A Han-era bi, 16 cm in diameter.
The bi is a type of circular ancient Chinese jade artifact. The earliest bi were produced in the Neolithic period, particularly by the Liangzhu culture (3400–2250 BCE).Later examples date mainly from the Shang, Zhou and Han dynasties. They were also made in glass.
A bi is a flat jade disc with a circular hole in the centre. Neolithic bi are undecorated, while those of later periods of China, like the Zhou dynasty, bear increasingly ornate surface carving (particularly in a hexagonal pattern) whose motifs represented deities associated with the sky (four directions) as well as standing for qualities and powers the wearer wanted to invoke or embody.
As laboriously crafted objects, they testify to the concentration of power and resources in the hands of a small elite.
Later traditions associate the bi with heaven, and the cong with the earth. Bi disks are consistently found with heaven and earth-like imagery, suggesting that the disk's circular shape also bears symbolic significance as this description explains:
It is found that these objects testify to early stages of development of cosmological concepts that remained important in Chinese culture during the Warring States and Han periods: the notion of a covering sky (gaitian) that revolves around a central axis, the cycle of the Ten Suns, and the use of an early form of the carpenter's square. These objects were handled by shamans who were the religious leaders of Liangzhu society and the transmitters of cosmological knowledge.
From these earliest times they were buried with the dead, as a sky symbol, accompanying the dead into the after world or "sky", with the cong which connected the body with the earth.They were placed ceremonially on the body in the grave of persons of high social status. Bi are sometimes found near the stomach and chest in neolithic burials.
Jade, like bi disks, has been used throughout Chinese history to indicate an individual of moral quality, and has also served as an important symbol of rank. They were used in worship and ceremony – as ceremonial items they symbolised the ranks of emperor, king, duke, marquis, viscount, and baron with four different Guis and two different bi disks.
In war during the Zhou dynasty period (c. 1046–256 BCE), bi disks belonging to the leaders of the defeated forces were handed over to the victor as a sign of submission.
In 1790 AD, the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty had an ancient bi inscribed with a message. He also wrote a poem entitled: "Verses Composed on Matching a Ding-ware Ceramic with an Ancient Jade Bowl Stand". It reads as follows: "It is said there were no bowls in antiquity / but if so, then where did this stand come from? It is said that this stand dates to later times / but the jade is antique. It is also said that a bowl called wan is the same as a basin called yu, but only differing from it in size". He also wrote: "This stand is made of ancient jade / but the jade bowl that once went with it is long gone. As one cannot show a stand without a bowl / we have selected a ceramic from the Ding kiln for it". He has also included the day, and year on the disc. The Qianlong emperor assumed the bi was a bowl stand, so he found a bowl and engraved it with messages to match the ones he engraved on the disc. This bi disc was also used for the Qianlong Emperor's funeral, and was also used for high status people's funerals as well. The bi is now kept in the British Museum's collection.
The design of the reverse side of the medals given in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China are based on bi disks.
Chinese art is visual art that, whether ancient or modern, originated in or is practiced in China or by Chinese artists. The Chinese art in the Republic of China (Taiwan) and that of overseas Chinese can also be considered part of Chinese art where it is based in or draws on Chinese heritage and Chinese culture. Early "Stone Age art" dates back to 10,000 BC, mostly consisting of simple pottery and sculptures. After this early period Chinese art, like Chinese history, is typically classified by the succession of ruling dynasties of Chinese emperors, most of which lasted several hundred years.
Chinese mythology is mythology that has been passed down in oral form or recorded in literature in the geographic area now known as "China". Chinese mythology includes many varied myths from regional and cultural traditions. Chinese mythology is far from monolithic, not being an integrated system, even among just Han people. Chinese mythology is encountered in the traditions of various classes of people, geographic regions, historical periods including the present, and from various ethnic groups. China is the home of many mythological traditions, including that of Han Chinese and their Huaxia predecessors, as well as Tibetan mythology, Turkic mythology, Korean mythology, Japanese mythology and many others. However, the study of Chinese mythology tends to focus upon material in Chinese language.
The Shanghai Museum is a museum of ancient Chinese art, situated on the People's Square in the Huangpu District of Shanghai, China. Rebuilt at its current location in 1996, it is considered one of China's first world-class modern museums.
