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The jades of the Jinsha site in Sichuan,China

During a recent trip to China I found, after travelling at 432Km or 268 miles per hour with the modern marvel, the Maglev magnetic sustention train, from downtown Shanghai to the Airport in the bookshop there

A 21st Century Discovery of Chinese Archeology – The JINSHA Site

This book was published in 2006 by the China Intercontinental Press (ISBN 7-5085-0854-8/K 730) and relates an exceptional archeological discovery near Chengdu, in the province of Sichuan in Central China.

It contains a large section on ancient jade marvels found at the site and I have, as such books are not readily accessible outside China, extracted the key jade sections with their original text formulation for your information and enjoyment!



Discovery of the Jinsha Site and Its Excavation

On the afternoon of February 8, 2001, engineering machines accidentally unearthed numerous artifacts of gold, bronze, jade, stone and ivory from a treasure that had been covered for more than 3,000 years at a construction site in former Jinsha Village. Many of them were unseen anywhere except at the Sanxingdui site in Guanghan, Sichuan, which is now quite well known in the world.


Was this another Sanxingdui or was it related to that site? The answer can only be found in further excavation and research. The archeology team gleaned and cleaned the artifacts from the dug-up soil, and found more than 1,400 items, which were all exquisitely made. Many of them were similar to those found in the No.1 and No.2 pits of the Sanxingdui site, and a large number of them were identified as sacrificial utensils of ancient Shu kingdoms.



The Jinsha site in the northwestern part of Chengdu in the Province of Sichuan in Central China

The archeology team then started large-scale excavations in the area and identified a 15,000 sq m sacrificial zone of the ancient Shu kingdoms. Since 2001 the exploration team has been expanded its search to adjacent areas of the zone and excavated more than 20 spots with a combined area of more than 100,000 sq m. More than 3,000 additional relics including a large number of valuable artifacts were collected. Back in late 1995 archaeologists had found quite a few cultural relics of the Shang and Zhou dynasties (1600-256 BC) at Huangzhong Village north of the Modi River. The archaeologists now believe those relics and the sacrificial zone at Jinsha Village belonged to the same archaeological site. As the findings at Jinsha are more significant, they named the archaeological site that covers both Huangzhong and Jinsha villages as the Jinsha site.

Since the 1980s archaeologists have discovered and excavated a dozen sites of the Shang and Zhou dynasties to the southeast of the Jinsha site, including those at the Fuqin Development, Shi'erqiao, Fangchi Street, Junping Street, Zhihui Street, Yandao Street, the construction site of Minshan Hotel, and Minjiang Development. All these excavations, extending for more than 10 km, were carried out during urban construction. Some scholars named them the Shi'erqiao Relics.

Judging from all this, the archeology team believes the Jinsha site is not an isolated case in Chengdu. As a large num ber of relics were discovered around Jinsha but among them Jinsha is the largest and turned out the most valuable artifacts, the scientists believe that Jinsha was the center of all those sites.


View of the excavation at the Jinsha site

The site covers an area of at least 5 sq km; it extends beyond Shuhan Road in the north, toward Tonghe Road and Qingyang Avenue in the east, and meets the Three Ring Road in the west and Central Qingjiang Road and West Qingjiang Road in the south. In other words, the site covers the former villages of Jinsha, Huangzhong, Longzui, Hongse, and Langjia. The team has also identified several functional zones of the site: the large building zone, a residential zone, the graveyard zone and a sacrificial zone. The scientists have now an initial understanding of the life, production, funeral custom, and religious activity of the ancient people, and a basic idea about what the site was, when it was, and why.

The Social Life and Production of Ancient Jinsha People as reflected in the Site

Foundations of Large Buildings

The foundations of large buildings were found in Huangzhong Village north of the Modi River, about 500 m from the sacrificial zone in the south, where gold and jade articles were uncovered. The foundations of five buildings cover an area of more than 2,000 sq m. The upper structures of the buildings have long disappeared, and what are left are only the ditches of the foundations, in which there are vestiges of small holes. Archaeologists pre sumed that the holes were for wooden poles of the wall, which was built by plastering a mixture of clay and grass to the framework of bamboo and wooden poles and then baking it with fire. The roof of the buildings was supposed to be made of straw mats, as such thatched roof was found quite well preserved in the Shi'erqiao site in Chengdu. The layout of the foundations was similar to the Chinese courtyard houses in later years. It was found in excavations that the total floor space of this group houses was at least 2,000 sq m. The No.6 building was the largest, with its length at 54.8 m, its width, at about 8 m, and its floor space, at more than 430 sq m.

It was the first time that ruins of so large and well-arranged buildings were found in southwest China . It was not possible that common people could have occupied such a group of large buildings. Based on an analysis of the area and layout of the buildings and artifacts found nearby, archaeologists presumed that they used to be a palace during the late Shang or Western Zhou dynasties (1046-771 BC).

Around the palace zone, the team also found a large number of ruins of small houses, the structure of which was similar to the large buildings. They also had wood or bamboo- framed walls filled with a mixture of clay and grass. Archaeologists also found holes for poles in the ditches of the wall foundations, but none of the holes was of a diameter of 10 cm or above. These houses were usually 20 sq m in area. As they had no big poles to support, the houses tended to collapse quite often, and signs of repeated reconstruction were found.

Ash Pits

Large numbers of ash pits of vari ous sizes and shapes were discovered around the houses. Many of the pits were full of garbage, including ashes and baked clay, with a large number of pottery and stone objects among them. There were some round pits with neatly dug wall and bottom, which seemed to be first used as storages and then discarded and filled with garbage. Some of the pits were quite regular in shape, and some pottery vessels with holes in the wall were uncovered in them. Obviously not for daily use, the vessels seemed to be sacrificial utensils for the family. W flotation, archaeologists found large quan tities of animal and plant samples from among the ashes in the pits. By studying all these materials and the relations between the pits and the houses, the basic aspect of the life of ancient Jinsha people can be deduced


Archaeologists also discovered a small number of wells near the residential zone. The wells were made by digging a deep pit in the ground, putting a bottomless pottery jar in the pit, and filling pebbles around the jar for the filtration of water. As not many wells were found in the Jinsha site, it is suspected that Jinsha people largely depended on surface water for daily use. The discovery of the remains of a pond near the Furongyuan Development proves this assumption. The pond was about 100 sq m and linked with two ditches. There were remnants of a wood plat form that extended from the bank to the water, presumed to facilitate water fetching.

Pottery Kilns

Some small pottery kilns were uncovered near the residential zone. Measuring about 6 sq m each, the kilns had a slant ch amber of less than 2 sq m. As they had been damaged, the kilns were only several dozen centimeters high. The small size of the kilns inferred that their products were not very large. Judging from the sintering of their walls, none of the kilns had been used for a long period, and some might have been used only once. The kilns were unevenly distributed, with some scattering around the residential zone, and others concentrating in certain lo cations near the area. It is conjectured that pot tery making in that period occurred mostly in special workshops rather than in household kilns.

Burial grounds

Ancient people believed souls were immortal. How did the people in Jinsha bury their dead ones? Archaeologists have uncovered more than 1,000 graves in Jinsha, all with the chamber in the ground. The cham bers all run northwest to southeast, and the remains were found all lying with face upward and hands on the chest. Nearly half of the graves turned out containing funerary objects, mostly pottery and stone ones, but a small number of them had jade and bronze items. A small num ber of graves were uncovered near the residential zone, which showed that some of the dead were buried there but most of the burials occurred in well defined graveyards.


