An exceptionally large jade notched disc (xuanji), Late Neolithic period-Shang dynasty


Lot 67. An exceptionally large jade notched disc (xuanji), Late Neolithic period-Shang dynasty. Diameter 13 1/8  in., 33.4 cm. Estimate 60,000 — 80,000 USD. Lot Sold 300,000 USD. Photo: Sotheby's.

the outer edge carved with three pronounced notches forming three arcs, each set with a pair of triple-notched serrations, the center pierced with large circular aperture, a double-line lightly carved  across one side, the calcified stone well-polished to a mottled whitish-gray with black veining, one side with faint traces of a leiwen pattern.

Provenance: Gordon Harris, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1971.

LiteratureDr. Peter M. Greiner, Astronomical Instruments End of the Shang or Beginning of the Chou Dynasty, (Master Thesis), University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1981. 

NoteDiscs feature prominently among jade artefacts recovered from sites of the Neolithic period to Han dynasty. Among them, notched discs form a small but distinctive group. Defined by the deep indentations that divide the circumference into segments, the earliest examples have been found in late Neolithic sites on the east coast in Shandong province and in the west in Shaanxi province. For an overview on the development of notched discs, see Jessica Rawson, Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, London, 1995, pp. 160-162.

The present disc is unusually large, and only one other jade notched disc of this impressive size appears to be recorded, from the David David-Weill collection, sold in our Paris rooms, 16th December 2015, lot 24 (fig. 1).

An exceptional jade notched disc, xuanji, late Neolithic period to Shang dynasty

An exceptional jade notched disc, xuanji, late Neolithic period to Shang dynasty. Sold 339,000 € at Sotheby’s Paris, 16th December 2015, lot 24Photo: Sotheby's.

A much smaller disc excavated from Lizhuang, Teng Xian, Shandong province, attributed to the Longshan culture of the Neolithic period (ca. 2500-2000 BC) shows a closely related profile to the present disc, compare Zhongguo yuqi quanji, vol. 1, Hebei, 1992, no. 42. 

Several notched discs can be found in collections formed in the 1920s and 1930s, such as a disc formerly in the Eumorfopoulos Collection, London, and later acquired by the British Museum in 1937, illustrated in Soame Jenyns, Chinese Archaic Jades in the British Museum, London, 1951, pl. X. Compare also an example from the collection of HRH King Gustav VI Adolf of Sweden, published in Nils Palmgren, Selected Chinese Antiquities from the Collection of Gustav Adolf Crown Prince of Sweden, Stockholm, 1948, pl. 40.1. 

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, New York, 13 Sep 2017, 10:00 AM