The Liangzhu culture was the last Neolithic jade culture in the Yangtze River Delta of China. The culture was highly stratified, as jade, silk, ivory and lacquer artifacts were found exclusively in elite burials, while pottery was more commonly found in the burial plots of poorer individuals. This division of class indicates that the Liangzhu period was an early state, symbolized by the clear distinction drawn between social classes in funeral structures. A pan-regional urban center had emerged at the Liangzhu city-site and elite groups from this site presided over the local centers. The Liangzhu culture was extremely influential and its sphere of influence reached as far north as Shanxi and as far south as Guangdong. Liangzhu site was perhaps among the oldest Neolithic sites in East Asia that would be considered a state society. The type site at Liangzhu was discovered in Yuhang County, Zhejiang and initially excavated by Shi Xingeng in 1936. A 2007 analysis of the DNA recovered from human remains shows high frequencies of Haplogroup O1 in Liangzhu culture linking this culture to modern Austronesian and Tai-Kadai populations. It is believed that the Liangzhu culture or other associated subtraditions are the ancestral homeland of Austronesian speakers.
Ding (鼎) are prehistoric and ancient Chinese cauldrons, standing upon legs with a lid and two facing handles. They are one of the most important shapes used in Chinese ritual bronzes. They were made in two shapes: round vessels with three legs and rectangular ones with four, the latter often called fangding. They were used for cooking, storage, and ritual offerings to the gods or to ancestors. The earliest recovered examples are pre-Shang ceramic ding at the Erlitou site but they are better known from the Bronze Age, particularly after the Zhou deemphasized the ritual use of wine practiced by the Shang kings. Under the Zhou, the ding and the privilege to perform the associated rituals became symbols of authority. The number of permitted ding varied according to one's rank in the Chinese nobility: the Nine Ding of the Zhou kings were a symbol of their rule over all China but were lost by the first emperor, Shi Huangdi in the late 3rd century BCE. Subsequently, imperial authority was represented by the Heirloom Seal of the Realm, carved out of the sacred Heshibi; it was lost at some point during the Five Dynasties after the collapse of the Tang.
The Nanjing Museum is located in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province in East China. With an area of 70,000 square metres, it is one of the largest museums in China. The museum has over 400,000 items in its permanent collection, making it one of the largest in China. Especially notable is the museum's enormous collections of Ming and Qing imperial porcelain, which is among the largest in the world.
A cong is a form of ancient Chinese jade artifact. It was later also used in ceramics.
Mr. He's jade or Heshibi (和氏璧) was one of the most famous jades in Chinese history. In the mid-8th century BCE, Bian He (卞和) of Chu discovered an unworked piece of valuable jade and presented it to two successive kings, each of whom judged the jade to be a worthless stone and punished his apparent deception with a foot amputation. When the jade was finally cut and polished into a ritual bi it was recognized as a priceless treasure. Mr. He's jade-disk became an object of contention among the Warring States, it was stolen from Chu circa the 4th century BCE, acquired by the Zhao, and temporarily traded to Qin in 283 BCE. When the Qin dynasty was founded in 221 BCE, Mr. He's renowned bi jade was carved into the Heirloom Seal of the Realm, which was transmitted through subsequent Chinese dynasties until it was lost during the 10th century.
The Shijiahe culture was a late Neolithic culture centered on the middle Yangtze River region in Shijiahe Town, Tianmen, Hubei Province, China. It succeeded the Qujialing culture in the same region and inherited its unique artefact of painted spindle whorls. Pottery figurines and distinct jade worked with advanced techniques were also common to the culture.
Taotie (饕餮) are ancient Chinese mythological creatures that were commonly emblazoned on bronze and other artifacts during the 1st millennium BC. Taotie are one of the "four evil creatures of the world". In Chinese classical texts such as the "Classic of Mountains and Seas", the fiend is named alongside the Hundun (混沌), Qiongqi (窮奇) and Taowu (梼杌). They are opposed by the Four Holy Creatures, the Azure Dragon, Vermilion Bird, White Tiger and Black Tortoise. The four fiends are also juxtaposed with the four benevolent animals which are Qilin (麒麟), Dragon (龍), Turtle (龜) and Fenghuang (鳳凰).
Chinese jade refers to the jade mined or carved in China from the Neolithic onward. It is the primary hardstone of Chinese sculpture. Although deep and bright green jadeite is better known in Europe, for most of China's history, jade has come in a variety of colors and white "mutton-fat" nephrite was the most highly praised and prized. Native sources in Henan and along the Yangtze were exploited since prehistoric times and have largely been exhausted; most Chinese jade today is extracted from the northwestern province of Xinjiang.
Since the second half of the 20th century, inscriptions have been found on pottery in a variety of locations in China, such as Banpo near Xi'an, as well as on bone and bone marrows at Hualouzi, Chang'an County near Xi'an. These simple, often geometric, marks have been frequently compared to some of the earliest known Chinese characters appearing on the oracle bones, and some have taken them to mean that the history of Chinese writing extends back over six millennia. However, only isolated instances of these symbols have been found, and they show no indication of representing speech or of the non-pictorial processes that a writing system requires.
