1. (Undated Folder Sheet note) Bought from Seaouke Yue [You Xiaoxi] 游筱溪, Shanghai 上海. For price, see Special Voucher no. 28, January 1918. (Miscellaneous List, p. 319.) $6050.
2. (John Ellerton Lodge, 1941) The inscription cut in the lid of the box may read as here in the margin: "周更節。陶齋所藏古玉之一。褚德彜題。里堂。" And may be translated: "Tablet of the Chou [Zhou] 周 dynasty. A piece from T'ao chai [Taozhai]'s 陶齋 collection of ancient jades. Inscribed by Ch'u Te i, Li t'ang [Chu Deyi, Litang] 褚德彝，里堂." I have tentatively read the second character in the title as keng [geng] 更 in spite of the fact that its two lower strokes do not cross as they should; but I have not translated it. T'ao chai [Taozhai] 陶齋 is the hao 號 name of the well-known Viceroy Tuan Fang [Duanfang] 端方 (1861--1911) whose important collection, including jades, was slowly dispersed after his death (see, e.g., our F1917.396, F1919.13, F1919.32, F1919.38, F1919.39, F1919.41, F1919.42, etc.). Ch'u Te I [Chu Deyi] 褚德彝 (see folder F1934.3, Paragraph 2), a living scholar, served formerly as Curator of Tuan Fang's [Duanfang's] 端方 collection (Louise Wallace Hackney and Yau Chang-Foo, A Study of Chinese Paintings in the Collection of Ada Small Moore [New York: Oxford University Press, 1940], p. 190). His hao 號 name, Li t'ang [Litang] 里堂, is written also (ibid., p. 233); his tzu [zi] 字 name is Sung ch'uang [Songchuang] 松窗.
The most remarkable feature of this jade is, no doubt, its relatively enormous size: in this respect, at all events, it far surpasses the cleaver like blade published by Laufer [Berthold Laufer, Jade: A Study in Chinese Archaeology and Religion (Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History, 1912), pl. VIII: 2, p. 39] as "a unique specimen of extraordinary dimensions" which, however, measures only .369 x .132 over all. It is unusual, also, in its notched edges and in the amount of carving to which its surfaces have been subjected at various times. In general outline it is a trapezium, none of its edges being equal or paralleled to any other. Beginning at the broader end, and for a little more than two thirds of its length, the longest edge is grounded to the sharpness of a dull blade, while the remaining one third (or less) is cut away, in a series of plain and notched steps, to a maximum depth of .055 mm at the narrower end, thus producing the effect of a grip or handle of the blade.
The pattern of one of the notched steps is repeated in a notched ridge which projects from the edge of the broader end. There are also three conical perforations, almost equally spaced, which lie in a row parallel to the back of the blade. Now, the relationship between the features so far described seems to be fairly clear, --to the extent, at least, that they may all be reasonably regarded as original and contemporary; but from the other notable features of this jade--chiefly carved and engraved decorations--no such simple conclusion can be confidently drawn. For example, the two gouged out places--one on either surface of the blade--convey, in themselves, no suggestion either of period or of purpose. On the other hand, the inscription, though far too fragmentary to be legible, is obviously a relatively late addition. The remaining vestiges of it can be easily detected if the blade--its edge toward the observer and its broader end at the left--be examined against a glancing light. It will then be seen that there were once ten rather widely separated columns of characters practically filling the spaces between the three perforations to a depth of about .050 mm, and that a determined and largely successful effort has since been made to obliterate them. Recognizable details of a few characters, indeed, still exist--enough, perhaps, to suggest that more than one style of writing was used; but the only complete character at which a plausible guess can be made is the first one in the last column, which may have been chung [zhong] 忠. Then there is the crudely engraved group of a human head and an animal which appears four times--twice on either side of the blade. The animals in these groups may have been suggested to the engraver by the notched edges near which the groups are placed, and there can be no question that in design and technique all four groups look very much as though they must be contemporary with one another; nevertheless, it is worth noticing that the engraving of the two groups near the broader end of the blade, in comparison with that of the other two, looks much less fresh. In any case, however, there seems to be little doubt that all the groups are later additions to the decoration of the blade. Whether this is true also of the profile head carved on the narrower end of the blade may be a question; but I am inclined to answer it in the affirmative. The relationship of this head to others like it will be discussed in connection with our jade no. F1939.54; here let me simply say that its close relationship to those features of the blade which are clearly original (the form, the edge, the notches, the perforations) seems hardly conceivable. From them it differs so radically in inspiration, design and execution that, whatever the date of the earliest work on the blade may be, I feel no doubt of the profile head being by another hand and later. I believe, however, that it is the earliest of the decorative additions to the blade as, indeed, is indicated by the obvious possibility that it suggested the type of head chosen by the engraver of the four groups.
