A very rare pair of large white and russet jade discs, bi Late Warring States/mid Western Han Dynasty (3)

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Lot 104
A very rare pair of large white and russet jade discs, bi
Late Warring States/mid Western Han Dynasty

HK$ 2,000,000 - 3,000,000
US$ 260,000 - 390,000
A very rare pair of large white and russet jade discs, bi
Late Warring States/mid Western Han Dynasty
Each circular disc with a small round perforation in the centre, meticulously and crisply carved in relief on both sides with a dense pattern of raised bosses neatly arranged in an hexagonal grid pattern, all within a raised border at the outer and inner edges, the lustrously polished semi-translucent stone of an even white tone with reddish-brown inclusions, box.
Each 15.6cm (6 1/8in) diam. (3).


  • 戰國晚期/西漢中期 白玉蒲紋壁一對

    The Numina Collection, Hong Kong, acquired in the 1960s


    The present exquisite pair of jade bi discs is remarkable for the large size and the white and lustrous semi-translucent stone, powerfully and crisply carved in relief with an abundant number of neatly arranged polygonal bosses. Each well-defined boss is lined up in neat regular rows and columns, demonstrating a painstaking and meticulous carving process and formidable skill and execution by the master carver. The large size and the exceptional level of workmanship suggest that this bi was of particular significance during the Late Warring States period to the mid Western Han dynasty, and was probably made for an important state ceremonial purpose.

    According to the Confucian text Zhou Li, or Rites of Zhou, the bi disc along with the cong tube was by far the most important ritual jade. The bi discs were regarded as suitable offering to Heaven and therefore became symbolic of Heaven. Large jade bi discs with surfaces carved with relief patterns which reflected the light and made the jades gleam can be seen in significant numbers in tombs of the Eastern Zhou period. By the Late Warring States period until the mid Western Han period, the relief patterns of spirals and scrolls evolved to hexagons across the main surfaces such as on the present pair of discs. For a discussion about jade discs, see J.Rawson, Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, London, 1995, pp.247-251.

    The importance and value of bi discs in a pair is recorded in the Chinese historical literature, Shiji, or the Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian (206BC – AD 220), where a minister of the State of Zhao named Yu Qing was made governor of the land of Yu, and gifted a pair of white jade bi discs together with a hundred yi (unit of weight equal to 20 taels of silver) by the King Xiaocheng of the Zhao State, see Shiji: Ping Yuan Jun Yu Qing Lie Zhuan, sector 16, 1993 (reprint), Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1993.

    It is extremely rare to find large jade bi discs in a pair that are carved out of a single white jade stone of such purity and lustre. Compare two closely-related but slightly smaller pale jade bi discs (14cm diam.) in the Winthrop Collection, Western Han dynasty, both with relief patterns of small hexagonal elevations, illustrated by M.Loehr, Ancient Chinese Jades from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 1975, pp.527-528, nos.364-365, where the author states that they may have formed a pair. Compare also a larger grey white jade bi disc (18.5cm diam.), Eastern Zhou period, but carved with rows of small spirals in relief, in the British Museum, illustrated by J.Rawson, ibid., London, 1995, pl.15:1. See also a large green jade bi disc of similar size and hexagonal bosses (15.4cm diam.), Western Han dynasty, excavated from tomb no.2 in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, now in the Nanjing Museum, illustrated by G.Fang, The Pictorial Handbook of Ancient Chinese Jades, Beijing, 2007, p.265. Another smaller green jade bi disc with similarly carved patterns (14cm diam.), late Warring States period to mid Western Han dynasty, is in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated by Tsai Ching Ling, Betwixt Reality and Illusion: Special Exhibition of Jades from the Warring States Period to the Han Dynasty in the Collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2020, p.68, no.F-2-08.

    Compare a very similar large pale greenish-white and brown jade bi disc (15.8cm diam.), Western Han dynasty, from the Robert H. Ellsworth collection, which was sold at Christie's New York, 19 March 2015, lot 592; see another related jade disc from the Mr and Mrs Malcolm E. McPherson collection (14.5cm diam.), Western Han Dynasty, but carved with 'comma' spirals on the surfaces, which was sold at Christie's New York, 19 March 2008, lot 481.


    根據《周禮》對祭祀禮器中玉器的記載:「以玉作六器,以禮天地四方,以蒼璧禮天,以黃宗禮地,以青圭禮東方,以赤璋禮南方,以白琥禮西方,以玄璜禮北方」,認為璧屬於一種祭祀天神的禮器,可見其特殊地位。玉璧的用途除了禮神敬祖外,在春秋時期亦有敬人之說,為卑者敬尊長者所備之禮物。帶有需要繁複工序才能雕琢完成的穀紋的大型玉璧在戰國中期開始出現,至戰國晚期到西漢中期,出現了以相對較少工序即可完成的蒲紋,但以穀紋及蒲紋互配的特徵在此時期經常同時出現,更多有關玉璧的論述,可參考J. Rawson,《Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing》,倫敦,1995年,頁247-251。


    以白玉玉料成雙而製的大型玉璧,在出土及傳世品中都極為罕見,而墓葬出土的大型玉璧與此對白玉璧不同,一般都採用青玉或玉質較差的材料雕刻,大多製作不精。參看Grenville L. Winthrop Collection收藏,現藏於哈佛大學藝術館藏兩件青白玉蒲紋玉璧,尺寸稍小(14厘米),館方從尺寸、紋飾、規格判斷或為一對,見M.Loehr著,《温索普收藏中国古玉》,劍橋,1975年,圖364及圖365,頁527-528。大英博物院藏一件東周灰白玉穀紋璧,尺寸稍大(18.5厘米),見 J.Rawson同著錄,倫敦,1995年,圖版15:1。另見江蘇省揚州市高郵天山鄉神居山2號墓出土的西漢蒲紋玉璧(15.4厘米),現藏南京博物院,玉質青白,有黑色火燒痕跡,見古方著,《中國古玉器圖典》,北京,2007年,頁265。台北故宮博物院藏一件戰國晚期至西漢中期青玉玉璧,尺寸稍小(14厘米),見蔡慶良著,《實幻之間:院藏戰國至漢代玉器特展》,台北,2020年,圖F-2-08,頁68。

    拍賣會售出的單件大型玉璧,見安思遠舊藏一見西漢玉璧(15.8厘米),售於紐約佳士得,《錦瑟華年 - 安思遠私人珍藏》,2015年3月19日,拍品編號592。另見Malcolm E. McPherson夫婦舊藏一件西漢穀紋玉璧(14.5厘米),售於紐約佳士得,2008年3月19日,拍品編號481。
A very rare pair of large white and russet jade discs, bi Late Warring States/mid Western Han Dynasty (3)
A very rare pair of large white and russet jade discs, bi Late Warring States/mid Western Han Dynasty (3)
A very rare pair of large white and russet jade discs, bi Late Warring States/mid Western Han Dynasty (3)
A very rare pair of large white and russet jade discs, bi Late Warring States/mid Western Han Dynasty (3)
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