古玉上的鑽洞並不是正圓,而是近於橢圓(圖3a, 與圖4,5,6鑽洞).紅山良渚與商周所用的骨鑽與洞璧間相隔一層混水 半流質的解玉沙. 在鑽洞時骨鑽能作稍

圖3a. 紅山鑽洞

微的前後或左右的移動. 故洞不成正圓. 從一邊鑽至另一邊洞的出口也不一定是洞的正對面. 因而能做成兩邊的洞上下或前後的不對等. 掛上的玉件也成高底與左右的不對稱. 要改善這問題, 匠人便在洞鑽到一半時, 從另一邊適當的位置鑽進. 兩邊洞便在中間相連. 但兩邊洞不是相準對. 所以洞也不是真正的直. 現代電鑽的洞可以從一邊完全看到另一邊的出口. 如

圖3b. 良渚三鳥玉環

圖3a的紅山鑽洞就不可以看到另一邊的全部. 圖3b是一良渚三鳥玉環. 三鳥的三眼是三洞.注意玉環中的洞也不是正圓. 圖3c是玉環背面一鳥眼的洞. 這洞的方向明顯有誤(箭頭所指). 玉匠便從玉環前, 鳥眼應在的地方鑽進(圖3d). 前後兩洞在中

圖3c. 玉環鳥眼背面鑽洞

間相連. 但從玉環背面的洞看, 前後兩洞的不準對誤差便清楚可見因為兩邊的鑽洞是傾斜相連, 從一邊洞口不能完全看到

圖3d. 玉環正面鳥眼

對面的出口(圖3c,3d). 漢以前玉器上不圓與不直的鑽洞是辨偽線索. 如洞是正圆與直, 便應懷疑是現代贗品. 3c與3d洞邊上, 可清楚看到解玉砂留下的淺而不規則螺旋鑽痕.  


中國做玉可分兩段時期, 在漢之前與在漢之後.漢之前商周時代基本上是沿用新石器時代技巧 , 先拉繩切割做成輪廓. 再用解玉砂琢磨成器.線條是兩邊磨下成浮雕的陽線. 線條工整平行. 全線寬窄一致. 就是在圓灣處也不見有崩裂. 圖4

圖4. 商代髮針

的商代髮針與 圖5的商代玉魚. 成浮雕的陽線工整平行,玉面光滑, 看不到有工具的痕跡. 商代玉器常把線條兩邊磨寬使組成圖案,如圖4髮針上的鳥 , 與圖6鸚鵡上圖案.圖6的商代玉鳥厚度只有2毫米. 可見商代做玉技術已能逹到高趈的境界. 由

圖5. 商代玉魚

於線條做成是把兩邊磨下. 在宊起的陽線兩邊便成低陷, 低陷也是水聚集的地方. 水是做成化學風化的主要成份, 次礦物的無定形矽酸鹽與層狀矽酸鹽便積聚在陽線的兩旁, 做成商周玉器線條兩邊白的形式.

圖6. 商玉鳥

周代玉器上線條更形突出成為浮雕. 圖7是一周代的玉羊, 圖8是玉羊面上的整齊有序的浮雕陽線.線條保持工整寬窄一致. 就是在彎拐處, 也是圓滑有序.圖9是一周代玉人. 圖10是一周 代玉鳥. 從玉面上的工具留痕上看, 商代與周代的

圖7. 周代玉羊

做玉技術没有多大改變. 兩代玉器的分别在玉面上的紋飾. 勾雲紋出現使周代紋飾圖案與商代截然不同.商代玉器多扁薄,

圖8. 玉羊面上浮雕陽線

周代玉器多圓雕. 商周玉器上滿佈陽線浮雕的紋飾, 這些在漢以後的玉器上都不見. 兩相比可説商周玉面華麗多紋飾, 漢及以後玉面樸素成素面. 商周作玉單靠以解玉砂把玉磨下極為費時. 以致有”千年琢一玉” 的說法.商周線條的做成是把玉面磨

圖9. 周代玉人

下, 故線高於玉面. 偽商周玉多用刻進的陰線.且没有線旁灰白的風化次礦物. 不是浮雕的陽線, 可以肯定的說不是商周玉器.

圖10. 周玉鳥


對中國漢與後做玉作最詳細論述的是明代許應星的”天工開物 “. 與清代唐榮祚所寫的” 制玉圖”.  由於玉的硬度高, 做玉的過程從切割到拋光的每一程序, 都要運用解玉砂. 解玉砂是先把瑪瑙, 石英, 礈石等堅硬石料搗碎成砂, 再混與水或其他流質如芝麻油或菜油. 水與流質不但能使解玉砂易於運用, 減少磨擦,且可中和及帶走在琢磨時所產生的熱.做玉的第一部是以大小不同的鋸與拉線,把玉料切割到適當的大小及形狀. 再以裝在水機上的砣輪作玉的琢磨. 水機或稱水磴是利用腳踏板的動力來旋轉砣輪(圖11). 砣輪也稱札碢,是鐵或木做的圓盤輪子. 砣輪有不同的大小與厚度以適應做玉的不同程

圖11. 砣輪與水機做玉

序所需.(見圖11檯上各砣輪). 砣輪的功用是壓著解玉砂往前推進, 壓力使解玉砂把玉磨割成器.首先用大小不同的鋸與拉繩把玉料切割成適合的大小與形狀. 然後用較大的鐵砣輪與較粗的解玉砂來作粗雕. 粗雕運用镂雕, 浮雕, 圓雕, 透雕等技巧雕出玉器的基礎輪廓.再用較小的砣輪與較幼的解玉沙作細雕, 進一步把粗雕的輪廓作精細的雕刻, 與在玉面上雕紋飾與圖案.最後用木砣來磨光. 木砣一般是用葫蘆瓤包在木砣輪上, 解玉砂要更幼細. 最後抛光是用包上牛皮的皮砣. 中國玉器經磨光與拋光的程序後, 玉面上留下很少工具的留痕. 但在磨光與拋光不容易達到的低陷與隱暗地方, 還可找到做玉時留下的痕跡.

水磴及砣輪在漢代開始廣泛使用, 工具的改進使漢代玉器與商周有明顯的分别, 砣輪也在玉面上留下明顯的痕跡. 漢代玉器運用砣輪雕刻線條. 砣輪在玉面上挖進成陰線. 線條成寬窄不一. 與商周工整的陽線相比, 漢代的 陰線可說是簡陋.圖12是一漢代玉獸.獸上線條(圖13)寬窄深淺不一且多缺口. 砣輪可以來迴輾轉,線條可成一邊寬一邊窄, 有如中國的