Burial grounds of the Jinsha site

The team found several graveyards at Jinsha, with the ones at the Yansha Ting Yuan Development in Jinsha Village and the Qianhe Xincheng Development in Huangzhong Vil lage being the largest. The graves in the grave yards were orderly distributed, with few overlapped ones, indicating the graveyards were well planned. In some yards the graves had a single chamber for one dead body, in others quite a number of dead couples were buried in one chamber for husband and wife. Apart from archaeological studies, tests of physical anthropology and DNA genetics were carried out on the bones found in the graves to deter mine the gender ratio, average life expectancy, race, and the racial origin of ancient people in Sichuan . Other testing methods were used to examine the bones to learn about the diet, life and production of ancient people.

Sacrificial Zone

Historical records show that in ancient times sacrifice and war were the most important state affairs. The discovery of the sacrificial zone of Jinsha site again testifies this.

The sacrificial zone was situated in the east of the site, covering an area of about 15,000 sq m, which was used exclusively for sacrificial purposes for quite a long period of time. In explorations and test excavations the scientist found that the zone was on the southern bank of an ancient river. It is conjectured that Jinsha people carried out their sacrificial activities on the bank, and then buried the sacrificial ob jects in the ground by the water. The activities might have lasted for more than 500 years, and by the early Spring and Autumn period (770­-476 BC) the ground by the water was at the same level as the bank. With the political center moving elsewhere, the holy place was gradually abandoned.

An analysis of the more than 60 groups of relics related to sacrificial activities divided the activities in Jinsha into three phases, each with marked differences in the sacrificial objects.

In the first Jinsha Occupation phase the objects were mainly ivory and stone, with some pottery and very few jade items. This phase was around 1200 BC, roughly the second and third phases of the Yin Ruins in Anyang, Henan Province.

The No.11 pit was typical of this phase. The pit was 2.5 m long, 1 m wide and 1.3 m deep in the sandy ground, with three layers of objects. At the bottom were a number of ivory tusks and jade ware, in the middle were teeth, lacquered ware and a few ivory tusks, and on top of them were a dozen ivories and a lacquered ware imbedded with jade pieces. The pit turned out 15 intact ivories, 12 ivory sections, two items of lacquered ware and one jade object. The longest ivory piece recovered mea sured 1.85 m, the largest found in the Jinsha site.

The Jinsha site and Sanxingdui site both turned out large quantities of ivories, the pro tection of which posed a world-class challenge to the archaeologists. As only a limited amount of ivories have been excavated and not enough study has been made on their protection, ar chaeologists in Chengdu have no precedent to follow. The structure of elephant ivory is similar to a tree trunk with many layers, and once the outer laver of hard sub stance is destroyed, the ivory will soon weather to become powder, making it impossible to fix and protect. In 1986 80 ivories were unearthed at the sacrificial pit of the Sanxingdui site, but they were not well protected. This served as a warning for  the conservation team. After the ivories in Jinsha were unearthed, experts at the Chengdu Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology found a method of sealing the ivories in organic silicon, which is solid and transparent, and safe for relics such ivories.


An ivory tusk cache at the Jinsha site

Archeologists and conservators can monitor the objects sealed in it, and take other measures should changes take place. The ivories from the No 11 excavation pit of the sacrificial zone have been sealed for nearly three years and appear to be now well preserved.

The ritual objects used in this phase also in cluded stone bi disks, cake-shape items and zhang jade blades. Those found in the No.3 excavation of the sacrificial zone were the most representative. Roughly of an oblong shape, the site was in the southern part of the zone, covering an area of about 300 sq m. The cake-shape items were mostly made of thin shale with regular rim. The stone zhang blades usually had no stem, but their tip was quite well ground and they were put mostly along stone bi disks. The stone objects were piled in a sector, slanting from northwest to southeast, with a huge stone bi disk (85 cm in diameter) at the tip.

Archaeologists believe they were related to sacrificial activities, for they have found no tools or scraps nearby, which mean it was not a workplace for processing stone objects. It could neither be a storing place for semi-finished products, for they were so elaborately piled and the blades were well ground, with intaglio lines at the stem and some of the lines painted with vermilion.

As it is known that the direc tion of burial sites was of great significance for ancient people, it could not have been a chance coin cidence for this pile of stone objects and all the graves were oriented from north west to southeast.

Also of this first phase was another deposit of stone bi disks and sculptures which had been partly destroyed by engineering machin ery before archaeological excavation. Found in this pit were more than 30 stone objects, including a kneeling human figure, two tigers, a snake, three tiger tails, and a large number of bi disks. In ancient times bi disks were ob jects used in sacrifice for Heaven. As the sculp tures were buried together with the stone bi disks, they might have also been used in sacrifice.

The second Jinsha 0ccupation phase was marked by the use of bronze and jade, as well as ivory, but little stone and lacquered ware. The dating of this phase was about the third and fourth phases of the Yin Ruins to the Mid-Western Zhou pe riod (1100-850 BC). The relics of this phase are discussed below.

Many of the relics were made of jade, bronze and gold; some pits had only several items, while others might have several hundred. The No.6 excavation pit turned out more than 300 items, the largest number of all pits. The oblong pit had an area of more than 20 sq m, containing items made of jade, bronze, stone, gold, pottery and bone, and a small number of ivories. Among them were nearly 150 jade items, including chisels, bi disks, collared bi disks, bracelets, zhang blades, spears, and dag ger-axes; and some 110 bronze items, includ ing bells, bi disks with square holes, dagger-axes, and ornaments.

Ivory and jade objects were also in vogue in this phase. The No.10 pit of the sacrificial zone was most typical. The pit was only 1.5 sq m in area, with two layers of ritual articles in it. The lower layer had 16 jade articles, including a zhang blade on which were carved symmetrically four kneeling figures each shouldering an ivory. The blade provides most important material for the study of how ancient Shu people used ivory in sacrificial activities, and a reliable evidence for answering why there were so many ivories in the Jinsha and Sanxingdui sites. The upper layer consisted of seven ivory tusks, all being smaller ones and not quite well preserved.

Of all the pits that have been uncovered in the Jinsha sacrificial zone, the No.1 pit is the most regularly shaped and contains the largest number of artifacts. The relics were stacked in layers. As the excavation has not yet reached the bottom, the exact num ber of jade and bronze objects still present in the pit is still not known. The upper layers, altogether eight of them, contained all ivories, the longest tusk being nearly 1.6 m long. Such a large number of tusks were used for one sacrificial activity, but where did the elephants come from? Did they live in the Chengdu Plain?


The Nr. 2 ritual deposit of the Jinsha site not yet fully excavated

Archaeological meteorology has found that about 3,000 years ago the earth was much warmer and more humid than it is now, with the average atmospheric temperature 2 to 3 degrees higher. In that period there were dense forests in the Chengdu Plain, a suitable environment for wild elephants. His torical records show that there were elephants in the Yangtze River valley and the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River. In the in scriptions on bones and tortoise shells of the Shang Dynasty, there were records of the king of Shang hunting wild elephants and soldiers driving elephants in fighting in the region of central China. In Jinsha, the teams discovered not only lots of elephant tusks and teeth, but also two lower jaws of elephant, which are fairly well preserved. It is therefore believed that wild elephants were present in the Chengdu Plain or adjacent areas at that time.

In the third Jinsha Occupation phase there were large numbers of wild boar teeth, antlers, beautiful stones, and pottery, but the number of bronze, ivory and jade objects widely used in the second phase decreased sharply. This phase roughly spanned between the late Western Zhou and early Spring and Autumn periods (850-650 BC).The most typical relics of this phase were found in the No.2 pit with an area of about 300 sq m, stacked with large amounts of wild boar teeth, antlers and muntjac horns, and a few ivories, jade articles, beautiful stones and pottery vessels. Archaeologists calculated that there were several thousand wild boar teeth, all being the lower canines of boars, but they found not any other bones of boar, deer, elephant or other animals. This indicated that the ritual objects were deliberately chosen. As valuable jade and ivory could not have been discarded among garbage, this deposit was by no means a garbage heap, but related to religious activities.

