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General Information:

The artifacts shown on this site are unsalable, they serve only for orientation to purchase similar artifacts. All artifacts shown, are taken from the private collection of Ernst-Dieter Henze.

In many old cultures the meaning and use of these objects are often not sufficiently investigated yet, and/or has been lost. This small contribution don't lift up any claim of completeness, because many assertions/descriptions are subject of different interpretations and opinions.

General - Chinese Chronology

In almost all cultures on our earth meets us in the ornaments and the religious associated fields - from prehistoric times until presence - the fascination of the circle, the disk and the ring. Particularly expressively you will find this in the art of the chinese BI-DISK, and about this we will meditate now.

About the Jade itself:

The Chinese word "YU" for Jade is a collective name for several kinds of stone, as Jadeit, Nephrit, Serpentin and Aventurin, for which the last two kinds nowadays not described any more for Jade.

The name "YU" is quite extensive and means translated: "noble", "pure", "treasure" "jewel", or in general, a stone, which is valied to be polished".

Jade/Jadeit, (Mohs)-hardness 6-6,5, belongs to the group of Augite (Greek brightness) or also called Pyroxene (Greek fire). Jade is counted as one of the precious stones.

Described as "Jade", is also Nephrit, (Mohs)-hardness 5,5-6, which is a "Hornblende" variation. Very often it will be used instead of Jade, because it is more easily to work.

The primary colour of the Jade is colourless, however, mostly whitish -- milky, non-transparent (so-called Mutton Fat Jade).

As most minerals, the large colour variety of Jade arises from different mineralogical contamination:

For example, Chrome contamination will give the Jade a beautiful emerald green (Emerald Jade), with Iron compounds it is brown, Manganese contamination will get violet colours and a Calzium contamination lets to a lot of different colours as white, pale greenly, red, brown and sometimes also blue.

Because of his colour variety, hardness, smoothness and his durability, it got very esteemed for the artists of the old time, yes, even until our time, for the production of all sorts of use objects, like jewellery and even musical instruments.

Today Fakes are offered on the market from the much more softer Serpentin, a magnesium silicate with (Mohs)-hardness 3-4. The expensive emerald green Jade is produced by artificial colouring of white Jade. Please note, that this also happened in prehistoric times. One goes even so far to sell pieces as Jade, produced from (Lead) crystal glass.

Feminine Figur made of white Jade.

Six Dynasties

(220 - 586 AD)

Antique Colouring (dying) and Waxing of Jade

Jade (Nephrit) is, depending on hardness, an easy mineral to contaminate, in the way that the surface and colour strongly can be changed depending of surrounding environmental influences.

Since most jade objects were deposited for ritual purposes in graves and grave plants, so they had to be treated correspondingly to conserve the jade surface over a longer time period more beautifully and more permanently against contamination and colour changes.

Contamination facts were:

Natural soil chemicals which were activated by the ground water, corrosion products of iron- and bronze objects added to the burials, rottenness products of the organic burial additions and the body of the deceased, chemicals like red chalk, a reddish ferro oxyde compound, which were often used in large quantities around the tomb (red chalk is an reddish iron oxide mineral won from Hämatit (Fe2O3), further on the chemical influence of mercury additions which coloured the jade deep brown till black, and finally also high temperatures from fire burials.

All these circumstances were also known to the old Chinese and because of this, they took corresponding measures; the jade surface was conserved with hot wax and/or in boiling grease/wax.

These wax and layers of fat have itself, depending on ground aggressiveness and storage of the artefacts, sometimes lasted for centuries in form of strong encrustations on the artifact surface. Therefore many jade artifacts have a greasy, sometimes mixed with grease and sand smeared surface, which will appear after cleaning the artifact. Engravings, cracks and deepening which were closed by the wax, sometimes look as new. Therefore it is always important to judge the complete surface about the genuineness of an ancient jade object, which could be very variously aged depending to the earlier preservation measures. After statement of Chinese experts, found Jade artifacts will be cleaned and then conserved with wax until present times, to reach again the natural colour of the stone as far as possible.

