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Sword scabbard slide (wei)
Place of Origin: China
Historical Period: Western Han dynasty (206 BCE-9 CE)
Materials: Nephrite
Dimensions: W. 1 1/16 in x L. 2 15/16 in, W. 2.7 cm x L. 7.5 cm
Credit Line: The Avery Brundage Collection
Department: Chinese Art
Collection: Jade And Stones
Object Number: B60J736
On Display: Yes
Location: Gallery 14

Description

Label:

Jade objects become very rare in the archaeological record following the late Western Han. There are very few in Eastern Han tombs and almost none from the Three Kingdoms and Six Dynasties periods. For the later dynasties an occasional piece is found as a luxury item, but few of the pieces made specifically for burial or ritual pieces are found in tombs. Research must rely more directly on collected rather than excavated pieces and on literary evidence. The reasons behind this dramatic change have been the subject of much conjecture in recent years. Certainly much can be traced to changes in belief structures and the rituals and funerary practices that accompanied them.

A wonderful split-tailed dragon appears marching along the surface of this sword slide. It is a proud creature with an upright head featuring a single horn, a long curving neck and sinuous body. The visible front shoulder is marked with striations and the tail is split into a number of curls which become quite cloud-like. There are eight small cavities drilled into, but not through, the surface of this piece. Their strategic locations suggest the possibility that this piece was originally inlaid with stones of other colors. This was another practice borrowed from China' neighbors to the northwest, and supports a late Han to early Three Kingdoms date.

This piece is cut from light yellowish Khotan jade. The surface is altered and discolored with only a few areas retaining their original condition. They indicate that this was high quality stone with few inclusion, uniform color, and good translucency. The designs are well finished with very soft raised contours; the level of polish is very high. The back of this piece is stained with rust and has iron encrustations, an indication that it was attached to a weapon made of iron or steel. Weapons of this material began to be produced in some number during the Warring States period and in even greater numbers during the Western Han. The use of jade fittings and the numbers found in tombs indicate that high quality iron swords were obviously possessions of some importance.

1. Forsyth, plate 126
2. Yang, no. 216
3. NPM, Collector's Exhibition, plate 78-3
4. Watt, no. 27 (decor?)


More Information

Exhibition History: "Chinese Jade: Stone of Immortality", Cernuschi Museum, France, 9/26/1997 - 1/4/1998
Label:

Jade objects become very rare in the archaeological record following the late Western Han. There are very few in Eastern Han tombs and almost none from the Three Kingdoms and Six Dynasties periods. For the later dynasties an occasional piece is found as a luxury item, but few of the pieces made specifically for burial or ritual pieces are found in tombs. Research must rely more directly on collected rather than excavated pieces and on literary evidence. The reasons behind this dramatic change have been the subject of much conjecture in recent years. Certainly much can be traced to changes in belief structures and the rituals and funerary practices that accompanied them.

A wonderful split-tailed dragon appears marching along the surface of this sword slide. It is a proud creature with an upright head featuring a single horn, a long curving neck and sinuous body. The visible front shoulder is marked with striations and the tail is split into a number of curls which become quite cloud-like. There are eight small cavities drilled into, but not through, the surface of this piece. Their strategic locations suggest the possibility that this piece was originally inlaid with stones of other colors. This was another practice borrowed from China' neighbors to the northwest, and supports a late Han to early Three Kingdoms date.

This piece is cut from light yellowish Khotan jade. The surface is altered and discolored with only a few areas retaining their original condition. They indicate that this was high quality stone with few inclusion, uniform color, and good translucency. The designs are well finished with very soft raised contours; the level of polish is very high. The back of this piece is stained with rust and has iron encrustations, an indication that it was attached to a weapon made of iron or steel. Weapons of this material began to be produced in some number during the Warring States period and in even greater numbers during the Western Han. The use of jade fittings and the numbers found in tombs indicate that high quality iron swords were obviously possessions of some importance.

1. Forsyth, plate 126
2. Yang, no. 216
3. NPM, Collector's Exhibition, plate 78-3
4. Watt, no. 27 (decor?)


Exhibition History: "Chinese Jade: Stone of Immortality", Cernuschi Museum, France, 9/26/1997 - 1/4/1998