In this phase, tortoise shells were used in divination. In the west ern part of the sacrificial zone 19 shells were unearthed, and the larg est of them measures 46.4 cm, which is one of the largest oracle tor toise shells ever unearthed in China. There were numerous marks left by drilling, chiseling and burning: The ancient Shu people first drilled or chiseled a hole half way though on the reverse side of the shell and then heated it the spot. The crackles would appear on the obverse side and in this way divination was made. This oracle procedure was widely practiced in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River during the Shang and Western Zhou periods, and Chinese characters were carved on the shells and bones, which are now commonly known as "inscriptions on tortoise shells or bones." however no character was carved on the shells unearthed at Jinsha or Sanxingdui, though a few signs were found on the shells from Sanxingdui. No reliable evidence of any written language of Shu people has yet been found, but it is hard to believe that such a highly developed civilization as found in Sanxingdui and Jinsha would have no written language.

Typical pottery ritual vessels were found in the No.28 pit of the sacrificial zone. A shallow pit measuring 5.9 by 2.3 m with an area of about 13 sq m contained 100 pottery vessels, mainly pointed-bottom cups and jars. It must be a deliberate action to put such a large num ber of pointed-bottom vessels in one place, for the potsherds proved that the vessels were complete when they were stacked there. The potsherds could not have been a refuse from daily life, for there were no broken pieces of vessels of other kinds. It is conjectured that this pit was also related to religious rituals.

A brief Account of the Unearthed Artifacts

The Jinsha site has turned out a great vari ety of artifacts in large numbers, including more than 5,000 articles of gold, bronze, jade, stone, ivory, bone, wood, and lacquered ware, as well as millions of pottery vessels and potsherds.

The Jinsha site has proved to be the largest among archaeological sites in China in terms of the quantity and variety of gold arti facts of pre-Qin period. The more than 200 gold artifacts unearthed include mask, strap, foil (frog-shape, Sun-and-Bird, fish-pattern, and fish-shape), and trumpet-shape and case-shape articles. Gold foils account for most of the gold artifacts, and they are supposed to have been attached on other articles. The most typical among them are the crown band, the Sun-and- Bird foil and a mask. Tests of 14 samples show that the gold articles contain gold, silver and copper, with the gold content accounting for over 80%. The Sun-and-Bird foil has the high est gold content of all with a level of 94.2%. The gold articles were made of natural gold dust, by hot forging, beating, cutting, rubbing, engraving, hollowing, and polishing. The workmanship was quite excellent, representing the highest of the same period. The image of the Sun-and- Bird foil was adopted on August 16, 2005, as the symbol of China Cultural Heritage.
About 1,500 items of bronze ware were unearthed at Jinsha, including standing human figures, standing birds, bull's head, tigers, dagger-axes, disk-shape items, square- hole items, eye-shape items, bells, and cowry-shape ornaments. Many of them are of a style similar to that of those unearthed at the sacrificial pits of Sanxingdui, but most of them are only small parts. Some remnants of large bronzes have also been unearthed at Jinsha, indicating the possibility of large wares to be unearthed in future. Most of the bronzes were cast with two-piece molds. The material was mostly copper alloy containing lead and tin, with a large lead content. Most of the items had a plain surface and some had black ink paintings, holes, cast lines, or attached ornaments. Many of the molded edges were ground, and some of them had a polished surface.
The unearthed jade articles number more than 2,000, all of high craftsmanship. The rich varieties include: cong’s (rectangular jade with round holes), bi (disk), zhang’s (blade), battle-axes, dagger-axes, chisels, chisel-shape articles, and rings. Typical among them are cong, zhang, dagger-axe, chisel-shape article and rings. The materials used are mainly hopfnerite and nephrite, as well as a small amount of actinolite, diopside, plagioclase, steatite, and marble. It is speculated that the materials came mainly from around the Sichuan Basin, and that a part of them was made of Longxi jade from Wenchuan region. The jade articles are mostly opaque or translucent, white, gray, or light brown. But the surfaces also show red, purple, brown, black and white colors in rich shades. They were delicately polished and carved with various patterns, such as animal mask, parallel lines, grids, rhombuses, insects, and various complicated ornaments. The craftsmanship was excellent. The Jinsha site accounts for one of the largest groups of jade artifacts from Chinese archaeological sites, which are quite valuable for the study of jade artifacts in China.

The stone artifacts found total nearly 1,000, including cake-shape articles, zhang blades, bi disks, battle-axes, axes, adzes, chisels, kneel ing human figures, tigers, snakes, and tortoises. The stone articles were mostly ritual objects rather than practical instruments. The sculptures of kneeling humans and animals are most elegant and vivid and are among the earliest fine stone artworks in China.
The ivories unearthed at Jinsha are a rare discovery in China and the world at large, both in terms of quantity, size, and state of preservation.
Wood lacquered ware
Lacquered wood ware, found at Jinsha, include woodcarvings of god-man head, a tiger head and animal face, and a spade-like tool. Altogether the more than 10 wood articles are delicately carved and well preserved. They constitute the largest find of best and well-preserved wood articles of that period in China.
Pottery vessels account for the most of relics unearthed at Jinsha. They include narrow flat-bottom jars; long-stem cups; bottle; tri-leg wine he vessels; small cups, cups and jars with pointed bottom; long-neck jars, ring-foot long-neck jars, ring-foot jars; ring-foot pots, ring- foot bowls, urns, long-stem cup-shape vessels, narrow-waist vessel bases, ring-foot cups and flasks. Among them, the pointed bottom small cup, pointed bottom cup, pointed bottom jar, high-neck jar, ring-foot jar and ring-foot cup were peculiar to Jinsha. Many vessels are of elegant shapes to be viewed and admired.


The Dating of Jinsha Site and Its Place in Ancient Civilization

With a comprehensive study of the artifacts unearthed at Jinsha, the archaeologists have come to a basic conclusion that the site dates from the late Shang to early Spring and Autumn Period (c. 1200-650 BC), and its heyday was from the late Shang to mid-Western Zhou period, when it served as the capital of the Shu kingdom.

What were the relations between Jinsha as a capital of ancient Shu and the nearby Sanxingdui site?
Archaeologists made a comprehensive analysis of the artifacts from the two sites, including gold, bronze, jade, stone, ivory and pottery and they found similarities in type, shape and processing, and quite a few articles peculiar to the two sites. This shows that the two sites were closely related. The dating of the two sites is also enlightening. The boom period of Sanxingdui corresponded to the late Xia and early Shang period in central China, but by the late Shang period the thriving Sanxingdui culture abruptly changed and the capital in Sanxingdui, which had been prosperous for several hundred years, was reduced to ruins. It was right in this period that Jinsha rose and prospered. It is therefore conjectured that in the late Shang period the political center of ancient Shu kingdom moved from Sanxingdui to Jinsha, in the west suburbs of today's Chengdu, and after several hundred years of glory, the capital again moved elsewhere in the early Spring and Autumn period, for reasons which is still not known.

Jinsha is one of the most important archaeological sites of the pre-Qin period in China. The Jinsha site, the ruins of prehistoric cities, the Sanxingdui site and the canoe-shape coffin graves of the Warring States period, all in the Chengdu Plain, represented the four different stages of the Shu culture. The discoveries have proved that the Chengdu Plain was the center of ancient civilization in the upper reaches of the Yangtze, and an important component of Chinese civilization. The discovery of Jinsha site is of great significance for the study of Shu culture, including its origin, development and decline, and provides convincing evidence for an explanation of the abrupt disappearance of Sanxingdui culture.

One may well say that the Jinsha site revived the lost glory of ancient Shu kingdom and revealed a part of ancient civilization that has been buried for more than 3,000 years. The Jinsha site, as a capital of ancient Shu kingdom, was extremely rich artifacts of which certainly only a small fraction has been uncovered until now. It is expected that further excavations and research will yield many more pleasant surprises.


