Bead (guan), China, Warring States Period (approx. 480-221 BCE). Nephrite. H. 2 1/2 in x Diam. 1 5/8 in, H. 6.3 cm x Diam. 4.1 cm. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60J589 © 2017 Asian Art Museum Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture.
Long tubular beads of this sort were a key part of the pendant ensembles worn by high ranking officials during the late Warring States and on into the Han dynasty. Worn vertically, they provided direction and balance to the cords that supported the larger elements while also playing a key decorative role. Because of their position in the pendant, they had to be drilled completely through from top to bottom, a feat that required considerable percision. A close inspection of the perforation in this piece shows that most of the drilling was done from one side, with only a small area drilled from the opposite end. This allowed for most of the work to be completed from one setting of the drill and also avoided the problem of the fibers of the jade shattering as the drill cut through the final bit of surface.
This piece is decorated in a dense, overall repetition of the sprouting grain pattern. While the method of creating these patterns on a flat surface is easily understood (see # 58), the process must have been more complicated on a piece with a round profile. The flexibility of a string saw would allow for some of the preliminay work to be completed much as it was done on a flat surface. However, the finishing and polishing must have been extremely difficult and time consuming.
The jade this piece is fashioned from is very light, grayish white. It appears to have few inclusions and to be consistent in color. The surface is heavily stained with areas of brown and tan. In some areas the stains have penetrated cracks in the stone.
1. Ip Yee, no. 81
2. Kaogu Xue Bao, 1974, no. 2, plate 6, fig 1
Exhibition History: "Chinese Jade: Stone of Immortality", Cernuschi Museum, France, 9/26/1997 - 1/4/1998