圖12. 漢玉獸

八字(圖14 紅箭頭所指). 漢代做玉不再是只以手力磨下, 而是運用水磴與砣輪. 水磴以腳踏推動砣輪,動力大為增加. 砣輪往

圖13. 漢玉獸上線條A

前推勳混水的解玉砂快速地在玉面上挖坑. 增強了玉器琢磨的效能, 減少做玉的時間, 但也失去了線條的工整. 砣輪也留下

圖14. 漢玉獸上線條B

深刻顯明的痕跡在玉面上.圖15是一漢代貓頭鷹. 圖16是貓頭鷹面上的留痕.兩箭頭間的坑是砣輪所留下. 坑的寬度反應了

圖15. 漢貓頭鷹

砣輪的寬度. 匠人用陀輪返復來往, 做成玉面上交錯的軌跡(圖16). 坑中若繼若續的線條是解玉砂所留下. 淺而不規則是解

圖16. 貓頭鷹上砣輪留痕

玉砂的典型留痕.砣輪不單可留下如軌道的痕跡. 匠人在琢磨時能生猶疑, 匠人繼續踏腳板但把玉件慢下推進. 留下 的就如

圖17. 漢玉獸

圖17漢獸上, 如汽車陷泥中輪子留下半月形的下陷輪胎痕(圖18). 水磴是一大改進, 由於以腳踏動力帶勳跎輪的力量比手磨

圖18. 漢玉獸上如輪胎下陷砣輪留痕

大多倍, 所以輪轉的速度快, 力量大, 在圓線彎快速轉拐時, 砣輪常切割出線條,使線條出現破損如在圖17漢獸上所見(圖19).

圖19. 漢玉獸上彎轉砣輪留痕

水磴與砣輪增加了琢磨玉的效能, 有了跎輪漢代做玉時間比在商周時代大為縮短, 但也把工整有序的商周線條, 變為草率. 而這種效率高, 線條草率不工整, 寬窄不一,及有破損的漢代做玉,就因此被形容為” 漢八刀, 粗獷豪放”. 水磴還可

圖20. 圖17漢獸上斜雕進淺坑

斜使砣輪以不同的角度, 往深處琢磨玉面.圖17圓雕的獸, 在腿與體間就能有一往裡雕進的坑(圖20). 玉在經磨光與抛光後, 這些痕跡多會被磨去成光滑,但在低陷隱暗處, 尤其是玉件的底部, 常能找到工具留痕.

砣輪的廣泛使用在漢代是無可置疑, 但也有以為砣輪始於周代. 圖21是一玉熊. 玉熊面上的紋飾是工整的浮雕

圖21. 周玉熊

陽線. 紋飾的圖案是周代的風格. 但在做工上這些線條並不是把兩邊磨下的周代玉雕. 在這些陽線兩邊留下了砣輪痕跡(圖22). 紅箭頭所指是砣輪與解玉砂所留下. 也是説這些線條是兩邊用砣輪磨下雕成.玉熊的底部用的是刻進的陰線(圖23). 玉

圖22. 玉熊上砣輪留痕

熊體與腿的相隔坑(紅箭頭)是漢代的深, 寬,且不規則的陰線. 這玉熊的雕刻工具是用砣輪. 雕刻是直雕, 不如其他漢代玉可以斜雕進, 那是說雕玉熊用的水磴並不能傾斜. 應是早期的水磴. 玉熊面上是周代的線條與風格. 這是一件介乎周與漢的玉

圖23. 玉熊底部砣輪雕刻

器. 但由於是早期的水磴, 這應是周代最早運用砣輪做成的玉器, 而不是後期漢仿周的作品. 這玉熊也説出了砣輪的運用始於周代.

                      玉熊的褐紅色,是因為風化產生在微孔微裂的氧化鐵,使玉件整體變成氧化鐵的顏色, 玉面上缺少灰白色的粘土層狀矽酸鹽是因為這是一件傳世玉. 傳世玉是古玉藏家世代相承襲, 每一代的藏家把古玉盤玩摩擦. 目的是希望把泌色摩擦去掉, 使古玉回轉至本有玉的顏色與晶瑩. 數百年或許上千年的盤玩甚而以硬物削刮, 把玉面上大部份的次礦物磨去, 但在微孔微裂內的次礦物, 是不可能被盤玩削刮而去除, 存在玉面裏的赤鐵, 還是使玉熊保有赤鐵的褐紅色. 且盤玩也没有把玉面上的次礦物全部去除,在顯微鏡下還能看到次礦物保留在玉面上(圖24). 灰白色的粘土雖大部份被括去, 但還能看到削括後留下, 如平行直線的削刮痕. 這些削刮痕並不是在玉面上, 而是在一片粘土與氧化鐵混合的半透明薄片上, 這些簿片的邊緣還是可見(紅箭頭). 最明顯的是溢出玉面的赤鐵結成的晶體(紅圈內).                                   

圖24. 玉熊底部削括留痕

玉器在漢代大盛,漢代武功直達西域, 控制著玉料產地于闐(今和田). 加上做玉技術的改進, 水磴與砣輪大量縮短了做玉的時間, 商周兩代維持了總共1,866年, 而漢代在短短的422年間, 作出的玉器在數量上不比商周少, 在藝術上自成風格, 漢代有極多藝術水準極高的美好玉件. 以致中國民間有統稱所有古玉為漢玉.以水磴與砣輪琢磨製作玉器從漢代開始到清末,基本上没有多大改變.一直至現代電力鑽石鑽的運用, 做玉才演變成現代玉雕.


宋與以前的古玉都有泌色. 泌色成因是化學風化.(參看本網站 “Chemical weathering” 與‘紅山玉器-從辨偽到紅山文化思想”). 世上所有礦物埋在土裏都會進入化學風化. 這是大自然不可避免的定律.軟玉是陽起(Actinolite)與透閃(Tremolite)的礦物. 當被埋在土裏, 便會進入化學風化. 次礦物因而產生. 軟玉所產生的次礦物是兩類粘土(clay), 蒙脫(Smectite), 與高嶺(Kaolinite), 及兩種氧化鐵, 針鐵(Goethite) 與赤鐵(Hematite).次礦物的產生首先在玉面上的微孔及微裂裏, 但從產生到玉面顏色的改變需要一千年, 所以玉的泌色只能在宋或以前的玉器上看到. 化學風化主要靠水在玉面上的滲透, 水的渗透極為有限, 水不能往下渗進, 在玉面裏繼續形成的次礦物便溢出至玉面上結為晶體. 蒙脫與高嶺如無雜質, 是白至灰色. 赤鐵是深紅至褐紅, 但也能是深灰色. 針鐵是黃色, 或紅至深褐色.但也能是黒色. 這些顏色就成為古玉面上的泌色. 化學風化在大自然上是數十萬年的漫長過程, 古玉被埋只有短短的數千年, 風化做成的變化就只有玉面上0.1至0.15毫米(millimeter). 但由于是蓋在玉面上, 看來整塊玉都變了颜色. 次礦物因只在表皮上0.1-0.15mm, 在Xray deflection 的測驗下軟玉並没有改變. 現今做偽玉的還不能偽做這些變化,能認識化學風化在玉面上留下的變化, 是辨偽的最佳途徑

一般古玉上有被稱為鈣化,如白色的粉末分佈在玉面上.這是來自化學風化的溶解與浸出(dissolution and leaching) 所產生的無定形矽酸鹽(amorphous silicate), 在玉面上這些無定形矽酸鹽有一定分佈模式. 當玉被制作時, 琢磨產生大量軟玉粉末. 這些粉末大多在打磨抛光時被去除. 但留在線條旁或陰線內, 與在低陷隱祕及鑽洞內等處的粉末, 因為都是在打磨及磨光時有困難達到的地方, 這些低陷處也是水所聚的地方. 溶解與浸出把這些軟玉粉末化解成灰白色的無定形矽酸鹽. 而這些無定形矽酸鹽就留在雕線旁或內裏, 及低陷地方與鑽洞內. 有如圖25商玉梳上所見. 在微孔微裂內的氧化鐵矽酸鹽使突起的線條成灰黑色. 與在線條旁灰白色的無定形矽酸鹽與層狀矽酸鹽成對比, 也做成古玉應有的模樣.  