Ancient Chinese glass refers to all types of glass manufactured in China prior to the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). In Chinese history, glass played a peripheral role in the arts and crafts, when compared to ceramics and metal work. The limited archaeological distribution and use of glass objects are evidence of the rarity of the material. Literary sources date the first manufacture of glass to the 5th century AD. However, the earliest archaeological evidence for glass manufacture in China comes from the Warring States period.
Sets and individual examples of ritual bronzes survive from when they were made mainly during the Chinese Bronze Age. Ritual bronzes create quite an impression both due to their sophistication of design and manufacturing process, but also because of their remarkable durability. From around 1650 BCE, these elaborately decorated vessels were deposited as grave goods in the tombs of royalty and the nobility, and were evidently produced in very large numbers, with documented excavations finding over 200 pieces in a single royal tomb. They were produced for an individual or social group to use in making ritual offerings of food and drink to his or their ancestors and other deities or spirits. Such ceremonies generally took place in family temples or ceremonial halls over tombs. These ceremonies can be seen as ritual banquets in which both living and dead members of a family were to supposed participate. Details of these ritual ceremonies are preserved through early literary records. On the death of the owner of a ritual bronze, it would often be placed in his tomb, so that he could continue to pay his respects in the afterlife; other examples were cast specifically as grave goods. Indeed, many surviving examples have been excavated from graves.
Ancient Chinese urban planning encompasses the diverse set of cultural beliefs, social and economic structures, and technological capacities that historically influenced urban design in the early period of Chinese civilization. Factors that have shaped the development of Chinese urban ism include: fengshui geomancy and astronomy; the well-field system; the cosmological belief that Heaven is round and the Earth is square, the concept of qi ; political power shared between a ruling house and educated advisers; the holy place bo; a three-tiered economic system under state control; early writing; and the walled capital city as a diagram of political power.
Chinese shamanism, alternatively called Wuism, refers to the shamanic religious tradition of China. Its features are especially connected to the ancient Neolithic cultures such as the Hongshan culture. Chinese shamanic traditions are intrinsic to Chinese folk religion.
Chinese theology, which comes in different interpretations according to the classic texts and the common religion, and specifically Confucian, Taoist and other philosophical formulations, is fundamentally monistic, that is to say it sees the world and the gods of its phenomena as an organic whole, or cosmos, which continuously emerges from a simple principle. This is expressed by the concept that "all things have one and the same principle". This principle is commonly referred to as Tiān 天, a concept generally translated as "Heaven", referring to the northern culmen and starry vault of the skies and its natural laws which regulate earthly phenomena and generate beings as their progenitors. Ancestors are therefore regarded as the equivalent of Heaven within human society, and therefore as the means connecting back to Heaven which is the "utmost ancestral father". Chinese theology may be also called Tiānxué 天學, a term already in use in the 17th and 18th century.
[In contrast to the God of Western religions who is outside space and time] the God of Fuxi, Xuanyuan and Wang Yangming is in our space and time. ... To Chinese thought, ancestor is creator.
The Wǔfāng Shàngdì, or simply Wǔdì or Wǔshén are, in Chinese canonical texts and common Chinese religion, the fivefold manifestation of the supreme God of Heaven. This theology harkens back at least to the Shang dynasty. Described as the "five changeable faces of Heaven", they represent Heaven's cosmic activity which shapes worlds as tán 壇, "altars", imitating its order which is visible in the starry vault, the north celestial pole and its spinning constellations. The Five Deities themselves represent these constellations. In accordance with the Three Powers they have a celestial, a terrestrial and a chthonic form. The Han Chinese identify themselves as the descendants of the Red and Yellow Deities.
Xuzhou Museum is a comprehensive museum of historical Chinese art in Xuzhou, Jiangsu, China, which was founded in 1959. Originally the site of one of the Qianlong Emperor's Palaces at the northern foot of Yunlong Mountain, the Xuzhou Museum was established in 1959, expanded in 1999, then rebuilt and extended in 2010, with work completed in 2012. At present, it encompasses an area of 40,000 square meters. The museum includes a four-story exhibition building and administers the Xanadu Palace and Stone Tablet Garden of the Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty built for his inspection tour of the south of the Yangtze River in 1757. It also administers three tombs of the Pengcheng King of the Eastern Han Dynasty in Tu Shan, that includes an excavation site of Han Dynasty terracotta warriors and horses.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bi .|
|Look up bi in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|