Lot 51. A rare and large yellow jade disc, bi, Han Dynasty; 3/4in) diam. Estimate HK$25,000 - 30,000 (US$3,200 - 3,900). Sold for HK$ 1,980,000 (€227,546). Photo: Bonhams

The circular disc superbly carved and finely incised on both sides with a border of four stylised taotie masks with curling horns and interlocking bodies, encircling an inner border of evenly spaced raised bosses, divided by a narrow rope-twist band, the stone of a yellow tone predominantly suffused with attractive honey russet inclusions

ProvenanceDr Ip Yee (1921-1984), one of the founding members of the Min Chiu Society, Hong Kong
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 22 November 1984, lot 801
Acquired from the distinguished Hong Kong art dealer Lai Loy (1926-2012) in 1988
The Songzhutang collection, no.72

Published and IllustratedT.Fok, The Splendour of Jade: The Songzhutang Collection of Jade, Hong Kong, 2011, pl.72

Note: This remarkable type of bi disc, decorated with a border of grain-pattern surrounded by a band of animal masks, started to appear in the middle to late Warring States period. A large number of such bi were excavated from the old capital of the State of Lu in Qufu, Shandong Province. Bi discs of similar type were also found in the Han dynasty tombs of the King of Nanyue and other nobles, demonstrating the high status and rank associated with bi such as the present lot. It has also been suggested that this type of bi disc may have served as ceremonial objects for Imperial sacrifice to the sun; for fuller discussion, see Teng Shu P'ing, One Hundred Jades from the Lantien Shanfang Collection, Taipei, 1995, pp.49-50.

Compare an excavated jade bi disc of larger size but similar form and pattern, from the tomb of the King of Nanyue, excavated at Xianggangshan in Guangzhou, Western Han dynasty, illustrated by J.C.Lin, The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China, Cambridge, 2012, p.280, pl.156A. Another slightly larger disc, Western Han dynasty, of similar pattern was excavated from the tomb of the Prince of Chu at Shizisan in Xuzhou in Jiangsu Province, now in the collection of the Nanjing Museum, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Jades Unearthed in China: 7, Beijing, 2005, p.109. See also a green jade bi disc of similar design illustrated in Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum: Jade 4 Han, Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties, Beijing, 2011, p.33, pl.8.

Bonhams. THE SONGZHUTANG COLLECTION OF EARLY JADES from the Neolithic Period to the Yuan Dynasty, 30 May 2017, 14:00 HKT