圖25. 商玉梳

化學風化的變化, 使次礦物產生在玉面上的微孔與微裂內, 而使玉面變成次礦物的顏色. 次礦物的顏色可有不同. 泌色也因而有異.針鐵混粘土產生在圖12的漢玉獸玉面内使玉獸成暗黃色. 圖15的漢貓頭鷹與圖21的玉熊玉面上的赤鐵使玉件變為暗紅色. 圖25的商玉梳上的針鐵, 是玉梳成黑色的原因. 這些顏色都不是玉件的本有.顏色的改變是決定在那種次礦物的形成. 而那種次礦物的產生在乎玉件所埋地區的氣候與水流, 及玉件所含的礦物. 在同一件玉器上, 不同部位能有不同的水流與環境. 因而多種次礦物能產生在同 一件玉器上不同的部位, 而做成一件玉器上能有不止一種泌色. 圖12的漢玉獸的另一面(圖26), 就有不同的泌色.這一面的次礦物含針鐵較高, 故部份成灰黑色. 在四十倍顯微鏡下可看到不同礦

圖26. 圖12漢獸另一面

物有不同的晶體結構(圖27).圖片上黑箭頭指向粘土的層狀矽酸鹽, 藍色箭頭指向混有粘 土的針鐵, 紅箭頭指向含鐵的銀白反光線. 漢獸是件傳世玉. 玉面上曾被盤玩削刮. 很多出土時面上的次礦物己被括除. 但在顯微鏡下(圖27), 大量次礦物還是

圖27. 圖12漢獸上次礦物

在玉面上做成玉獸的顏色. 傳世玉上常能看到削括後留下的削括痕跡.圖28是圖25商玉梳在顯微鏡下所見, 在次礦物針鐵

圖27. 圖25商玉梳上次礦物

比較少的地方, 透過一層極薄的半透明粘土與鐵的膜,還能看到玉的色澤.紅色圈內是銀白的氧化鐵. 在氧化鐵

圖28. 漢玉珠

多的玉器如圖29的漢玉珠上,常能看到銀白色的含鐵次礦物, 出現在層狀矽酸鹽的邊上(圖30).因為這些銀白線反光不是在90度,要看到金屬反光要杷玉件拿在手裹放進顯微鏡焦點.再把玉件反覆傾斜,以不同的角度觀察玉面.

圖30. 漢玉珠上次礦物

次礦物的產生是決定在陽起與角閃內的化學成份. 而古玉面上的泌色是決定在次礦物的顏色. 如產生在微孔微裂內次礦物是氧化鐵, 泌色就會是褐紅,黑色或黃色.灰白色的粘土多在玉面上結成層狀的晶體. 圖31是一周玉璜, 赤鐵使玉

圖31. 周玉環

璜成褐紅色, 但在線條間的低陷處, 滿佈灰白色的粘土(圖32). 不同的粘土做成不同的晶體結構(箭頭與圈內), 缺鐵的粘土

回32. 周玉環上次礦物

成白色(圖32中左). 與圖33的另一周代玉璜相較. 圖33玉璜面上次礦物含氧化鐵少, 故色青白, 面上的粘土晶體結構(圖34),

圖33. 周玉環2

與圖31的玉璜上的相比, 也有明顯的不同. 圖33的玉璜上有一裂縫, 裂縫是玉面隆起的線條所没有. 這裂縫只在次礦物上,

圖34. 圖33玉環上次礦物與裂縫

玉璜是原好沒有缺裂. 軟玉的硬度與晶體結構, 使古玉極少有破與裂. 破與裂都是在 次礦物上. 做偽玉的對這點的不了解,以噴沙在玉面上做破損, 反成辨偽的線索

            風化產生在玉面上的粘土不能如出土時的泥土可以用水洗去. 而一直留在玉面上數千年至今.礦物有氣味的不多. 粘土是其中之一,泥土的氣味是粘土給予. 產生在古玉面上的粘土所發出的氣味, 就是古玉藏家所以為古玉墳墓氣息的來源. 留在玉面上風化產生的粘土一直發出這氣味到今天.

當次礦物溢出至玉面上, 一極薄半透明膜片便產生在玉面上, 因為是半透明, 所以很難看出這薄膜片, 在顯微鏡下常誤以為是本有的玉面. 圖35是一漢薄玉獸, 玉獸厚度只2毫米. 這薄玉獸是一件傳世玉, 面上次礦物大部份被去除. 但餘

圖35. 漢薄玉獸

留在玉面上, 灰褐色含鐵次礦物還是清楚可見.在顯微鏡下(圖36) 褐紅的赤鐵成粒片狀(紅箭頭), 灰白色的粘土晶體大部份被磨括去, 没能被括除 的被遺留在陰線內與線旁的低陷處. 在兩紅圈內有很多黒點, 這些被以為是炭的黑點是赤鐵包含物(Hematite inclusions), 包含物不是在玉面內, 而是在玉面上的半透明薄膜裹. 薄玉獸是一件不可多見的玉器, 應是一技術

圖36. 薄玉獸上次礦物

高超藝人為一身份高貴的人所雕, 要雕這樣重要玉器,所選用的應為最佳玉料. 满佈黑點的玉料是決不會被選用. 那就是說在雕這薄玉獸時, 玉內並没有這些黑點存在, 這些黑點只能是玉件被埋後所產生的次礦物.透過這半透明薄膜可看到這玉獸本有的白玉顏色. 與其他漢玉獸不同. 圖35漢玉獸頭上有一長冠. 體中有兩向上下伸延的翅膀. 這些格里芬特點往下會在西域影響裏重提.      

               值得一提的是古玉面上隆起小塊(Raised Relief), 有這些小塊便被認為是真古玉, 這些隆起小塊也是從化學風化而來, 小塊的成因是尤於一種礦物侵進了另一礦物, 但不以本有的晶體出现, 而是以取代的礦物的晶體現身, 在礦物學上被稱為假體(Pseudomorph). 假體由於需要較長時間與合適的情況下才能產生. 故並不常見. 假體較多見在紅山玉器上. 假體在玉面上出現並不只是一塊, 而是多塊如圖37的周玉人. 徦體滿佈在玉人全身,最昜見是在玉人胸前. 在顯微鏡下(圖38) 這

圖37. 漢玉人

些假體是由不同的晶體所組成. 看到假體就可知道這件玉器曾被埋在土裏二千年以上.