The future Jinsha site Museum in Chengdu, Sichuan, China


The Jinsha site jades

The jade articles shown and described below represent the finest items found at this exceptional site and are characterized by their particular shapes, exceptional textures and colors

Single-tier Cong
Dimensions: 8.4 cm high, 6.9 cm wide and 4.5 cm center hole


This cong, is relatively short, with a large center hole and thin wall, and has no decorative pattern. Many of the cong unearthed in Jinsha are of this style. They are made of low quality jade and simple workmanship. What were the cong for? Zhou Rites, a book that records the sacrifi cial activities of the Shang and Zhou dynasties, says, "Jade is used to make six ritual objects to be offered to Heaven, Earth, and the four directions. Blue bi (jade disk) is for Heaven, and yellow cong is for Earth..." This clearly indicates that cong was used as a sacrifice to the earth. People today also understand the shape of cong as representing the ancient people's concept of the universe: The heavens were round and the earth was square, extending in four directions, and the hole in the cong signified the connec tion between the heavens and the earth. The jade cong’s dating from 3000 to 2200 BC were carved with complex divine emblems, which reflect the ancient people's religious trinity belief of worshiping the gods of the heavens and the earth and their ancestors. In primitive society marked by integration of politics and religion, the owner of jade cong’s represented both religious and secular authority. The cong unearthed in Jinsha total 27, the largest number of such artifacts from any area in China except the area of the Liangzhu culture in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. This indicates that the jade cong’s occupied a special position in the Jinsha ritual system.

Single-tier Cong
Dimensions: 3.8 cm high, 4.9-5.5 cm wide and 3.3-3.6 cm center hole.

This cong is quite small, with a large number of brown stains but no decorative pattern on it. The unpolished wall of the hole tells how the hole was drilled. On the wall there are signs left by grinding with a tube and coarse sand, and a sign of displacement in the middle as the hole was drilled from both ends of the cong. The upper part of the hole is a bit larger and slant (displaced), while the lower part is more regular. Ancient people rotated a tube or rod of bamboo, bone or wood with coarse sand and water to grind holes in jade. The skill of drilling holes in jade objects was quite developed in Jinsha – large holes were drilled with a hollow tube, while small ones, with a drill. Some of the holes were drilled from both ends, and some from only one end. Quite often rotating signs left by sand and displacement signs left by misalignments can be found on the wall of the hole.


Ten-tier Cong
Dimensions: 22.2 cm high, 6.9 cm wide and 5.1-5.6 cm center hole

This cong is made of translucent green jade. Its upper part is larger than the lower part, and its surface has 10 tiers and grooves. On every corner of the nodes is a simplified human face: round eyes, broad nose, and narrow mouth. There are altogether 40 faces on the cong. On the upper part of one side is carved a human-shape sign, which is rarely seen on jade cong’s of the Liangzhu culture. The human figure, wearing a wide hat, his hands extending and legs striding, and his feather-decorated sleeves flying, looks like dancing. Possibly this represented a scene of the sacrificial activities. This figure might be the ancestor of the tribe, or a master wizard. The patterns on the cong are now blurred, and its surface has many stains and wear traces – this indicates the object had been held in handled for long periods.

This jade cong is identical with jade cong’s of the late period of Liangzhu culture in structure, pattern and workmanship, but markedly different from other jade cong’s found in Jinsha. It could be regarded as a typical Liangzhu jade cong, but such jade material has not been found in sites of the Liangzhu culture. The late period of Liangzhu culture dates 1,000 years earlier than the Jinsha site, and Jinsha is more than 1,000 km away from the lower reaches of the Yangtze. How did the jade cong cover such huge spans of time and distance to find its place in Jinsha? This interesting question waits to be answered.


Flat Cong
Dimensions: 2 cm high, 5.9 cm wide and 4.9 cm center hole

This cong is short and wide. Jade cong’s of this style have been found in other sites of the Shang and Zhou dynasties: in the 1920s to 1930s from Sanxingdui and in 1980 from a burial ground of the Ying state at Pingdingshan of Henan Province. It is conjectured that this jade cong dates from the late Shang to Western Zhou dynasties.


Four-Tier Cong
Dimensions: 16.5 cm high, 11cm wide and 6.9-7.0 cm center hole


This jade cong was cut out of a high-quality jade block with fine workmanship. The object looks solemn, and its surface is colorful. The cong is divided into four tiers, each carved with nine parallel fine lines. The hole was drilled from both ends of the cong, but the wall of the hole has no sign of displacement usually left by such drilling method. The wall is smooth, with only two slightly visible rings left by rotating drilling near one end. This indicates that the wall was polished after drilling. This jade cong is different from its previously unearthed counterparts of the Shang and Zhou dynasties in that it is large and divided into tiers and grooves, which is peculiar to jade cong’s of the late period of Liangzhu culture. But it also shows the simple workmanship of jade cong’s from the Shang Dynasty. As a fine artwork from the period of Shang and Zhou dynasties, this cong is a representative of jade cong’s of the bronze culture in the Sichuan Basin .

Collared Bi discs and rings

A large number of jade Bi, or disks with a hole in the center, have been unearthed in the Jinsha site. A number of the disks have a raised edge round the hole, and they are called collared jade disks. The rings of the disks vary in width, and some of them were carved with concentric circle lines. The disks are all of fine workmanship, with the wall of the hole polished.

The collared jade disks are made of a porous jade that tends to disintegrate. The internal parts of the disks are mostly white, gray, light tan, but their surfaces show rich colors: red, purple, brown, and black. They show such colors due to permeation of various metallic ions and organic matter, which formed beautiful natural patterns.

The collared jade disks with a hole in the center first appeared in Henan around 1500 BC, and they have been unearthed in the Yin Ruins, in graves at Dayangzhou of Xin'gan in Jiangxi Province and Xinghua Village of Hengyang City in Hunan Province, and in pits of Sanxingdui. A total of 14 such disks were unearthed in Sanxingdui, and nearly 100 found in the sacrificial zone of the Jinsha site. Most of them are of fine workmanship and colorful. All this indicates that such objects occupied an important position in sacrificial activities in Jinsha.


Collared Bi Disk
Dimensions: 24.8 cm in diameter, 6.4 cm center hole and 2 cm in height of collar

This collared jade disk is quite large and well polished. Due to the effects of light and soil, the two sides of the disk showed different colors and hues when unearthed. The obverse side is indigo, with a large number of permeated black and white stains. The reverse side is light white, with brown stripes and lots of black dots left by permeation. The changes in color on the two sides were possibly due to the fact that the disk was only half buried. As it was exposed to sunlight, the obverse side changed its color while the reverse side remained light white. The brown and dark dots, stripes and stains were left by mineral elements in the earth. This assumption was proved by the two white spots on the obverse side. Archaeologists found two beautiful stones on the two spots when the disk was unearthed. As the stones prevented sunlight to reach the jade surface, the two spots retained the original color. The different colors of the two sides of the disk indicate the mysterious changes of jade objects due to the action of mineral elements, which is a magic work of nature.


Collared Bi Disk
Dimensions: 16.9 cm in diameter, 6.2 cm center hole and 3.5 cm in the height of collar


People who saw this disk all marveled at its superb workmanship. On both sides of the disk are carved seven groups of concentric fine circles. The lines in intaglio are delicate, the patterns on both sides are symmetric, and the disk is well polished – it looks just like a microgroove record of today. This disk is a representative of Jinsha jade ware.

