Monday, June 19, 2017

Jade Leis

I have found yet another use for my miscellaneous jade charms. By attaching them to a vintage silver chain,  a " jade lei" is formed.

Jade Lei composed of jade charms or amulets

According to wikipedia a lei is defined as :

Lei is a garland or wreath. More loosely defined, a lei is any series of objects strung together ... Often the composition of a lei determine the meaning behind a lei; a lei made using a hala fruit for instance is said to be connected to love, desire, ... etc 
For me the meaning behind my jade lei is just my love for jade, and here's a closeup look at my lucky charms.

close up of  charms on lei

The second lei I made mostly from white and off white pieces of vintage jade.

jade lei 2 on qing dynasty silver chain

Although carved from   lower quality jade  the charms in the second lei are no less interesting. An eclectic assortment of jade charms including  animals and insects,  as fish, rabbit, cicada and several  fruits, a hand and a fan are represented in the closeup below.

an assortment of jade charms from fan to hand

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

In Praise of Ancient Chinese Ornaments

This group of beads and pendants is made up of an interesting mix of bird and animal forms together with cylinders, barrel and tabular shapes. As they show characteristics of the middle Neolithic, Shang, Xizhou and Han dynasties (about 4000 BC - 220 AD) I am relating them broadly to these periods.

A selection of ancient beads and pendants

 There are four birds in the set and  I have a soft spot for the first three. Each bird measures approximately 2cm x 1.7cm. They have line carvings all over their bodies with holes drilled from head to feet and must have been used for stringing. Could date from Han dynasty (206BC- 220AD) or earlier.
Petite bird beads
 The fourth bird with outstretched wings  is also one of my favourites. Such birds have been recovered  from Hongshan Culture sites (about 4700Bc - 2900BC) but it's hard to confirm whether mine is Hongshan or Shang dynasty (1600 -1046BC) vintage. Because of its smaller size 3.2cm x3 cm I tend to believe it is a Shang model.  This is a soulful looking bird and the stone has been  abraded to show raised eyes and breast. There is also a centre band with minimal carving below the breast.
Soulful bird

 The reverse shows ox nose suspension holes  and a pair of grooves around the tail and wings. Toomarks are seen in the holes and grooves.
Reverse showing ox-nose holes and pair of grooves
Next are 2 small animals,  a pig bead (2cm x 1cm) pierced from top to bottom and a rabbit pendant (2.2cm x 1cm)with attachement hole at the nose.  I speculate that these are from Xizhou dynasty (1046-771 BC) which has many tiny animals in its repertoire.
Pig and rabbit

 These three cylindrical faience beads can also be dated to Xizhou dynasty  as they are commonly used in necklace assemblages (pei)of that dynasty. Longest cylinder measures 1.4cm
Faience beads
Barrel bead is 1.4cm long with  a foetus like (or maybe its a silkworm) carved in high relief,  with double collars on both ends. Need to do further research on the carving style to establish its time in history.
Foetus or silkworm carving

Tabular bead with turtle shell pattern is likely to be Shang dynasty vintage given the Shang dynasty's  frequent use of turtle shells for oracle divination. Measures 1.8 cm x 1.5 cm

Tabular bead with turtle shell pattern

There are grooves on both sides of the bead.
Grooves at both sides

 Bead with taotie motif is the next intriguing bead coming up.  According to Wikipedia
The taotie is a mofif commonly found on Chinese ritual bronze vessels from the Shang and Zhou dynasty. The design typically consists of a zoomorphic mask described as being frontal, bilaterally symmetrical with a pair of raised eyes and no lower jaw area.