圖38. 玉人身上假體


唐代深受西域影響,佛教文化從印度經西域傳至中國,改變了中華文化使成為佛教國家. 但西域影響與彿教的傳入並不始於唐代, 遠在商周時已與西域匈奴接觸. 匈奴實是一多民族的游牧民族聯盟. 其中的個别民族都可被稱為匈奴. 史記上記載公元前318年, 韓, 趙, 魏, 燕, 齊, 連匈奴共攻秦. 秦始皇時派蒙恬伐匈奴. 匈奴一直是中國北部的外患.到漢代初期首以和親招附, 漢武帝後便與匈奴長期作戰. 東漢時匈奴分為南北匈奴. 北匈奴被擊敗退至中亞草原, 從此在歷史上消失. 南匈奴成為漢的附屬國. 而佛教也在1-2世紀傳入中國.西晉時匈奴人劉淵成立漢趙為光文帝,從而開始五胡十六國. 但也因此匈奴與其他北方胡族, 主要是被統稱五胡的羯, 鮮卑, 羌與氐,在文化與民族上逐漸溶入了中華民族而也在歷史上消失. 西域文化的傳入, 五胡是一個極大的原因. 這些遊牧民族多源於中亞,例如鮮卑本來自西伯利亞, 匈奴人的源起議論很多, 有以是夏人北遷而成匈奴先祖. 但也有以匈奴源於歐亞大草原的斯基泰人(Scythian). 但匈奴是多民族的合稱, 民族的源頭理應也是多源. 五胡十六國在南此朝時的溶入, 開出了隋唐以後的中華文化. 也使紅山與良渚文化被遺忘, 在中華文化上成為歷史的過去. 要到二十世紀才被重新發現.


中亞的影響到西域諸國,還可見於今天新彊塔里木盆地遺址. 在米蘭(Miran) 荒漠彿寺遺址的璧畫, 就有裏海(Caspian Sea)邊緣的貴霜皇朝(Kushan)風格的表現. 壁畫的有翼天使與古希臘羅馬的天使相接近(圖39. From

圖39. 米蘭佛寺遺址天使像

Wikipedia. ) 其中在MV號彿寺 壁畫上, 有一幅青年男子與一有翼怪獸搏鬥 (圖40),(”漢代西域藝術中的希臘文化因素; 林梅村”).  怪獸雖因壁畫部份被毀頭部巳不見, 但還可辨出是格里芬

圖40. 米蘭佛寺遺址格里芬畫像

(Griffin). 格里芬是歐亞神話中有著獅身鷹頭的怪獸. 根據大英百科全書格里芬首現於元前二千年於古中東與東地中海的黎凡宊地域(Levant), 黎凡突也是斯基泰人的發源地. 斯基泰人有説是匈奴人祖先.格里芬廣流傳在西亞. 元前十四世紀傳至古希臘. 在中亞流行的格里芬頭頂是一冠. 在希臘歐州流行的頭頸上有著鬃毛. 圖41是一十八世紀法國鋼筆畫的格里芬,

圖41. 十八世紀法國格里芬鋼筆畫

這法國格里芬有著與圖40的米蘭彿寺格里芬頸上相同的鬃毛.圖42是一漢代玉格里芬. 與米蘭彿寺和法國 格里芬不同, 漢

圖42. 漢代玉格里芬

玉格里芬頭頂是一冠, 這個分別是説米蘭彿寺的格里芬是歐州式, 而進入漢代的是中亞格里芬. 這也説明中亞影響巳在漢代進入中國. 但這鳥頭格里芬並没有存留在中華文化. 雖然格里芬形象消失, 但格里芬頭頂上的冠, 卻可清楚見於漢薄玉獸頭上(圖35).薄玉獸形象與其他漢獸有不同(圖12,17). 薄玉獸不單頭上有一冠, 且體中前後腳間芬不單只在玉器上. 漢漆器

圖43. 漢漆器格里芬圖案

有長冠的鳥頭獸身有翅格里芬圖案(圖43).圖44的漢玉獸頭部雖是獸, 但有著與圖35薄玉獸相同的格里芬頭上長冠, 也明顯

圖44. 漢帶翅玉獸

的帶翅. 這些形象應都是受格里芬影響變化而成. 中亞的影響在漢代已存在.

回頭再看圖41的漢格里芬, 這是一件傳世玉器.中國古玉大部份是傳世. 格里芬没有灰白的顏色因為粘土晶體被盤玩除去, 但暗綠黃色是從微孔內礦物而來. 翅膀, 腹與腿的灰黑色是氧化鐵的顏色, 在顯微鏡下這些次礦物還可見於玉面上(圖45). 這些次礦物常留在低陷處, 盤玩不容易達到的地方(圖46). 圖47是格里芬顯微鏡下的翅膀, 次礦物可見積聚在下,

圖45. 漢玉格里芬面上次礦物
圖46. 漢玉格里芬顯微鏡下積聚次礦物

藍箭頭所指是半透明薄片的邊緣. 紅箭頭指向積聚的次礦物.淺坑是砣輪留下.由於玉的硬度高, 輕微削刮不能在玉面上留

圖47. 格里芬翅膀下次礦物

下痕跡, 而有如用扒子在地上扒過的削括痕卻清楚可見(圖48). 這些削刮痕並不是在玉面上. 而是在這半透明薄膜上.

圖48. 玉格里芬次礦物薄膜上削括痕

玉格里是用砣輪雕成.圖49是格里芬的眼睛, 紅箭頭所指紅圈禸, 皆是砣輪留下的切割痕. 用以雕刻格里芬的砣輪, 是在可以傾斜改變角度的水磴上. 砣輪可以從不同的角度, 斜雕進格里芬體內, 做成格里芬的體與腿間能有深度的分隔,

圖49. 玉格里芬眼上砣輪留痕

也可使格里芬的翅膀能被雕成層疊.用以雕格里芬的水磴, 與用以雕圖21玉熊有不同, 用以雕格里芬的水磴,已發展到可以傾斜, 以不的角度琢磨玉器. 米蘭彿寺遺圵的格里芬,被估繪於公元1-2世紀間. 漢玉格里芬應也是在同時間雕成.工具留痕與風化次礦物在玉面上的變化, 皆指出玉格里芬是漢代真品.

有翅的漢玉獸(圖35,43) 與一般的漢玉獸(圖12,17) 有明顯的不同. 有翅的玉獸是從格里芬演變而來. 且可追至中亞.有翅獸出現在3-4世紀鮮卑皮帶扣上(圖49. From Wikipedia).鮮卑為西百利亜遊牧民族的後代, 皮帶扣上的獸有著形

圖50. 鮮卑金帶翅獸皮帶扣(From Wikipedia).

象上更接近格里芬的雙翅. 而獸頭的格里芬早在紀元前6至4世紀出現在波斯(圖51. Image in public domain).這被稱為

圖51. 波斯帶翅獸

獸頭里格芬的金像現存紐約博物館(Metropolitan Museum of Art).

