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Hongshan Jade Artifacts Make Guilin Visit

An exhibition featuring 1,135 jade and stone articles from the Hongshan culture with a history of over 8,000 years was unveiled in Guilin, Guangxi province on April 1. Guilin is the 17th city these jade articles have been to. The well-received itinerant exhibition, which wrapped up on April 20, has been held in cities such as Taipei, Nanjing, Macao and Beijing.

Hongshan Jade Artifacts Exhibition

Dating back over five thousand years, Hongshan culture derives its name from the Hongshan Mountain of Chifeng, inside the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China. Archeological studies show that Hongshan culture was developed on the basis of Xinglongwa and Zhaobaogou cultures. A study of these cultures is of great significance to the exploration of the origin of the Chinese civilization.

Hongshan culture is known for its jade items. The jade items on display at the exhibition were excavated and taken away by the Japanese, French and Germans between 1908 and 1945, and have been lost overseas. This unprecedented event came about through cooperation between the deputy curator of the National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taiwan, Zeng Yishi, and 104 overseas collectors, who have their collections of Hongshan jade artifacts on display. All the items have a long history, some having been passed down through five generations.

Made out of high quality raw materials, these Hongshan cultural articles are of excellent workmanship and various shapes, revealing high production technologies. One of the most attractive articles in the exhibition is the C-shaped jade dragon, engraved out of dark green nephrite. It is the first well-preserved image of a dragon ever discovered, thus known as the “No 1 Dragon in China”. The dragon has the head of a swine and the body of a serpent, coiling in a cirrus-like shape.

Featured items embody the views on aesthetics, philosophy and religion of the people living around Hongshan Mountain.

Hongshan Culture & Jade

Hongshan culture was discovered in 1935, becoming an important part of the Neolithic Age in Northern China. Hongshan jades were found in large quantities with more than 52 different types in various shapes and forms. Typical Hongshan jade items are pig dragons, embryo dragons and cirrus-shaped jade articles. Hongshan jade carvings are crafted at higher levels than those of the Xinglongwa and Zhaobaogou cultures. Most Hongshan jade artifacts are well preserved due to the utilization of slab burial tombs and the dry arid climate of Inner Mongolia.

More than 20 cirrus-shaped jade articles have been unearthed at the site of Hongshan culture, each of them representing two fundamental themes—cirrus-shaped angles and minor convexities. The combination of cirrus-shaped angles and minor convexities in different ways constitute the various patterns and designs of the cirrus-shaped jade articles of the Hongshan culture, which is best demonstrated by the enormous blackish green jade dragon unearthed at Sanxingtala Township of Wengniute Banner in 1971.

Cirrus-shaped jades can be classified into four types by analyzing their patterns and designs: decorative articles, tools, animals and special ones. The association of the shapes of these jade articles with their cultural context indicates that special articles and tools were made to meet the needs of religious ceremonies. The discovery of the Hongshan cirrus-shaped jade dragon strongly suggests Inner Mongolia is one of the essential sites to trace the worship of the dragon by the Chinese people.

Hongshan culture is known not only for its jade artifacts but also for its remarkable achievements in architecture, pottery-making, and pottery sculptures (red pottery with black patterns and pottery decorated with Z-shaped designs). In recent years, the ruins of large buildings, tombs, a pottery goddess figure and many jade animal carvings have been discovered. They point back to the years of Hongshan culture as a source of Chinese civilization.

Judging from the position of Hongshan culture in the archeological culture of ancient Northern China and China in the Neolithic Age, we can well assume that Hongshan culture is one of the most advanced cultures among the ranks of its peers in both southern and northern China.