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Cong tube with monster-mask designs
Place of Origin: China
Date: approx. 1900
Historical Period: Qing dynasty (1644-1911) or Republic period (1912-1949)
Materials: Nephrite
Dimensions: H. 1 1/16 in x Diam. 2 7/8 in x D. 1/4 in, H. 2.7 cm x Diam. 7.3 cm x D. .64 cm
Credit Line: Transfer from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Albert M. Bender
Department: Chinese Art
Collection: Jade And Stones
Object Number: B81J1
On Display: No
Culture: Liangzhu culture

Description

Label: A cong tube has been worked from grayish, opaque jade with dark-gray and brown mottling and flaws. The inside of the tube is round; the outside has three corners, each at a 75-degree angle, evenly spaced. Each corner is decorated with a monster-mask design in a series of incised intaglio lines. The piece was catalogued as a jade of the Neolithic Liangzhu culture in 1994 (Asian Art Museum 1994, 128).
Recent archaeological finds have disproved the idea—held for 1,000 years—that the cong tube was a ritual object originating in the Bronze Age. Neolithic Liangzhu graves in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces have yielded various jade cong forms. The form with a deity's mask design was associated with the gods, and powerful people possessed these images to symbolize their exalted positions. The ruling class through the centuries used the cong during ceremonial worship of the universe. The cong, one of the well-documented six auspicious jades, has been copied through all periods in China's history.
The most obvious sign that this piece is a reproduction is the artisan's use of new jade material not seen in the Liangzhu culture. Another sign is that the tool marks in the even line work on the masks were made by metal tools (Mou Yongkang 1996). Before the Bronze Age, Liangzhu jade was worked with soft tools of leather or animal bone or with stone implements. In addition, the meander and triangle patterns on the mask are misinterpretations of Liangzhu mask designs.

More Information

Exhibition History: "Chinese Neolithic Jades from Western Collections", China House Gallery, New York, 4/19/1988 - 6/19/1988
Label: A cong tube has been worked from grayish, opaque jade with dark-gray and brown mottling and flaws. The inside of the tube is round; the outside has three corners, each at a 75-degree angle, evenly spaced. Each corner is decorated with a monster-mask design in a series of incised intaglio lines. The piece was catalogued as a jade of the Neolithic Liangzhu culture in 1994 (Asian Art Museum 1994, 128).
Recent archaeological finds have disproved the idea—held for 1,000 years—that the cong tube was a ritual object originating in the Bronze Age. Neolithic Liangzhu graves in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces have yielded various jade cong forms. The form with a deity's mask design was associated with the gods, and powerful people possessed these images to symbolize their exalted positions. The ruling class through the centuries used the cong during ceremonial worship of the universe. The cong, one of the well-documented six auspicious jades, has been copied through all periods in China's history.
The most obvious sign that this piece is a reproduction is the artisan's use of new jade material not seen in the Liangzhu culture. Another sign is that the tool marks in the even line work on the masks were made by metal tools (Mou Yongkang 1996). Before the Bronze Age, Liangzhu jade was worked with soft tools of leather or animal bone or with stone implements. In addition, the meander and triangle patterns on the mask are misinterpretations of Liangzhu mask designs.
Exhibition History: "Chinese Neolithic Jades from Western Collections", China House Gallery, New York, 4/19/1988 - 6/19/1988