The specimen I show measures 1.2 cm , is curved inwards ,with the top wider than the bottom. It has a large drilled hole from top to bottom with  the top part of the hole larger than the bottom and another perforation in the centre. The curved surface shows a pair of slanted eyes with cloud pattern eyebrows but lacks a lower jaw or mouth. Beads of this ilk have been used among other things,  as  finial or closing device  for necklaces particularly in the Xizhou dynasty.
Intriguing bead with taotie mask pattern

Showing the large drilled hole
And the uncarved reverse is slightly curved with two dents  at both ends. I am not sure what purpose the dents serve.
Reverse has two dents at the sid

Last but not least is the pendant with monster head motif. It is decorated with striations at  the top of the head perhaps indicating hair, with large slanting eyes and long nose but the mouth is not shown. Not sure whether this is the head of a monster or some fearsome animal but its portrayal is simply unforgettable.  It measures 2.7cm x 1.8cm  This bead pendant may be as early as Neolithic times.
Monster head or wild beast ?
 The reverse shows ox-nose perforations with toolmarks visible
Ox-nose perforations with tool marks

And to round up here is my priceless collection of ancient beads, birds, animals, monsters and taotie again.
In praise of ancient Chinese ornaments.

 Finally I'd like to add that none of these ornaments,  beads, pendants have been authenticated. I am just recording them for my own indulgence and to share with whoever cares to look. 😄
 I am also apologetic that I am not clear about the names of the stones or minerals that these ornaments were made from.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Matching Mum's Pearls with Xizhou Carnelian Disc Beads

Beautiful Beads are a Joy Forever !

Mum's vintage cultured pearls are  around 70 years old while  Xizhou carnelian disc beads are from the 11th century BC. Although several thousand years apart - still I think it worked and  they are well paired.

A Joy to Wear, A Memory to Treasure.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Decorating Braided Bracelets with Antique Jade

Combining my love for braiding and my love for quirky pieces of old jade I have, over time come up with more  braided bracelet items. Each bracelet was painstakingly hand knotted by me and each antique jade ornament just as tirelessly  hand carved by craftsmen from long ago.

My bespoke bracelets

I used embroidery floss and braid patterns like Chevron, Chevron with border, Egyptian and Knitted to knot the bracelets.  Tiny, flat jade ornaments were then added as a centerpiece or as a closure  after the bracelets were completed.

Of the six bracelets 2 were formed by the simple pattern Chevron, shown below

Top pattern: Chevron embellished with jade butterfly as centerpiece
(closure button is modern)
Bottom pattern : Three color Chevron decorated with white jade polygon
as centerpiece and square jade button as closure

Chevron with border is a variation of the chevron pattern. The two bracelets shown below were made to this design.

Top pattern: Aubergine color chevron with contrasting grey border and
white bird as centerpiece (closure button is modern)
Bottom Pattern : Three color chevron with contrasting pink border,
 ending with a carved jade button

Last two  bracelets were made with  more complicated Egyptian and Knitted designs.

Pattern: Reverse side of Knitted pattern is used. Knitted pattern shown below
Decorated in the centre with a white jade bird. (Closure button is modern)

Knitted pattern on other side

The last bracelet was knotted following the Egyptian design

Pattern : Egyptian with spherical jade button closure

Compared with the mass produced stuff of today my self crafted, personalized accessories are real neato !
What a refreshing change !

Saturday, March 4, 2017

A String of Beads and Pendants from early Chinese History

Inspired by the elaborate necklaces of the Xizhou dynasty,(1046-771 BC) I have come up with my own modest strand  using  beads and pendants  from early periods of China's civilization.

Mostly Shang - Zhou beads and pendants

Patina, toolmarks and carving style on these beads and pendants (silkworms, phoenix, turtle shell, disc etc) point tentatively to Shang - Xizhou period (1600-771 BC)  and later.

The strand is made up of  a trapezoidal jade bead, 2 silkworms, a spherical carved bead, a bead of turtle shell carving, two  bamboo shape tube beads and a pair of cicadas interspersed with small carnelian disc beads.

Details of the components given below.

Picture below shows beads with three different shapes. From left spherical bead with c-shaped  motifs (1.4cm), flat turtle shell bead (1.5 x 1cm) and a trapezoidal bead with phoenix carving (2 x 1.5cm at the base)

Bead shapes are spherical, flat and trapezoidal

Next is a pair of silkworm pendants the left worm is 3 cm and right is 2.8 cm.
Pair of silkworms

A pair of  slender bamboo shaped tubes with left tube measuring 2.0cm x 0.5cm and right 2.3cm x 0.5 cm

Left tube is 2cmx0.5cm right tube is 2.3cm x0.5cm

Pair of cicadas measures approximately 1.5cm x 1.2cm and likely to be later than Xizhou period.

