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Jade artifacts of the Liangzhu culture – 2

Here is jade hairpin unearthed at Linxu, Shandong Province, which belongs to the Longshan cultureIt is a long time since we began taking note of the decorative designs on jade artifacts of the Liangzhu culture –– particularly on those used at sacrificial ceremonies –– that feature animal faces complete with eyes, noses, mouths and other organs. Despite that, discovery in 1986 of the largest cong, or the “king of congs” as it was dubbed later, still took us by surprise. The “king”, which is 8.8 centimeters long and 17.6 centimeters in diameter and weighs 6.5 kilograms, was unearthed from an ancient tomb on Mt. Fanshan, Zhejiang Province. Animal faces in neat groups are engraved on its surface, with the lines recognized as the most elaborate for jade artifacts of the Liangzhu culture. Each group consists of two parts. The upper part is an inverted trapezoid, which bears a broad human face featuring two big eyes, a flat nose, a feather crown and two arms stretching straight and the hands holding the eyes of the image in the lower part.  The lower part features a fierce-looking, big-eyed animal face that has a big nose and an oblate mouth. The human head and animal face are cut in relief, and the human arms and animal face, in intaglio. Arrangement of the two parts suggests conquest of a monster by an all-powerful god.

Altogether, 16 such patterns, arranged in symmetrical order, are counted on the “King of all congs”. It may be worthwhile to mention that this kind of “god vs. monster” design is found on most jade artifacts unearthed from Mt. Fanshan. What merits even more attention is that such a pattern is also found on the upper part of a jade ax-spear, the symbol of military authority. Basing themselves on the symbolic weapon, archeologists have concluded that the design could be the emblem of the Liangzhu tribes and that animal face designs on jade artifacts unearthed earlier could be the simplified or distorted version of the emblem.

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