Now some words for colouring (dying) of jade artifacts. On reason of the above-mentioned contamination properties of jade objects, the jade was already coloured artificially for millenniums.

Why got the Jade artificially coloured (dyed)?

Since jade was very preciously and rarely available with the desired colours, the way with more moderate costs was taken- the jade was coloured artificially.

For example during the Han Dynasty and in the Middle Ages, reddish to reddish brown colours were wanted. The colouring was carried out in boiling lies and greases with corresponding ingredients such as iron compounds, which caused a beautiful brown, to reddish brown colour of the jade.

The Bi (Pi)-Disk and their Use:

All Bi-Disks are in principle flat disks with a central opening in the middle.

Narrowly associated with the use of the Bi-Disk, is the CULTURAL SIGNIFICATION of the JADE itself.

Until today the Jade is still used as symbol of love and community in differently folkloric figures, amulets and other ornaments. A small Jade Cock for example means devotedness, a goose faithfulness, a butterfly love and a bamboo tribe, worked into Jade, gets the bride as desire for endless love and luck.

Jade was already used for weapons, body jewellery and for ritual objects in the old China about 7000 years ago.

In all Chinese cultures the Jade was valued highly because of his physical features, like his hardness and thus obliged durability, his colour variety, his transparency and his beauty after polishing.

Because of these excellent features Jade Objects and Jade Jewellery were regarded as a symbol of the power at the old Chinese rulers. Thus obliged, Jade was used for ceremonial and ritual purposes as well as use as sign of intellectual power.

Therfore many Jade Objects are narrowly connected to the body and the identification of a person, such as belt buckles, pendants and hair jewellery (hair rings). Jade Daggers and swords showed the social status of a person by the kind of carving and ornamentation. Jade was also very important in the range of different amulets and accompanied at long last a deceased into the grave. To this belongs, among other things, also different Jade Bi-Disks, which were part of this.

The shape, size, use and meaning, including the symbolism, changed in the course of the millenniums and was respectively accompanied by a various meaning and valuation under the different dynasties.

For example in the ZHOU Dynasty (ca. 11th BC-256 BC) the Bi-Disk was seen as symbol of the sky and/or the sun. The valency of Bi-Disks went so far, that in the eventuality of a war, the inferior had to hand over the winner its Bi-Disks as sign of the submission.

One thought the Jade would bring rain, kept demons and poisonous animals away, would bring honour, success, and at apart set reeds got the victory and quenched the thirst. Furthermore It should guarantee long life, if it was cut as a stork or a bat.

Jade Bangles are used to this day, since one still thinks, that these protect themselves from rheumatism.

Jade Cups were used for serving the meal since one was of the opinion that the power of the Jade would transfer into the meal. A beverage produced from Jade Powder should work against cold and hunger and should be blood-cleansing.

During her conferences and negotiations merchants and court official held Jade Objects in their hands to attain strength management and wisdom.

Even if Jade couldn't prevent the death, so one thought, that Jade anyway could preserve the body. Therefore had Jade, particularly Bi-Disks, a solid place at the funeral ceremonies.

Going out from neolithic periods, Bi-Disks were lay down into the graves of the dead.

The summary of old ritual texts has recognized, that the Bi-Disk as sky symbol, should accompany the dead into the sky, in which these rites were only left for the aristocratic class.

A dead man, all body openings got closed with Jade Pieces. Different Bi-Disks were placed in the back, the thoracic region, at the head and bottom-end and to the right and to the left of the dead person.

A black Bi-Disk which was used for dead man rituals.

A BLACK Jade Bi-Disk, dating to

Ming Dynasty, 1368 - 1644 AD

Therfore one of the most essential objects was the Bi-Disk for funerals and also as status and power symbol of the ruling class, since they were only able with the help of the Bi-Disk, to get the connection between the earth and the sky.

Bi (Pi)-Disks:

In principle, the Bi-Disk is a carved, mostly a round Jade Disk, with one middle hole of most various size. It will be used as status symbol, for ritual and/or symbolic purposes. The oldest pieces are dating from the neolithic period (HongShan- and LiangZhu cultures) and are only scanty or not decorated at all. They have on both sides smooth surfaces only, (as of 6000 year and younger).