Pair of cicadas

The carnelian disc beads used as spacers are the hallmarks of many Xizhou necklaces.

Small discs measures approx. 1 cm across

These red discs also add a touch of color to the otherwise somber hues of my string.

Rosy carnelian beads add a touch of color


Monday, February 13, 2017

A set of Ancient Jade Ornaments

This set of jade ornaments  comprise a lovely arc shaped jade plaque or huang,  purportedly from the Han dynasty (206 BC-24AD) and four cylindrical beads of unknown vintage.

A set of jade ornaments
The top ornament is a an arc shaped plaque or   huang  with dragon heads on both ends while the body is decorated with low relief grain design on one side. Measuring 8cm x 1cm this ornament is often seen in the Han dynasty (206BC-24 AD) as well as earlier dynasties and cultures.

Double headed dragon heads on arc shaped  plaque or huang

The back is plain and uncarved

Uncarved back

The short cylindrical beads have a strange carving of  what looks like a bird at one end....

carved image looks like a bird

..... and an upturned tail at the other..

Looks like a tail?
 The perforation is large and biconical
large bi conical  perforation

The design wraps round the cylindrical bead and can best be seen when impressed against a plasticine  mould somewhat like a seal. The image that appears on the mould looks like a  bird  floating on water the head at one end and an upturned tail at the other. Or  is it a boat ? It could also be some archaic language.  This bird like or boat like image is bordered by two cloud scrolls often seen in the Zhou-Han periods. The beads measure approximately 2cm x 1.3cm. I have not come across this design on jade beads before and am still trying to figure out which era it belongs.  Wish someone could enlighten me!
Design seen when impressed on a mold

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Chinese Lunar New Year of the Rooster 2017

Cock a doodle dooo....
here come the Roosters....
 I am not a collector of roosters and don't have many rooster artefacts in my collection to crow about. Still I manage to dig up this ancient clay rooster from a bygone age (Han times likely) to welcome the Year of the Rooster 2017

2000 year old Han dynasty clay rooster

And from my treasure chest of miscellaneous items I salvaged these 5 antique jade rooster figurines. Each rooster is perforated vertically and must have been carved for making dangles.
Antique jade roosters.

I have grouped them together for this  auspicious display to usher in  the New Year.
A family of roosters to greet the Lunar New Year

And just for laughs,  here is an impressionistic look at my rooster display :)
Impressionistic art ? :)
Lastly Mr God of Wealth, Cai Shen Ye  is here to give a tip to lucky punters, who can spot the numbers :)

Can you spot the lucky numbers ?

Happy Lunar New Year of the Rooster!


Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas 2016 with Deer

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells..... comes Santa's helpers in the guise of  archaic jade deer to celebrate Christmas 2016. Instead of Santa's traditional reindeer, I will present in this post, my pair of  jade deer purportedly  from Shang-Xizhou dynasty (1600-221BC)
Celebrating Christmas 2016 with my archaic jade deer

 Left deer measures 3.5cm  and right deer measures 3cm. (pic below) They are  simply carved on both sides with heads turned back  and a few incised lines on their bodies. Although much of the jade is still smooth and lustrous the hooves and antlers show signs of patination and alteration. The remains of ancient toolmarks, an indicator of age can be seen in all the  unpolished grooves and perforations.

Reverse view
Left behind quartz stones in the narrow crevices  in between the antlers and the hoofs also point to the great age of these carvings, see enlargements below.

Quartz stone in the antlers

Quartz stone in the hooves
Spots of russet on the noses  remind me of legendry Rudolph  and leaves me wondering if they are indeed the ancient ancestors of the mythical Rudolph!  :)
Rudolph the red nose reindeer.....
.....had a very shiny nose....

....Rudolph the red nose reindeer
you will go down in history.....

Back to the present, here's a contemporary scene with golden deer from Fairprice to celebrate Christmas 2016. 

Merry Christmas 2016 with contemporary reindeer

Merry Christmas to Jade Collectors !

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Favourite Books

  • Theft : a love story
  • The Uncommon Reader
  • Never Let me go
  • Angela's Angels
  • Where angels fear to tread