獸頭格里芬在中國的影響一直到南朝(公元420-589). 南朝的宋, 齊, 梁,陳建都在今天的南京, 在南京現存的南朝石刻有33處, 有翅石獸就有20多件, 點擊下連到維基百科便可看到這些石刻. ( )  圖52的南朝宋劉裕陵前帶翅石獸是典型. 帶翅獸有一雙被收藏在美國賓州博物館(Penn Museum), 賓州博物館詳細

圖52. 南朝宋劉裕陵前帶翅石獸(From Wikipedia).

分析了這雙翼獸, 把他們與格里芬相比. 這文章可從下連進入.  結論是說這些帶翅獸就是格里芬.而賓州博物館這雙翼獸是從河北來的漢代翼獸,注意賓州博物館的南京翼獸, 有與圖42漢玉格里芬相同的胸前鱗甲.

南京翼獸石刻都在南朝帝后墓前神道上, 除了石翼獸, 神道上還有著希臘風格的石柱(圖53). 這石柱西方風格也在賓州博物館南京石獸討論范圍之內. 石翼獸與石柱都明顯受到西方來的影響. 南朝是漢人成立與北朝五胡十六國相對持的

圖53. 南京神道上希臘色彩石桂(From Wikipedia).

政權, 神道上的格里芬與石柱的西域來的影響應是從北朝十六國五胡而來.但這翼獸與希臘與佛教保有密切關係. 由古希臘馬其頓阿歷山大大帝所建立的塞琉帝國(Seleucid Greek Kingdom) 與印度的毛里雅王朝(Mauryan Empire)合併. 在今巴基斯坦與阿富汗建立了希臘-巴克特里亜王朝(Greco-Bactrim Empire 250 BCE-125 BCE). 因而發展了希臘佛教(Greco Buddhism). 而在東方的大月氏為匈奴擊敗後, 從今天的甘肅新疆地區退至巴克特里亜, 在元前一世紀成立了貴霜王朝( Kushan Empire).  大月氏是印歐人種, 說的是印歐語係(Tocharian). 貴霜保持了希臘佛教, 也滲進了印度教(Hinduism) 與波斯來的拜火教(Zoroastrianism}. 貴霜與漢朝有密切來往, 因而把佛教與中亞影響也帶至中國. 圖53A是一貴霜石雕佛祖像Kushan Empire – Wikipedia,佛祖旁是兩保有印度教的雕像. 佛祖的坐台兩人像是拜火教的影響, 坐台兩邊是兩翼獸, 這貴霜彿祖石像完全解釋了漢與南朝的翼獸由夾. 北方的胡人不但接受了漢人的文化, 且把胡人姓名改成漢人姓名. 在民族上溶進了漢族. 這漢胡文化與民族的溶合是中華文化史上重要的一頁, 揭開了隋唐與以後的中華文化. “Religions of The Silk Road, Premodern Patterns of Globalization. Richard Foltz. 1999. Palgrave Macmillan”. 而北方的胡人不但接受了漢人的文化, 且把胡人姓名改成漢人姓名. 在民族上溶進了漢族. 這漢胡文化與民族的溶合是中華文化史上重要的一頁, 揭開了隋唐與以後的中華文化.

圖53A. 貴霜彿祖石雕像與坐台上翼獸.


北朝五胡十六國(304-439 AD) 一共存在135年, 在這段時間有187位帝王. 而南朝(420-589 AD) 共有169年24帝. 在這眾多帝王中有四玉印可給予對當時一些啟示. 這四玉印鈕是四赤身人像, 印面上刻的是景王之印(圖54A,54B), 高

圖54A. 景王之印
圖54B. 景王之印

帝之印(55A,55B), 順帝之印(圖56A,56B), 及共帝之印(圖57A,57B).四玉印都是出土玉器. 在没有經過盤玩削刮下, 玉面上

圖55A. 高帝之印
圖55B. 高帝之印
圖56A. 順帝之印
圖56B. 順帝之印
圖57A. 共帝之印
圖57B. 共帝之印

滿佈風化而來的次礦物. 圖58 是圖54景王印上風化次礦物晶體.紅圈內是長方形晶體組成的的假體(pseudomorph), 這假

圖58. 景王印上次礦物

體就有如圖37漢玉人上所有,還可見是橙黃色的氧化鐵在圖的下方.圖59是高帝印上粘土矽酸鹽晶體結構. 這些晶體滿佈在

圖59. 高帝印上次礦

高帝印上. 一千六百年風化產生在玉面上的粘土, 使四玉印都帶有明顯粘土氣味. 反影出這些玉印有過千年的進土風化.圖60是順帝印上,層狀矽酸鹽與氧化鐵混合的次礦物晶體. 有一裂痕在礦物上橫過, 這些裂痕常出現在出土古玉上, 中國古玉

圖60. 順帝印上次礦物

藏家常以為古玉有神奇的力量, 可以把破裂回復到原好. 這是因為在出土時看到次礦物上的裂痕, 經過盤玩把次礦物括除, 裂痕也因此消失不見,而以為是玉的神奇力量消除了裂痕. 其實是裂痕只是與次礦物同被括除.圖61是共帝印上次礦物所形

圖61. 共帝印上次礦

成的帶鐵層疊矽酸鹽(ferruginous phyllosilicate), 層狀晶體的邊緣清楚可見. 在燈光的照射下,常能見到反光的銀白金屬在這些邊緣上, 有如在圖30的漢玉珠上所見.從玉面上風化來的晶體結構來説,這四玉印有一千年以上的歷史. 在雕刻方面,這四玉印線條用的是浮雕陽線, 線條平行規則如圖62 順帝印上臉面. 就是在圓線轉灣處, 也看不到砣輪留下的痕跡. 四玉印

圖62. 順帝臉面

並不像漢以後的雕刻, 而是與周代玉雕相似. 原因不明, 也許是西域來的玉雕手法. 四印的雕刻相差不遠, 但從像上的眼與耳, 四像可分成兩組. 順帝與共帝同有圓眼與上尖耳(圖62,63).景王與高帝圓眼中有瞳孔, 與耳朵皆圓没有上尖(圖64,65).

圖63. 共帝臉上圓眼與上尖耳
圖64. 高帝臉面,圓耳眼有瞳
圖65. 景王臉面

體積上景王與高帝印比順帝與共帝印略小. 這兩組的分别對這四玉印是那四帝王所屬或有辨别的幫助. 但真正可說的是這四印是由最少兩至三不同玉匠所雕成.印上四帝王的稱號都在兩晉南北朝帝王列上. 但帝王號所屬都不只一人. 景王的稱號有鮮卑人南涼景王(365-415) ,氐人成都李特(303), 與前涼漢人李弇(280-336). 高帝有前秦苻登(343-394), 南朝齊蕭道成(427-482), 順帝有南朝宋劉準(467-479), 北魏元悅(530), 與北齊高柦(577). 共與恭相通, 所以共帝印是恭帝的稱號. 恭帝有東晉司馬德文(418) 與西魏拓拔廊(554-557). 在這眾多的同稱號下, 根本没法能知那一印屬那一人. 這一列的帝王有漢人也有胡人, 印面上是漢字, 但印鈕是赤身的人像. 在中國以人像為鈕的印章不見有報道, 在文化上赤身裸體的並不是漢人. 赤身人像只見於古希臘羅馬. 古希臘羅馬人像的裸體是要表出人體的美. 而這四印上的人像卻没有這樣的表現. 還可作比較的是 米蘭彿寺遺址上壁畫(圖66), 畫中人隨了肩上有一布巾外, 都是裸體. 敦煌莫高窟壁畫盡多裸體飛人(圖67). 兩畫中

圖66. 米蘭佛寺遺址壁畫. (From Wikipedia)

都是西域胡人.鈕上四人像臉面是圓眼高鼻(圖63,64,65) 的胡人相貌, 可與圖65的米蘭胡人相比.這四印是漢胡混合作品. 所

圖67. 莫高窟壁畫. (From Wikipedia)

屬君王雖不能明確, 但應同有漢與胡人. 那是說這混合文化同被漢與胡接受, 在當時南北漢胡相敵對互相戰爭的情形下, 在文化上卻能相互的接受與溶合, 實是不可多得. 隋唐文化是合理的結果.


