Monday, August 8, 2016

Phoenix on a Bi

A bi is described as a flat jade disc with a circular hole in the centre resembling  modern day cds or doughnuts.  Bis  have been in use since Neolithic times and have various ritualistic and auspicious associations. 

The flat jade disc shown below resembles a bi except for the perforation which does not sit in the middle so I will describe it as a bi with an off centre hole,  although I can't account for the aberration.

Bi with off centre hole

The piece is flat and round, measuring  3cm across and 0.6cm thick . A phoenix, curled round a stylized border is carved on one side of the disc. Its shape and phoenix pattern  bears resemblance to the necklace closures or clasps seen on  many  of the recovered  sumptuous pei pectorals (necklaces) of the Xizhou dynasty. (1027-771BC) Such  necklaces showing the closures are also displayed  in numerous museums throughout China, so very tentatively I may ascribe this bi closure to that period.

Could be a necklace closure (clasp)

The back is uncarved except for small scratch marks near the hole,  which maybe archaic script (is it jia-guwen 甲骨文  the oracle writing of the Shang dynasty),  or artists' signature.

Uncarved back except for small mark

Phoenix and bi are iconic wen wu (cultural relics)  from China.
Phoenix on a bi

 Update August 2019  For a similar off-centre bi with carving see Freer and Sackler website.

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