In ancient China there were three ways to cut patterns on jade articles: using a stone wheel, a knife-like tool, or sharp objects such as quartz, firestone or crystal. The precision concentric circles on this disk must have been cut with a stone wheel cutter, which is also known as a wheel-saw. The earliest stone wheel cutter was a semi-mechanical device, which had to be turned by pedals. As its movement was uneven, such a device would pro duce uneven or even divergent lines. Judging from the precision concentric circles on this disk, they must have been cut with a high-speed stone wheel cutter, possibly driven by a waterwheel. This disk indicates that jade crafts men in Jinsha had quite excellent tools and jade processing skills.


Low-Collared Bi Disk
Dimensions: 10.6 cm in diameter, 6 cm center hole and 0.7 cm in thickness

The Bi disk has the shape of a plate, with a round hole in the center. Er Ya, the earliest dictionary-style reference book in China, gave different names to such objects according to the width of the ring. But archaeologists tend to refer to all of them as Bi disks.

This disk was originally made of gray white jade. Due to the effects of mineral elements in the environment where the disk was buried, the unearthed disk shows gorgeous multi-colors: mainly reddish purple, with dark and gray stains and white stripes. This disk has a large round hole and a narrow ring, with raised edge around the hole – it is thus named Low-Collared Bi Disk. This style of disks is peculiar to the Jinsha site; disks of this shape have never been unearthed in other sites.

Zhou Rites, a book that records the sacrificial activities of the Shang and Zhou dynasties, says, "Jade is used to make six ritual objects (bi, cong, gui, zhang, huang, and hu) to be offered to Heaven, Earth, and the four directions. The blue Bi is for Heaven, and yellow cong is for Earth." The round bi disk conforms to the ancient people's concept of the universe: Heaven was round, and Earth square. Most researchers therefore believe Bi disks were ritual articles for sacrifices to Heaven, but some also held that such disks were symbols of wealth.


Notched Disk
Dimensions: 3.8 cm in diameter, 0.2 cm center hole and 1.07 cm in thickness


This notched bi disk is made of blackish green jade, with some permeated white stains on it. The center hole is very small, and on the edge of the disk are four bulges each with three teeth. The bulges are equally distributed, rotating clockwise. The whole object is light and small, and well polished. The earliest bulged bi disks date back beyond 3000 BC. The disks each have three or four bulges rotating clockwise or counterclockwise. Some have a number of teeth, and others have no teeth.

Previously four-bulge bi disks had only been found in Shenmu and Yan'an of Shaanxi Province. This one in Jinsha was the first to be found in the Sichuan Basin.


Collared Notched Bi Disk
Dimensions: 26.4 cm in diameter, 5.5 cm in aperture and 2.3 cm in height of collar


This object was made of white jade, with brown, yellow and black stains left by permeation on its surface. It has a raised edge around the center hole on both sides, and four bulges each with five teeth on its edge.

The bulged bi disk is a special form of bi disks, usually having three or four bulges with some teeth. Wu Dacheng, a noted researcher of the Qing Dynasty, used to mistake this type of bi as a component of some ancient astronomical device in his Gu Yu Tu Kao (An Illustrated Study of Ancient Jade Articles). Now researchers have abandoned that assumption.

Prior to the Jinsha discovery no bulged bi disk had been found in Sichuan. Archaeological records show that such bi disks have been unearthed mainly in North China, as well as eastern Liaoning in the Northeast and northern Shaanxi in the Northwest. The bulged bi disks of Jinsha are markedly different from those unearthed elsewhere, and constitute a new discovery in China. Researchers said this new discovery reflected the exchanges between the ancient culture in central China and the ancient Shu culture in Sichuan, and their mutual influences.


Zhang Blade
Dimensions: 21.5 cm long, 3.9 cm wide and 0.5 cm thick

This elegant zhang blade was carved out of excellent jade material with fine workmanship. In the handle or tang section fine decorative parallel lines are carved. With a magnifier one can see that the lines have a V-shape notch, indicating the lines were cut with a stone wheel cutter that had a sharp thin edge. Zhang is one of the six jade ritual utensils recorded in the book Zhou Rites, and it was also a symbol of social status and authority. But Chinese classics gave no detailed definition of zhang, and therefore archaeologists have long had differences on it and they gave different names to the objects of this kind unearthed in Jinsha. Zhang or zhang blade is however a widely accepted name for them.

The functions of zhang are also heatedly debated – it was said to be used in sacrifice to Heaven or to the sun, in praying for a good harvest, or as a commander's tally. On a zhang blade unearthed from the No.2 pit of Sanxingdui was carved a pattern, showing two zhang blades standing by the sides of two mountains with the sharpened edge facing upward. This image indicates that the blades might be ritual utensils in sacrifices to the mountains. From the same pit was unearthed a small bronze human figure, extending his arms and holding one zhang blade in each hand. This vividly shows how ancient Shu people used the zhang blade in sacrificial activities.

The earliest jade zhang blade came from the Longshan culture in Shandong Province in east China, dating back to around 2000 BC. Such objects of later periods were found in Shandong , Shanxi, Henan, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Hunan , Hubei, Guangdong, Fujian, and Hong Kong, as well as in Vietnam. Sichuan accounts for the largest number of such objects un­earthed in China. The Sanxingdui site turned out a lot of such objects, and the number from the Jinsha site is more than 200, which is greater than the combined quantity from other sites or areas.

Zhang blades from Jinsha were mostly carved out of fine multi-colored jade materials, with good workmanship and smooth surface. The unearthed ones vary in size: Most of them are about 30 cm long, with the smallest about 5 cm and the largest, over 100 cm.


Zhang Blade
Dimensions: 42.2 cm long, 9.1 cm wide and 0.36 cm thick


This zhang blade of smooth jade has a complicated decoration in the handle or tang section: a profile of a lying animal, its broad-mouthed head at one end of the handle and its tail at the other, and its body represented by two bulges in the center. The object is of delicate craftsmanship.

A prevailing feature of Jinsha jade articles is symmetric three-dimensional decorations on their sides, such as in the handle section of zhang blades and dagger-axes, the sides of jade battle-axes, and the outer edge of a small number of bi disks. Usually there are also straight or wavy fine lines in the handle section of zhang blades. On the body of two zhang blades are carved or perforated human-face patterns. The bulged decorations in the handle section of zhang blades are of different shapes: animal head, trapezoids or flying clouds.


Zhang Blade
Dimensions: 39.2 cm long, 7.3 cm wide and 0.66 cm thick

This object has complicated decorations. In the middle of the sharpened edge was perforated a profile of an animal, which was unrecognizable when the partly damaged zhang blade was unearthed. This article is similar in style to another zhang blade unearthed from Sanxingdui, which has a perforated profile of a standing bird in the center of the sharpened edge. An examination of the remaining parts reveals that it might be a running animal, probably a running tiger.

On both sides of the blade were carved in intaglio two symmetric groups of human-face patterns. The patterns were first drawn on the jade, and then cut repeatedly with a sharp tool – quartz, firestone or crystal. The repeated scoring left coarse lines. Such human-face patterns have been found on relics from Sanxingdui, and on a broken zhang blade (a perforated human-face pattern) and a gold article unearthed in Jinsha. Similar human-face patterns were also often found on ritual bronzes unearthed in central China. The human-face pattern was found on a salient position in the relics from Jinsha and Sanxingdui sites, which indicates that the pattern might be of a special significance for ancient Shu people. As no zhang blade of this style has been found in other areas of China, this zhang blade is peculiar to the ancient Shu culture.


Zhang Blade
Dimensions: 30.6 cm long, 8.8 cm wide and 0.8 cm thick


This zhang blade was made of grayish white jade, with yellow and brown stains and black stripes left by permeation on the surface. Its V-shape edge was delicately ground. Its handle section has only several shallow grooves, without any bulge. The whole object is well polished. A large number of zhang blades with this V-shaped edge have been unearthed in the Jinsha and Sanxingdui sites, but such objects are rarely seen in other areas of China. They may be said to be of peculiar Shu style.