隋唐玉器最顯著是數目的稀少. 在出土的隋唐墓葬, 極少有玉器. 就如最有名的何家村唐代出土文物, 藏在兩大陶瓮與一銀罐中, 有大約二千件文物, 這些文物大部份是金銀器, 玉器只有玉帶十幅, 玉環一對. 白玉八曲杯一件. 西安隋代李訓墓出土了一件金扣白玉杯. 除此之外, 並沒有確知的出土隋唐玉器. 且這些出土玉器是西域舶來品還是隋唐所作, 至今還沒有確論. 鄧淑蘋從文獻上纪錄, 看到隋唐時代, 只有從西域進口玉器, 而没有玉料,  (探索歷史上的中亞玉作; 古宮學術季刊, 第三十三卷, 第三期), 玉料的來源是西域的于闐, 也就是今天的和田地域. 但這些都是官方紀錄, 也許民間自有進口玉料. 但唐代玉器在存世玉中也是極為罕見, 玉料在民間進口也應極為有限. 但玉並不是隋唐時人所不喜愛. 玉帶是唐代官服的一等級. 楊貴妃對玉的喜愛是人所共知. 玉器的缺乏, 是因隋唐時的中亞于闐國對玉料壟斷, 對中國只出口雕成的玉器而没有玉料, 缺少玉料做成唐代玉器的短缺. 唐玄宗的封禪玉册, 就是用大理石製造. 且還下令宗廟禮器要用真玉, 而不能用次等玉器代替,可見當時玉料短缺的一班. 這情形一直到五代, 在文獻上才可看到有玉團與玉料進入中國.

                    .     出土隋唐玉器的數量少, 使能用作比較的唐代玉器不多見. 在做玉技術上唐代沿用漢代砣輪. 但要辫别玉器是否現代贗品,最主要還是看, 留在玉面上做成泌色的風化次礦物. 在網上能看到的國家博物館藏唐代玉器, 少見泌色在玉面上.博物館一般會把次礦物去除. 甚而用超音波等儀器. 但很多次礦物連超音波也不能去掉. 在顯微鏡下還是可見. 何家村出土的十二件玉器, 在網上照片所見泌色不多. 何家村文物是藏在大陶瓮與銀罐中. 可說並不是真正進土. 理應不會像真正進土的玉件有繁多的次礦物在玉面上. 在陝西國家歷史博物館所藏的何家村出土的白玉八曲長杯( ) , 泌色還是清楚的在玉杯上. 缺少出土玉器作比較, 斷定為唐代玉器就要靠其他唐代已知文物. 金銀器上紋飾, 佛道教的魚龍, 象, 蝙蝠, 飛天等. 拿作比較. 玉器的製作. 玉面上風化次礦物造成玉面上的泌色. 及玉件的風格紋飾. 就是唐代玉器決定所基.


金銀器皿是唐代藝術的傑出成就, 唐代從中亞引進了製作金銀器的技術 .也同時帶進了中亞的紋飾. 銀器上時見有捲鬚藤蔓如在這些唐代金銀器上所見 (見下鏈).  這些西來的影響也就出現在唐代藝術上.圖68的

圖68. 唐后字玉盒

唐代玉盒上的捲雲紋就帶了藤蔓紋的色彩. 玉盒中央圈內是個”后”字.這玉盒有著濃厚的西來色彩. 紋飾是用金銀絲鑲嵌進. 成為玉器與金銀器的交融.玉盒外面次礦物不多. 但這微黃並不是玉盒的本有顏色. 而是含鐵的次礦物在微孔微裂內做成.圖69是玉盒下半的底部.  藍箭頭指向砣輪做玉留下的痕跡.砣輪繞著底部隆起的緣轉. 紅箭頭所指是蓋上了矽酸鹽成白色

圖69. 玉盒底部

的砣輪做成的砊,矽酸鹽晶體也滿佈在玉面上. 砣輪痕跡還可見在盒蓋邊上(圖70). 這玉盒應没有進土. 而是像何家村的玉

圖70. 玉盒下半邊上砣輪痕

器, 被放進另一匣中. 但在盒內還可看到一千多年風化留下的變化. 圖71是盒蓋內的矽酸鹽晶體. 不同形狀的晶體與一些晶

圖71. 玉盒蓋內風化晶體

體灰褐的颜色, 表出兩至三種次礦物在盒蓋內. 在盒的下半裏,還能看到如髪狀的次礦物晶體(圖72), 髮狀次礦物也能見於

圖72. 玉盒下半內髮狀次礦物

別的古玉上. 但在玉盒上的比其他髮狀晶體長. 且多是黑色間有紅色. 在没有化學測驗證明下, 這些是什麼礦物不能確知. 但多種陽起的變異(Actinolite Variations) 晶體都是髮狀(圖72).

圖73. 髮狀陽起變異晶體. Actinolite Variations (From Wikipedia)

玉盒最珍貴是在線條用金銀線鑲嵌. 這些金屬線條雖是灰白色看來是銀. 金屬要加上黃金以增加金屬延展性才能鑲嵌進玉. 把金屬鑲進玉需要極高, 且是中國没有的技術. 金屬鑲進玉石會脱落故不見於中國玉器上.以金銀鑲進玉一直要到清乾隆引進痕都斯坦(Hindustan)玉器與技術, 才在中國出現. 痕都斯坦就是十七世紀的莫臥兒王朝(Mughal Empire), 今天的北印度與巴基斯坦. 痕都斯坦做玉其實與中國相差不遠. 先把玉料切割成形. 再用解玉沙混合流質把玉磨下成器. 莫臥兒用弓鑽雕刻( Stephen Markel: Mughal Jades – A Technical and Sculptural Perspective (,中國雕刻用砣輪. 玉盒極薄只有2mm厚, 所以只能用解玉砂慢慢磨成. 再以砣輪把紋飾雕成坑. 然後把金銀線嵌入(圖74). 痕都斯坦做玉興起於十七世紀. 而這玉盒是唐代(618-907 AD)玉器. 玉盒早於痕都斯坦有一千年. 一般來

圖74. 玉盒上金屬線鑲嵌

說金屬不能嵌進玉石. 所以金箔只能鍍在銅, 木與瓷佛像上. 鍍在玉佛像上金箔都會剝落. 而這些金屬線還是完好地在玉盒上過一千多年. 技術上的困難是中國玉器能鑲上金銀線就只有這玉盒的原因. 怎樣把金銀線鑲上這玉盒且保持不脫落是個迷.