The term chieh [jie] 節, as used by Ch'u Te i [Chu Deyi] 褚德彝 in his box lid inscription, is, of course, too vague to define the type of which this blade is an example. According to Chou Li [Zhou Li] 周禮, chieh [jie] 節, though emblematic of the bearer's rank, were primarily tallies, tokens, credentials in general, and were various both in form and in material, including jade (see e.g., op. cit., "Ti kuan [Di guan] 地官," pp. 53--54 recto; "Ch'iu kuan [Qiu guan] 秋官," p. 48; and see Biot, Le Tcheou li [Zhou Li] 周禮, Tome I, pp. 333--336; Tome II, p. 412--413). Perhaps, therefore, a more nearly suitable general term in this case would be "jui [rui] 瑞," which the Chou Li [Zhou Li] 周禮 applies only to emblems of rank and power made of jade (see e.g., op. cit., "Ch'un kuan [Chun guan] 春官," p. 13; pp. 32--35; "Ch'iu kuan [Qiu guan] 秋官," p. 48 verso; and see Biot, op. cit., Tome I, pp. 431--432; p. 483 ff.; Tome II, pp. 413--414). However, another passage in Chou Li [Zhou Li] 周禮 suggests the possibility of arriving at a more accurate term for our blade. This passage (op. cit., "Tung kuan [Dong guan 冬官," p. 32 verso ff.; see Biot, op. cit., Tome II, p. 519 ff.) treats of "Holders of jade [yuren] 玉人" and enumerates many ceremonial jade emblems, their names, dimensions and the respective ranks of personages entitled to possess them. Thus it is said of the "Great Emblem" (ta kuei [dagui] 大圭) that it "is three feet (chih [chi] 尺) long. Above the taper is a chung k'uei [zhongkui] 終葵 head. The Son of Heaven uses it." This is confirmed in part by still another passage in Chou Li [Zhou Li] 周禮 which says (op. cit., "Ch'un kuan [Chun guan] 春官," p. 32 recto; and see Biot, op. cit., Tome I, p. 484): "The King attaches the Great Emblem to his person and holds the Emblem of Protection (chen kuei [zhengui] 鎮圭). . . . Thus he salutes the sun (at the vernal equinox)." Evidently, then, very large jade emblems, at least comparable with ours in size, were used by the Chou [Zhou] 周 kings; but since the exact lengths of the Chinese "foot" (chih [chi] 尺) and "inch" (ts'un [cun] 寸) of those days are not known, and since, moreover, it is altogether likely that there was then no such thing as a standard measure of length, the difficulty of expressing accurately the various dimensions given in Chou Li [Zhou Li] 周禮 is easily seen. However, Wu Ta ch'eng [Wu Dacheng] 吳大澂 has worked out two measures applicable to jades and has reproduced them on the page immediately following the Preface to his Ku yu t'u k'ao [Guyu tukao] 古玉圖考. Each is a "foot" rule made up of ten "inches"; but they differ in length. Wu calls the shorter "Chou [Zhou] 周 foot measure for the 'chen kuei [zhengui] 鎮圭," or Emblem of Protection; the longer he calls "Chou [Zhou] 周 foot measure for the 'chin kuei [jingui] 晉圭/搢圭," or Emblem attached to the person. Now the latter expression, "attached to the person" or "girded on" or "thrust through the belt" (chin [jin] 晉 or 搢), is used by Chou Li [Zhou Li] 周禮 in connection with the Great Emblem (ta kuei [dagui] 大圭),--the same Great Emblem, presumably, that is described as being "three feet long" (see above). Furthermore, since the emblem identified by Wu as a "ta kuei [dagui] 大圭" (op. cit., pp. 8--9 recto), though shorter, resembles our blade so nearly in form, it seems reasonable, on the whole, to identify the latter, also, as