Zhang Blade
Dimensions: 27.5 cm long, 3.8 cm wide and 1.04 cm thick

This is in fact a pair of unfinished zhang blades. The pair was first processed as a whole, to be separated in the middle to become two pieces. Due to unknown reasons this unfinished object was put among sacrificial utensils.

This object reveals an important ancient skill of jade processing: A jade object was first processed as a whole, and then separated evenly into two identical articles of the same style and material. The cut surface might be polished if needed. Archaeologists found that some jade pendants unearthed from Duke Jin's tomb in Houma County of Shanxi Province were carved in this method.

The uneven parabolic curves left on the cut surface show that wire cutting was used to separate the jade object. This skill was often used to cut jade into tablets and form perforated patterns. The wire cutting tool might be an animal tendon or a rope, which was pulled back and forth with sand and water to abrade jade. As the force exerted on the linear tool varied, uneven parabolic curve signs were left on the cut surface. This unfinished article inadvertently provided a material evidence of an ancient skill of jade carving.


Zhang Blade-Shaped Object
Dimensions: 28.2 cm long, 15.2 cm wide and 0.94 cm thick

This object has an upper edge similar to that of a zhang blade, but it has no handle. This shape and structure are quite special. In the lower part of it are three holes arranged in triangular position.

The three holes are equal in diameter, with their walls polished. The holes must have been drilled with a solid tool only from one side. Holes drilled this way usually have a slant wall.

Judging from the position of the three holes, this object might have been used horizontally with the upper edge facing leftward and ropes passing the holes to fix the object on a wooden handle. In that case, this object would be similar to a battle-axe. Similar objects have been found in Sanxingdui, but not in any other areas. This implies that such objects might have been evolved from zhang blades in ancient Shu kingdom.


Zhang Blade with Ivory-Carrying Figures
Dimensions: long sides –19.2 cm and 18.6 cm, short sides – 8.3 cm and 8 cm and thickness 1.1 cm


This zhang blade was made of grayish white jade, roughly in the shape of a parallelogram. On each side were carved two symmetric groups of identical patterns. Each group has a kneeling human figure, two gyral lines and four parallel straight lines. Wearing a high hat and a long gown, the figure, with a protruded nose, big eyes, broad mouth, square ears and square cheeks, are kneeling on the ground, his left hand holding an object on his shoulder.

The head of the figure highly resembles a bronze sculpture of a human head unearthed in Sanxingdui. This kneeling figure on the blade is quite different from a dozen or so stone sculptures of kneeling humans, who are naked with their hands tied behind their backs and whose heads are of a quite realistic style. The kneeling figure on the jade blade might be a shaman or a wizard, while the kneeling stone sculptures might represent human sacrifices.

The object on the shoulder should be an intact ivory tusk. From the sacrificial zone of Jinsha site were unearthed large quantities of ivories and ivory made articles, including ivory flakes and beads. Such a large find of ivories is unprecedented both in China and the world at large. In 1986 archaeologists uncovered 80 ivories, 120 ivory beads and four other ivory articles in the sacrificial pit of Sanxingdui. Ivories were also unearthed from the graveyard at Rensheng Village of Sanxingdui in 1997. But in other areas in China only small quantities of ivory were unearthed. This indicates ivory was of vital importance for ancient Shu people.

Many researchers assumed the standing bronze figure of Sanxingdui should be holding an ivory in his hands, which shows how wizards used ivory in sacrificial activities in Sanxingdui. This kneeling figure on the jade blade again shows how wizards in Jinsha used ivory in such activities.

What were the ivories for? In ancient China some wizards used ivory to kill monsters in waters. In Zhou Rites there was a record of this practice. Before the Dujiangyan irrigation system was built, the Chengdu Plain had been frequently hit by floods. The ivories might have been used in sacrificial activities to conquer monsters in rivers.


Flat-End Zhang Blade
Dimensions: 42.2 cm long, 7.2-8.2 cm wide and 0.75 cm thick

This zhang blade has a concave in the middle due to the material used. Its shape is quite odd: The upper part is flat, without sharpened edge, and the bolster section has six bulged decorations, with some rem­nants of vermilion left on them. The blade has no handle. Archaeologists conjectured that this object might have been transformed from a damaged zhang blade.


Small Zhang Blades

Archaeologists unearthed more than 100 such small zhang blades in the Jinsha site. Made of leftover materials, they are of fine workmanship and similar style and structure, measuring about 5.2 cm in length.

Unearthed from the No.14 ritual deposit in the sacrificial zone of Jinsha were 69 small jade zhang blades, together with more than 300 turquoise beads, nine jade bracelets, and more than 50 gold flakes. This indicates that the small zhang blades might have lost the mystery and dignity of large zhang blades and become funeral objects or decorations. Previously four small jade zhang blades had been unearthed in the Sanxingdui site, but they are a bit larger than those from Jinsha. Such small jade zhang blades have never been found in other areas of the country, and they are probably peculiar to the bronze culture of the Sichuan Basin.


Gui Tablet
Dimensions: 15.9 cm long, 4.1 cm wide and 0.4 cm thick

This flat-head gui tablet from the Jinsha site is made of excellent material and workmanship. The ink-black jade has some white stripes left by permeation. Its bolster section has a number of carved fine lines. Its superb workmanship indicates that this gui tablet was of a high class.

The gui tablet was an important ritual object from the Western Zhou to the Spring and Autumn period. Gui tablets are usually elongate, with a flat or pointed head. The gui tablet signified gods of Heaven and Earth and four directions, and it was also a tally. It was stipulated in the Zhou Rites that persons of different social positions used gui tablets of different sizes and materials on various occasions.


Ge Dagger-Axes

The two dagger-axes are of different materials but of similar style. They both have triangle sharpened edge and straight handle. Both sides of the blade are also edged. On both sides of the blade near the handle are carved two rectangular frames in which are rhombus patterns. The rhombus patterns of the larger dagger-axe are painted with vermilion.

More than 50 dagger-axes of this style have been unearthed from the Jinsha site. Most of them are made of multi-color jade materials and fine workmanship. Such jade dagger-axes prevailed around 1600 to 1000 BC. Similar dagger-axes have been unearthed from Shang Dynasty sites, such as the Erligang site and the tomb of Fu Hao among the Yin Ruins in Henan, a graveyard in Qingyang of Gansu, and the Dayangzhou graveyard in Xin'gan of Jiangxi, as well as from the No.1 sacrificial pit of Sanxingdui. The dagger-axes of Jinsha indicate the influences of Shang and Zhou cultures on some of the jade articles unearthed in Jinsha.

The dagger-axe was mounted at right angle on a long wooden handle to be used as a weapon. Jade dagger-axes were not utilitarian but ritual objects as symbols of the power and social status of their owners.


Ge Dagger-Axe
Dimensions: 27.2 cm long, 5.3 cm wide, and 0.75 cm thick


This dagger-axe also has some features of the zhang blade: its forked triangle sharpened edge and the toothed decorations in the bolster section. But on the whole it is a dagger-axe.

A large number of such dagger-axes have been found in the sacrificial pit of Sanxingdui, and archaeologists previously named them as fish mouth-shape zhang blade. They are representative objects of ancient Shu culture, for such articles have not been found outside the Chengdu Plain.


Ge Dagger-Axe
Dimensions: 16.2 cm long, 4.8 cm wide and 0.53cm thick

Both sides of this dagger-axe have continuous arcs, similar to bronze dagger-axes of the same style unearthed in Jinsha. This jade dagger-axe has no sign of having been used, indicating that like its bronze counterparts, it was used as a ritual utensil rather than a weapon. Similar jade and bronze dagger-axes have also been unearthed from the No.1 and No.2 pits of Sanxingdui, which testifies to the cultural continuity between the two sites. As similar objects have not been found outside Sichuan, these objects also show regional differences between the ancient Shu culture and the ancient culture in central China.