Later pieces are then decorated extremely with ornaments, waves, characters and various mythical animals. Although not proved, symbolize these disks the sun and/or the sky and be signs of eternal life (circle without beginning and without end).

Coarse Timing:

Since the neolithic times, the Hermadu culture, about 6000 years BC, until today, the Jade is processed and used continuously by the chineses. The temporal classification of the Bi-Disks is quite difficult, because the associated field of these artifacts is still quite incompletely investigated.

Since Bi-Disks were found in grave plants of different dynasties it is possible to distinguish these often according the carved pattern and motives.

For example the Warring States, 480-249 BC, the Han Dynasties 202 BC 220 AD, the Sui Dynasties 589-618 AD and the Tang Dynasties 618-907 AD, which all have special carvings and pattern.

Neolithic Carving on a Bi-Disk


Although the Jade was estimated in many cultures on earth, China is the only country in which the Jade has reached a so high place of value.

Jade and/or Jadeit Deposit and processing places are known from Burma, Central America, Brazil, Canada, Japan, India, Sibieria, Finland, Tanzania and other countries.

Chinese Bi-Disks which were produced until the Shang period (1300-1030 AD) have parallels of similar rings/disks in the Siberian Baikal region. Here also a connection to China could be established, what Jade deliveries from Siberia to China concerns.

More mentioning possible deposit places are HONAN or SHANSI; however at present no finding datas are existing from this area.

From examinations it follows, that presumable also Jade from 200 to 39 B.C. from SINKIANK was imported.

KHOTAN in the western Central Asia was already a supplier of Jade, of the Middle Ages until today. Old Russian sources go back however much further, then to process Jade/Nephrit slowly with grinding powders, was not only known in the old China, but were practised much earlier in the range of the Baikals and the Ural area. The processing was much more coarser and however didn't reach the quality and beauty of the Chinese work.

Neolithic Carving on a Bi-Disk

Size of Bi-Disks:

The outside diameter and the complete size of a Bi-Disk vary till about 1 cm, up to about 1 m, but it likes to give surely even larger Bi-Disks. The average size lies about 25-30 cm.


We just remind, that only the two minerals Nephrit and Jadeit are appreciated internationally as true Jade. Due to the extreme hardness it is very time expensive and exhausting to process these materials. This has has not changed over all the millenniums until present time, true Jade hardly can be scratched even with a steel needle.

At the purchase of Jade one should consider that many stones like Agate, Rock Crystal, Amethyst, Quartz, Alabaster or other stones than Jade in China are sold for Jade, although the international names don't correspond to this. None of these stones reaches however the hardness of true Jade. If one buys a Jade art work, one shouldn't respect the processing only but also the material. The most valuable works are not the monochrome stones but the work of multi-coloured Jade.

To produce an art object of Jade, the artist proceeds as follows:

1.) The corresponding stone, for the object intended for this purpose, gets selected. For that the size, form, granulation, colour and the brightness are taken into consideration for the object to be manufactured.

2.) The form will be drawn on the stone.

3.) With a special tool and diamond paste the desired form is worked out, at this one follows the colours of the stone to consider it into the workpiece.

4.) Then the workpiece is polished until the desired brightness is reached. For polishing one used another stone pressing it against the working piece with polishing paste.

We remember, many different operations like sawing, drilling and polishing are required to produce a true Jade Art Carving.

Before one purchases a Jade work, one should consider and imagine which time expensive efforts are required, to produce a beautiful work of Jade Art!

Legality of artifacts:

All artefacts are legally acquired, mostly from collections of old collectors who have mostly collected their artifacts around the turn of the century.

For most foreign artefacts corresponding import papers are available.

All artefacts are guaranteed of prehistoric or ethnologic origin, and after best knowledge and conscience don't date from questionable sources, from which He-Artefakte dissociated themselves.

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All rights, also the statement wise reprinting, photo mechanical or digital reproduction, alteration and translation are reserved only to Ernst-Dieter Henze, He-Artefakte.

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