a "ta kuei [dagui] 大圭" and apply it to the foot measure worked out by Wu for "kuei [gui] 圭 attached to the person." This results in a length for our ta kuei [dagui] 大圭 of 3 feet 2 1/2 inches according to Wu's scale,--under the circumstances surprisingly close approximation, I should think, between the Chou Li [Zhou Li] 周禮 description and an actual object of the type described. Wu, on the other hand--without, however, an immediate reference to the scale he is using--gives the length of his ta kuei [dagui] 大圭 as 1 foot 9 inches--just one inch short of two feet; and inspired by this fact, no doubt, he goes on to express his opinion that the "three feet long" of the Chou Li [Zhou Li] 周禮 text must be a mistake for "two feet long;" but of this he offers no proof except, of course, the length of his ta kuei [dagui] 大圭. The length of ours, however, is equally valid proof that the Chou Li [Zhou Li] 周禮 text is correct as it stands. The only significant difference between Wu's ta kuei [dagui] 大圭 and ours seems to lie in the fact that his has but a single perforation near one end, whereas ours has three in a row near the back of the blade. However, Wu himself, in a note accompanying the reproduction of his longer foot measure (loc. cit.), describes the chin kuei [jingui] 晉圭/搢圭 as having, along its back, conical perforations (literally, "elephant nose holes") through which cords were passed so that the kuei [gui] 圭 could be attached to the bearer's girdle. It seems probably, therefore, that the number of suspension holes in a ta kuei [dagui] 大圭 was determined primarily as a matter of practical convenience, by its length.
In the first descriptive passage quoted above (Paragraph 4) from Chou Li [Zhou Li] 周禮, it is said of the ta kuei [dagui] 大圭: "Above the taper is a chung k'uei [zhongkui] 終葵 head," and the commentary explains that chung kuei [zhongkui] 終葵 means ch'ui [chui] 椎, "hammer." To the Ch'ien lung [Qianlong] 乾隆 editors of Chou Li [Zhou Li] 周禮, the phrase "above the taper is a hammer head" conveyed a definite idea of form which they reproduced in outline (see Biot, op. cit., Tome II, p. 523); but to me it conveys no idea at all; nor am I, with all due respect, inclined to accept the explanation of it offered by Wu Ta ch'eng [Wu Dacheng] 吳大澂 (op. cit., pp. 3--4, recto), who discusses the phrase at some length, understands it to mean: "made sloping above so as to form a hammer head," and identifies the hammer head with the chamfered corner of his ta kuei [dagui] 大圭. A further interpretation is offered by de Groot [J. J. M. de Groot, The Religious System of China, Its Ancient Forms, Evolution, History and Present Aspect, Manners, Customs and Social Institution Connected therewith, vol. 6 (Leyden : E. J. Brill, 1910), pp. 1172--73], who sees it in the ta kuei [dagui] 大圭, with its chung k'uei [zhongkui] 終葵 head, the origin of the renowned Demon Queller, Chung K'uei [Zhong Kui] 鍾馗, whose name and powers the Chinese have long invoked, by pictures and written charms, to rid their lives of evil influences. This idea at least suggests a possibility that the profile head on the smaller end of our ta kuei [dagui] 大圭 may be intended to represent Chung K'uei [Zhong Kui] 鍾馗 the Demon Queller.
3. (George Perkins Merrill, 1922) That's a beauty. I should call that jade a weathered piece--oxidation all through it.