Dimensions: 13.4 cm high, 13 cm wide, 6.1 cm in hole and 0.47 cm thick

This battle-axe is flat, with a large round hole in the center. As it resembles a bi disk, it is also known as bi disk-shaped battle-axe. There are two bulges each with two teeth on both sides, and the cutting edge was sharpened into four sections. On the lower part of the axe was left a large patch of black glutinous matter, possibly the glue used to fix the axe on a wooden handle. In the glutinous matter are some bits of vermilion, which might have come from the vermilion painted wooden handle.

The jade battle-axe was a ritual utensil symbolizing the political and military power of rulers in pre-Qin societies. Shang Shu, a collection of ancient historical records, writes that in his expeditionary campaign against King Zhou of the Shang Dynasty, King Wu of the Zhou Dynasty "holds a yellow battle-axe in his left hand and a white flag in his right to command the troops." In Li Ji (the Book of Rites), there is a record of a scene from the Zhou court, "A qi (another name for jade battle-axe) on a red handle is used in a dance to the music of Da Wu (a dance performance on King Wu's expedition against the ruler of the Shang Dynasty)" All this shows the importance of the battle-axe. This object was usually laid horizontally, with the sharpened edge facing leftward and the flat end fixed on a wooden handle.

The shape of this jade battle-axe is quite peculiar. Similar battle-axes have been found in the Erlitou site of the Xia Dynasty in central China. In the Shang and Zhou dynasties the shape of such objects became slender, and the structure simpler. This jade battle-axe might date from the Xia Dynasty, or it might have come directly from the Erlitou culture. Archaeological records show that only several jade battle-axes of this style had been unearthed previously, all from graves of nobles. They are made of fine jade materials and workmanship. This jade battle-axe of Jinsha is the first to be found in Sichuan.


Qi Battle-Axe
Dimensions: 15.6 cm long, 7.6 cm wide and 0.52 cm thick

T his neatly carved battle-axe has teeth on both sides. Its flat sharp ened edge rises a bit on both ends. Such jade battle-axes were first found in the Erlitou site of the Xia Dynasty, and they were named qi. Similar objects were also found in sites of Shang and Western Zhou dynasties, such as the Yin Ruins in Anyang, and the Western Zhou graveyards in Zhangjiapo and Beiyao of Luoyang. The shapes of the jade battle-axe changed markedly during its evolution. Jade battle-axes from the Erlitou site were neatly carved, with a flat upper end and a bit wider sharpened edge, which was divided into sections in some cases. In the Shang Dynasty, jade battle-axes became less regular in style and varied in shape, but generally they were slender, with the sharpened edge much wider than the upper end. In the Western Zhou Dynasty, jade battle-axes became much simpler in style and structure, and the craftsmanship was usually rough. By comparison, this jade battle-axe unearthed in Jinsha is similar to those of the Erlitou culture in style.


Dimensions: 22.4 cm long, 11.4 cm wide and 0.21-1.71 cm thick


This jade battle-axe resembles a flat stone ax, with symmetric patterns on both sides. The patterns are divided into two parts. The upper part is mainly an animal face, with horns, ears, eyes, mouth, and three groups of teeth. Around the animal face are distorted monster signs and below the face are two parallel lines.

In the lower part are five symmetric groups of gyred lines on both sides. The complex patterns on this object were carved with skillful craftsmanship in different styles, including double intaglio lines and extremely fine hair lines, which were characteristic of jade articles from the late Shang Dynasty. The blanks around the animal face were abraded to make the double lines look like relief patterns.

Archaeologists found that the jade material of this object came from the mountains west of the Sichuan Basin, indicating that the article was made locally. Its triangle top, trapezoid body and arc-like sharpened edge make it somewhat different from traditional jade battle-axes, which might be a creation of ancient Shu jade carvers. Jade battle-axes of this style are rarely found in other areas of China, but the animal-face pattern was a typical decoration of bronzes in central China.


24.4cm long, 4.7 cm wide and 0.7 cm thick

In the shape of a willow leaf, this elegant spear is made of high-quality jade and has never been tainted. In the middle of the object is a ridge, and the transition from the ridge to the sharpened edges is quite smooth.

The jade spear does not have an obvious handle, which was a feature of earliest spears and different from the bronze spears of the Eastern Zhou period in the Chengdu Plain. But its main feature – the shape of a willow leaf – was inherited by bronze spears of later periods in the region.


Dimensions: 4.8 cm long, 2.7 cm wide and 0.5 cm thick

This jade spear is rather small and not well polished. Its irregular shape indicates that it was made of leftover material.

As jade material was hard to get in ancient times, jade carvers would try to use the material efficiently. Among the jade articles of Jinsha, quite a large number of small ones were made by craftsmen with leftover materials from the processing of large jade objects.


Dimensions: 8.8 cm long, 3.2 cm wide and 1.6 cm thick

This jade ax looks thick and heavy and feels warm and smooth. Its cutting edge is sharp, and the other end remains natural. On its body are a small number of bronze rust stains, possibly because it was stored with bronze ware.

The ax is a common tool in human society, and the stone ax was the most commonly used tool in the Neolithic period. Jade axes and stone ones are similar in style. The jade axes unearthed in Jinsha are mostly small, mainly made of leftover materials. They have a sharp cutting edge but the other end remains natural. These jade axes show little signs left by practical use, indicating that they where ritual rather than utilitarian objects.


Dimensions: 12.9 cm long, 3.8 cm wide and 0.4 cm thick

This neatly made jade adze has a delicately sharpened cutting edge. The hole in its body seemed to be a decoration. Jade adzes unearthed in Jinsha are mostly made of fine material and workmanship. Some of them are rather small, being made of leftover materials.

The adze is also a common tool in daily life. As most of the jade adzes have no signs of having been used to cut, they were not practical tools but ritual utensils for sacrificial activities.



These jade chisels are long and thin, with a sharp cutting edge and unprocessed natural end. Some also have traces of cutting. A large number of such chisels have been unearthed in Jinsha, mostly made of green jade or white jade, but there are also a number made of multi-color jade, which is a marked feature of Jinsha jade material. Similar jade chisels have also been unearthed in large quantities in the No.1 and No.2 pits of Sanxingdui.

These jade chisels have no signs of utilitarian use, nor traces of being mounted on handles. This indicates that like those jade axes and adzes, the jade chisels were also ritual utensils. The use of such a large number of jade tools in sacrificial activities was rarely found in other archaeological sites in China.


Dimensions: 12.3 cm long, 1-5 cm wide and 1.2 cm thick

The cutting edge of this chisel is meticulously sharpened, but its other end is not processed at all. On one side of the body are vertical lines left by the cutting process, the V-shape notch shows that they were left by a sharp stone-wheel cutter.


Dimensions: 14.2 cm long, 3.5 cm wide and 1.2 cm thick

This jade chisel has a broad body, it feels warm and smooth, and its surface is quite colorful. Its two sides are of different hues: One is pinkish with large areas of gray stripes and a few black dots; the other is orange with fine white lines and black spots. All the colors are naturally formed due to the material's mineral contents. The whole object is well polished, with no sign of utilitarian use. It was a well-prepared ritual utensil.


Chisel-Shaped Object
Dimensions: 25.8 cm long, 6.3 cm wide and 2 cm thick

This object is opaque and reddish purple. Due to the minerals in the soil where it was buried, its surface is tainted with black, brown, white and yellowish dots, spots and stripes, making it gorgeously colorful.

The whole object looks like a shoehorn but with an irregular top; its one side is flat and other side curved. Similar objects unearthed in Jinsha vary in size and shape, but they are mostly colorful.