魚在印度佛教是最高象徵, 為彿的最高代表,在苦海中拯救世人. 隨著佛教的傳入, 魚在唐代彿道兩教深所信奉. 魚躍龍門便成為社會所深信. 也是一般人可從科舉考試一躍進第成龍美夢的象徵. 魚龍因而為唐文化一個重要角色. 圖75

圖75. 唐魚龍

是一唐代魚龍. 在雕工技術上, 匠人能把整件玉器重心放到一足上. 魚龍可獨足穩站. 能把重心準確把握到一點上可見於紅山獸人(圖76). 除此之外就是現代玉器也没有見到有這樣的技巧. 圖75的魚龍是件傳世玉. 玉面上的次礦物大多已被清除.

圖76. 紅山獸人

但在顯微鏡下還是清楚可見. 圖77上藍箭頭所指是粘土的層狀矽酸鹽. 紅箭頭所指是砣輪做玉留下的痕跡.

圖77, 魚龍面上次礦物與砣輪留痕

圖78是另一魚龍. 這魚龍有著褐黃的泌色與圖75魚龍褐紅泌色有不同. 不同泌色是由於氧化鐵的赤鐵與針鐵成

圖78. 唐魚龍2

份比例不同所做成. 這魚龍也是件傳世玉. 大部份次礦物被削刮去. 圖79是魚龍面上留下的削刮痕(紅圈內). 褐黃色的氧化

圖79. 魚龍2面上削括痕

鐵並没有完全被刮去. 留下的是相間如柵欄的短線, 有如地上被一木扒拉過去. 没有被刮除的次礦物結成膠片狀凝結在玉面上(圖80藍箭頭). 砣輪留痕到處可見(圖80紅箭頭). 如淺坑的陰線是砣輪所做成. 雕線參差不齊, 寬窄不一, 彎轉處多破損.

圖80. 魚龍2面上次礦物與砣輪留痕

都是漢代砣輪風格. 坑內褐黑色的是風化產生的鐵質凝膠(ferruginous gel). 没有被盤玩削刮除去的留在陰線内.

魚燒尾成龍是唐代科舉及第的代稱. 唐代社會一般人是魚. 魚要躍登龍門, 火燒尾才能成龍. 太平廣記有載: “初登龍門,即有雲雨隨之,天火自後燒其尾,乃化為龍矣”. 因而燒尾也成科舉及第的代稱. 升官便有燒尾宴. 圖81是一唐代

圖81. 唐魚燒尾成龍

魚燒尾成龍. 這件傳世玉還保有極多風化次礦物.圖82上可看到低陷的線內滿佈粘土與赤鐵的次礦物與在玉面上(藍圈內).

圖82. 燒尾魚龍上次礦物

結成晶體的赤鐵也可見在魚龍的嘴裏(圖83). 没有化學檢驗之下, 赤鐵晶體只是猜測, 要作比較可到下鏈. Photographs of mineral No. 46395: Hematite var. Kidney Ore from Alston Moor, Cumbria, England (

圖84. 燒尾魚龍嘴裏赤鐵晶體

魚龍的雕刻是用砣輪. 砣輪痕跡清楚可見(圖77).

圖85. 燒尾魚龍面上砣輪留痕

二龍拱珠來自北印度的犍陀羅, 在魏晉南北朝時隨著佛教進入. 至唐代大盛. 一般都是二龍戲珠. 在 “犍陀羅” 龍珠” 及其在 中國的新發展, 李靜杰, 齊慶媛”  犍陀罗“龙珠”及其在中国的新发展|中国龙珠图像考① ( 一文中

圖86. 魚龍吐珠

的圖18-2是唐代一龍含一珠的圖案. 圖86是一唐代玉魚龍吐珠. 在蓋著風化次礦物下, 還可看到砣輪的痕跡(圖87).魚龍吐

圖87. 魚龍吐珠上次礦物與砣輪留痕

唐代玉器最為人知曉的是何家村出土, 帶胡人色彩玉帶板. 圖88是一龍頭玉帶扣與89玉帶扣後背. 圖90是龍頭玉

圖88. 龍頭玉帶扣
圖89. 玉帶扣背後

帶扣上風化次礦物與砣輪留痕. 唐代玉帶扣是縫在帶上使布帶穿過,與漢代帶勾的玉帶扣有明顯的不同. 唐代玉帶扣形式一直沿用至明清.

圖90. 玉帶扣面上次礦物與砣輪留痕


佛教自魏晉南北朝進入中國, 到唐代大盛. 道教也隨而興起.  象為佛教的神聖動物彿祖的象徵. 象在宗教儀式中都被裝扮華麗(圖91). 圖92與93是一唐代的玉象頭與玉件背後的象拔. 圖94是玉象面上褐紅赤鐵風化次礦物與黑色的包含

圖91. 印度教象
圖92. 唐玉象頭
圖93. 玉象頭背後象拔
圖94. 玉象頭面上次礦物與砣輪留痕

物(inclusion bodies). 紅圈內為砣輪留下做玉痕跡.

佛道兩教同盛行於唐, 蝙蝠是同被佛教與道教所尊崇的動物. “大唐西域記”有載羅漢為蝙蝠所化. 蝠因與福同音而成彿道兩教瑞獸. 圖95是一玉蝙蝠. 圖96是蝙蝠面上次礦物與砣輪留痕.

圖95. 玉蝙蝠
圖96. 玉蝙蝠面上次礦物與砣輪留

唐代有陶鎮墓獸用以驅鬼避邪, 鎮壓妖魔. 圖97是一鎮魔玉獸. 應是掛帶在死者身上以驅鬼避邪. 圖98是玉獸面上次礦物與砣輪留痕.

圖97. 鎮魔玉獸人
圖98. 玉獸人面上次礦物與砣輪留

  最後來看一件飛天. 唐代敦煌飛天都有高束盛裝的髮形. 一般都是抬頭直身飛行. 但敦煌石窟壁畫中, 也有禿頭的飛天(見圖60). 圖99是一秃頭尼姑飛天俯身飛行. 有以唐飛天都是直身. 而宋代飛天是俯身飛行. 圖89的飛天或許是宋代作

圖99. 飛天

品. 飛天身上雕有五只蝙蝠. 取其五福的意思.五福出自尚書,是來自先秦早於唐代佛教的思想.飛天雙手合十,是彿教藝術風格. 飛天玉面上有著明顯的風化次礦物與砣輪留痕(圖100).

圖100. 飛天面上次礦物與砣輪留痕
Looking through the Hongshan Buried Nephrite, from authentication to Zoomorphic, Therianthrope, and the Hongshan Cultural Beliefs.

Looking through the Hongshan Buried Nephrite, from authentication to Zoomorphic, Therianthrope, and the Hongshan Cultural Beliefs.

Hongshan Hook Cloud Plaque


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 Conspectus

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

Bottomless tube
Figure 1. The clay bottomless tube

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

Pregnant woman clay figerine.
Figure 2. Pregnant woman clay figurine.