4. (Elisabeth West Fitzhugh, 1959) Identified as nephrite by x ray diffraction (Film F 819).
5. (H. Elise Buckman, 1964) The Envelope File contained no further information, and has now been destroyed.
6. (Thomas Lawton, 1978) Western Chou [Zhou] 周. The monster motifs executed in thread like relief are contemporaneous with the blade, and the crudely incised tigers were probably added later.
7. (Julia K. Murray, 1980) Attribution is changed from Western Chou [Zhou] 周 to Shang 商, ca. 1523--1028 BCE.
8. (Julia K. Murray, 1982) The area between the perforations on the incised side (the side from which the holes were drilled) is markedly less brown than the rest of the jade. This circumstance suggests that the brown color is artificially induced stain that came off in the area where the inscription was ground off. The blade is very flat and the holes very regular; in other words, the piece is somewhat archaistic in general appearance. The notched flanges also seem different from archaic examples (see the 7 holed jade blade found at Erh li t'ou [Erlitou] 二里頭; Robert W. Bagley, "The Beginnings of the Bronze Age: The Erlitou Culture Period," in The Great Bronze Age of China: An Exhibition from The People's Republic of China, ed. Wen Fong [New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1980], cat. 3). I am now inclined to regard the blade as archaistic. (The British Museum has a comparable blade that is unquestionably archaistic (1947,0712.449); it is of nearly the same size as F1918.1.1 and seems to be the same kind of stone. Along the handle edge it has archaistic dragon head profiles executed in a combination of relief spirals and incised curls.) Hayashi Minao, on the other hand, argues that it is Neolithic on the basis of the profile head executed in thread relief (Hayashi Minao 林巳奈夫, "Chūgoku kodai no ishibōchōkei gyokki to kotsusenkei gyokki 中國古代の石庖丁形玉器と骨鏟形玉器 = Two Types of Prehistorical Chinese Ceremonial Jade Objects: Stone Harvesting Knives and Bone Spades," Tōhō gakuhō 東方學報 54 , pp. 1--81).
For a further discussion see F1917.24.
9. (Stephen Allee as per Keith Wilson, June 11, 2008) Changed Period from "Neolithic Period or Shang 商 dynasty" to "Late Neolithic period;" changed Date from "ca. 2000--1500 BCE" to "ca. 2500--2000 BCE;" added Artist "Qijia 齊家 culture;" added Previous Owner to Constituents: "Ex collection Duanfang 端方, 1861--1911;" changed Object Name from "Weapon: knife" to "Ceremonial object;" added "Northwest" to Geographical Location; and added Dimensions per Christine Lee, from Jade Project Database. Also added designation "nephrite" to Medium as per Elizabeth W. Fitzhugh, August 1959, as determined by x ray diffraction; and confirmed by Wen Guang 聞廣 in June 1997, as determined by infrared spectroscopy.
10. (Jeffrey Smith per Keith Wilson, July 16, 2008) Ceremonial Object added as secondary classification.
11. (Susan Kitsoulis per Keith Wilson, April 2, 2010) Title changed from "Ritual knife" to "Harvesting knife (hu 笏) with mask and felines, fragment." Deleted "Qija 齊家 culture"; changed geographical location from "Northwest China" to "China"; date from "ca. 2500--2000 BCE" to "ca. 2000--1700 BCE."
12. (Rebecca Merritt, December 17, 2013) Transferred from Published References: Wu Hung 巫鴻, "I-tsu tsao-ch'i ti yu-shih tiao-k'e [Yizu zaoqi de yushi diaoke] 一組早期的玉石雕刻," Mei-shu yen-chiu [Meishu yanjiui] 美術研究 1979.1, fig.3.
13. (Jeffrey Smith, April 14, 2016) Transferred from Description: Chinese, Shang, 1523-1028 B.C., Ceremonial weapon.
"Ta kuei:" a large, cleaver-like blade (slightly chipped; 1 corner broken off) of nephrite mottled in shades of gray, green and brown, somewhat translucent; carved and engraved decorations; vestiges of an inscription. Inscribed box.