A similar object was first found in the site of Baodun culture in the Chengdu Plain, and later three such objects were unearthed from the No. 1 pit of Sanxingdui. So far more than 70 such objects have been found in Jinsha; they have no signs of utilitarian use, indicating that they were ritual utensils. Besides, a small number of such objects have been found in sites of bronze culture in the southeastern part of Yunnan, western part of Guangxi, and in Vietnam. These findings are the best evidence of cultural exchanges between ancient Shu kingdom and Southeast Asia regions.


Chisel-Shaped Object
Dimensions: 25.7 cm long, 6.4 cm wide and 1.6 cm thick

This object is flat on one side and convex on the other. The flat side has brown and yellow masses like clouds in the upper part, and yellowish, blackish and white areas and stripes in the lower, which looks like an abstract landscape painting.

On the surface of the object are thin traces left by vertical polishing process. On the left side about 4 cm from the cutting edge is a shallow concave area, in which horizontal traces of grinding are visible. These signs enable us to know how ancient people polished jade objects.


Chisel-Shaped Object
Dimensions: 29.1 cm long, 6.9 cm wide and 2.1 cm thick

The flat side of this object has a groove in the middle, which runs 20.5 cm between the pointed ends. The groove was left by a large stone-wheel cutter during processing.

In Jinsha, stone-wheel cutters were used to cut jade material and carve patterns, with the wheel rotated by a simple device to saw or grind jade. Wheels of different sizes and materials were used for different cutting processes. Such wheels usually would leave uneven grooves on jade objects.


Grooved Trapezoid Object
Dimensions: 30 cm long, 19 cm wide, and 0.6 cm thick


This object is made of gray jade, with some brownish stains left on its surface by permeation. Its obverse side has five grooves with ridges between them. Its reverse side is flat, with intaglio border lines near the edge and short, decorative lines on both sides. The raised edges have eight small holes, and the body of the object has six large holes. This peculiar object is well polished all over.

Archaeologists have found two such objects in the Jinsha site, the other with somewhat different grooves. It is the first time such objects were found in China. Tests by researchers show that the width and shape of a groove fit that of a jade sword perfectly, and they presumed that this object was sealed with leather to serve as a sheath for swords. A jade sheath must be for  noble rather than ordinary people.


Elliptical Object
Dimensions: 14.8 cm long, 6.3 cm wide and 0.98 cm thick


This object has a flat body with thinner edge and pointed knobs on both ends. It has no decorative patterns or signs of use. When it was unearthed, a large piece of bronze was stuck on its body, as it had been buried together with bronzes.

Altogether four jade objects of this shape and one made of bronze were unearthed in Jinsha, the first time such articles were found in China, but they are of different sizes. Some researchers presumed they were eye-shape objects similar to the eyes on a bronze animal face found in the No.2 pit of Sanxingdui, but others assumed they might be individual objects or decorative parts of certain large objects.


God-Man Head Sculpture
Dimensions: 2.3 cm high, 3.4 cm wide and 0.26 cm thick

This jade object shows the profile of a god-man head. Wearing a decorative hat, the ferocious image has long eyebrow, triangle eye, crooked nose, and a big mouth revealing three teeth. The lower end of this object was broken; it is presumed that it should have a long neck, to be fixed on a certain article as a decoration.

The style of this god-man sculpture is almost identical with that of a human head profile found in the No.2 pit of Sanxingdui, and similar to that of a large bronze animal mask unearthed from the same pit. The bronze mask has a large decorative kudong (one-leg monster) decoration on its head, and this jade sculpture might also have such a one-leg monster decoration, though it was partly broken and became unrecognizable when unearthed.

The identical style of this jade sculpture of Jinsha and the heads of Sanxingdui indicates the close heritage links between the two sites.


Seashell-Shape Pendant
Dimensions: 3.2 cm long, 2.7 cm wide, and 0.63 cm thick

This pendant has a warm and smooth texture, and it has no impurities, although its surface is stained with some patina. The small and exquisite article has a hole in the upper part, for it to be hung on a string.

As jade was precious, it was regarded as a symbol of wealth and social position in ancient times, and jade objects were collected or presented as gifts. Seashells were also valued and used as currency for trading in ancient times. In archaeological sites of the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties seashells have been found among funeral and sacrificial objects. In the No.1 and No.2 pits of Sanxingdui more than 5,000 seashells were unearthed, most of them having holes and abrasion signs. This testifies to the close exchanges between the Chengdu Plain and central and coastal regions of the country.

This seashell-shape jade pendant of Jinsha, as an excellent combination of jade and seashell, served as a best symbol of social status and wealth for nobles of the region.


Insect-Pattern Tablet
Dimensions: 5.5 cm long, 5.2 cm wide, and 0.46 cm thick


The insect pattern on this tablet was carved in bas-relief. In processing, the blank areas of the tablet were abraded and the lines of the pattern were raised. This object is made of excellent craftsmanship, as all the blank areas are level and the raised lines flow smoothly. This artwork represents the superb skills of Jinsha's craftsmen.


Bracelet -Shaped Object
Dimensions: 6.9 cm in outer diameter, 6.2 cm in inner diameter and 3.68 cm in height

This bracelet shaped object has a narrow waist; it was made of grayish black jade, and stained with some patina. Such objects made of pottery, stone, bone, ivory and jade were found in sites of the Neolithic period in various parts of China. The earliest bracelet shaped jade objects were found in sites of the Liangzhu culture in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River; similar jade articles were also found in the Erlitou site of the Xia Dynasty and the Yin Ruins of the Shang Dynasty.

In the Sanxingdui site one bracelet shaped object in jade and 13 in pottery were found. In the Jinsha site also found a number of such objects were found.

On the wrist of a standing bronze figure, unearthed in Jinsha, an ornament similar to the bracelet-shaped jade object was noted. Archaeologists assume thus that such jade objects were ornaments to be worn on the wrist.


6.9 cm diameter and 5.9 cm aperture - 6.3 cm diameter and 5.6 cm aperture

In the Jinsha site archaeologists unearthed a large number of jade bracelets, which were made of choice materials and excellent craftsmanship. Quite a number of such objects have been found in graveyards of the Neolithic period, worn on the wrist of the dead. Such objects found in the Jinsha site were most likely used as bracelets.


Dimensions: 4 cm in diameter, 3.2 cm in aperture and 0.2 cm in thickness

Small jade rings like this unearthed in Jinsha are mostly made of choice green jade, or the best material found in this site. This indicates that ancient craftsmen deliberately chose the best material for such rings.

This exquisite jade ring is flat and thin. It is too small for the wrist and too big for fingers, and it has no notch to be used as an earring. Researchers assume that it was hung from a band as part of the pendants.


Ornament Piece
Dimensions: 9.6 cm long, 5.7 cm wide and 0.5 cm thick

This irregular-shape object looks like the cutting edge part of a jade zhang blade. Archaeologists assume that it was made of a part from a broken zhang blade. In its body were drilled three holes in a triangle, but the lower two have been filled with a black matter.

Ancient people highly valued jade, a precious material that was hard to be obtained and processed. Jade articles damaged during processing or daily use were not discarded but reprocessed to become other articles. There are numerous such examples in archaeological records and among jade artworks passed from generation to generation.

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Reader Comments (3)

absolutely wonderful artifacts. i thought the chisels were some of the finest- and the colorations on the congs astounding. thank you so much for another excellent posting.
December 14, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterdan beck
great information for my research!
July 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhd
Concerning Liangzhu "tool marks"
Does anyone have any opinions about the incised lines forming the designs
found on Liangzhu style jade pieces. I have noticed on some of the "taotie" masks
the incised lines have a continual series of ////////// hatch lines within the boundary
of the incised lines. Why are they found only on some pieces and are they the product of
ancient or modern scribing tools?
December 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWayne

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