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.” 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   

Shallow and wide grooves
Figure 3. Shallow and wide grooves

Hongshan line carving
Figure 4. Shallow and wide grooves and lines.

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.

Mouth from line cutting.
Fig. 5. Mouth from line cutting.

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

Hongshan jade bird
Figure 6. Bird with a round hanging hole behind eyes

diagonally drilled from the same surface (Figure 7). These types of drill holes are often

he same surface diagonally drilled holes
Figure 7. The same surface diagonally drilled holes.

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

Figure 8a. C-dragon with ox nose holes, and pig dragon round holes with no ox nose.
Figure 8a. C-dragon with ox nose holes, and pig dragon round holes with no ox nose.

C-dragon and pig dragon
Figure 8b. The other side of the C-dragon with the ox nose hole and pig dragon with a round hole.

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

C-dragon with ox nose hole.
Figure 9a. C-dragon with ox nose hole.

The other side of the C dragon.
Figure 9b. The other side of the C dragon in 9a.

figure 10, hook cloud plaque, the ox nose parts are pointing upward to either side. Notice

Hook cloud plaque
Figure 10. Ox nose on hook cloud plaque slanted upward to one side.

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

Hongshan jade
Figure 11. The same surface diagonally drilled holes on Hongshan jades.

used extensively on the netsukes in Japan (figure 12a and b), before they came back to

Japanese netsuke
Figure 12a. Japanese netsuke.

Japanese netsuke
Figure 12b. Japanese netsuke and the diagonally drilled holes

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

Drill hole with shallow and irregular marks on the side.
Figure 13. Drill hole with shallow and irregular marks on the side.

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

Drill hole on the hook cloud plaque.
Figure 14. Drill hole on the hook cloud plaque.

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

Figure15. Nephrite with fibrous crystal.

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

tremolite sem (2)
Figure 16 nephrite surface under an electron microscope.

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

Eastern Zhou jade plaque
Figure 17. Eastern Zhou pendant with amorphous silicate.

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,

Song frog
Figure18. Song frog

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).

nephrite pabble
Figure19. Nephrite pebble with iron oxide and greyish phyllosilicate skin.

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

Han beast
Figure 20. Han beast.

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

Han beast magnified
Figure 21. Han beast under 40X Magnification

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),

Hongshan zoomorphic
Figure 22. Hongshan zoomorphic

Hongshan zoomorphic 40X magnification.
Figure 23a. Hongshan zoomorphic 40X magnification.

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

Figure 23b. Hematite covering the zoomorphic, giving the zoomorphic beast a reddish color
Figure 23b. Hematite covering the zoomorphic, giving the zoomorphic beast a reddish color

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

Clay and iron oxide crystals formed on figure 22 beast zoomorphic.
Figure 23c. Clay and iron oxide crystals formed on figure 22 beast zoomorphic.

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

Hongshan zoomorphic
Figure 24. Hongshan zoomorphic on top of a worm

Magnified view with metallic granules.
Figure 25 Magnified view of figure 24 with metallic granules.

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

C-dragon and pig dragon
Figure 26. C dragon – pig dragon

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

C-dragon and pig dragon under magnification
Figure 27. C dragon – pig dragon with secondary product crystal under magnification.

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

ariation of phyllosilicate crystal on C dragon - pig dragon
Figure 28. Variation of phyllosilicate crystal on C dragon – pig dragon

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

Tile like crystals among secondary minerals
Figure 28a. Tile like crystals among secondary minerals

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

Limonite pseudomorph after Siderite
Figure 29. Limonite pseudomorph after Siderite

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

Late Zhou to Qin jade man
Figure 30. Late Zhou to Qin jade man

nodules are formed by tile like crystals (Figure 31). Raised relief or pseudomorphs are

Zhou jade man 6
Figure 31. Magnified jade man pseudomorph.

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

Hongshan zoomorphic with raised relief.1
Figure32. Hongshan zoomorphic with 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

Magnified zoomorphic surface.
Figure33. Magnified squatting zoomorphic surface.

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

Metallic granules on the zoomorphic in a red circle with raised relief on the right.
Figure33a. Metallic granules on the zoomorphic in a red circle with raised relief on the right.

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

agate pseudomorphRobert de Jager Germany
Figure 34. Natural Agate pseudomorph.

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

Hongshan zoomorphic
Figure 35. Hongshan zoomorphic

zoomorphic beast. The pseudomorph on this zoomorphic beast (Figure 36) is completely

Pseudomorph on figure 35 zoomorphic.
Figure 36. Pseudomorph on figure 35 zoomorphic.

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

Hongshan zoomorphic pseudomorph
Figure 37. Hongshan zoomorphic pseudomorph

on its body all have a Smoke Quartz appearance (Figure 38). All of these say that the

Squatting beast raised reliefe
Figure 38. Figure 37 Hongshan zoomorphic pseudomorph magnified.

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

Liangzhu disc with cracks on the crust.
Figure 39. Liangzhu disc with cracks on the crust.

crack becomes apparent when the disc is examined under the microscope ( Figure 40). A

The backside of the Liangzhu disc.
Figure 40. The backside of the Liangzhu disc.

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

Figure 41. Magnification from figure 40.

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

C-dragon pig dragon surface ferruginous plaque.
Figure 42. C-dragon pig dragon surface ferruginous plaque.

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

Hongshan pig dragon beast.
Figure 43. Hongshan pig dragon beast.

group of brownish granules within the semitransparent crust (Figure 44). Such granules

Hongshan pig dragon beast Hematite inclusions
Figure 44. Hongshan pig dragon beast Hematite inclusions

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

Figure 45. Han beast disc with Hematite encrusting.

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

Figure 46. Hematite encrusting on the jade surface.

zoomorphic insect beast (Figure 47). Again, to appreciate the presence of the crust, an

Hongshan zoomorphic insect.
Figure 47. Hongshan zoomorphic insect.

oblique view under the microscope is essential (Figure 48). The different colors on the

Figure 48. Different minerals create a crust with varying colors of different minerals

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

With Clay mineral and crack on the crust.
Figure 49. With Clay mineral and crack on the crust.

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

Hongshan eagle with an iron-oxide crust.
Figure 50. Hongshan eagle with an iron-oxide crust.

figure 51 that has a distinct crystal formation (Figure 52a). Figure 52b is an oblique view

Hongshan bird zoomorphic.
Figure 51. Hongshan bird zoomorphic.

Hongshan bird zoomorphic surface crystals.
Figure 52a. Hongshan bird zoomorphic surface crystals.

Figure 52b. Oblique view of figure 52 bird zoomorphic Goethite crystal formation.
Figure 52b. Oblique view of figure 52 bird zoomorphic Goethite crystal formation.

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.
Figure 53. Hongshan bird with a worm.

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

Hongshan bird needle hematite crystal 1
Figure 54. Goethite crystal inside drill hole.

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).

Hongshan zoomorphic with a beard.
Figure 55. Hongshan zoomorphic with a beard.

Figure 56. Goethite crystals inside the oblique drill holes.

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