Dagger-axe (ge 戈)

Large emblematic weapon of the type ko [ge] 戈 (Broken in two and mended; one chip missing). Mottled gray, black and brownish nephrite, somewhat translucent; decorative band of parallel and criss-cross lines engraved on the butt of the blade; a conical perforation in the tang; inscription of thirty characters.

Acquired with a wooden box, lid now lost.

Maker(s)
Artist: Erlitou culture 二里頭 (ca. 2000-1600 BCE)
Historical period(s)
Erlitou culture or early Shang dynasty, ca. 2000-ca. 1400 BCE
Medium
Jade (nephrite)
Dimensions
H x W x D: 10.2 x 67.1 x 0.6 cm (4 x 26 7/16 x 1/4 in)
Geography
China, probably Henan province
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1919.13a-c
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Ceremonial Object, Jade
Type

Ceremonial object: dagger-axe (ge)

Keywords
China, Erligang period (ca. 1500 - ca. 1300 BCE), nephrite
Provenance

Reportedly presented to the first Duke of Shao (Shao gong 召公 ), Shih [Shi] 奭 [1]

1903
Reportedly unearthed at Qishan 岐山, Fengxiang xian 鳳翔縣, Shaanxi 陝西 Province; said to be from the grave of the first Duke of Shao (Shao gong 召公 ), Shi 奭, the Taibao 太保 [2]

1903
Wu Ching-t'ing 武敬亭 (Wu Jingting) [3]

To 1911
Duanfang (1861-1911), Beijing, China [4]

1911 - 1918
Descendants of Duanfang, Beijing, China [5]

1918 - 1919
You Xiaoxi 游篠溪 (late 19th century - mid-20th century), Shanghai, China purchased from Duanfang's family in October 1918 [6]

1917 - 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Seaouke Yue in 1919 [7]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [8]

Notes:

[1] See object's inscription and Pang Huaijing 龐懷靖, "Pa T'ai pao yu ke [Ba Taibao yuge] 跋太保玉戈," in K'ao-ku yu wen-wu [Kaogu yu wenwu] 考古與文物 1986.1, pp. 70-73.

[2] See note 1.

[3] See note 1.

[4] This jade was formerly in the collection of Duanfang 端方 and was published in his posthumous T'ao chai ku-yu t'u [Taozhai guyu tu] 陶齋古玉圖, vol. 1 (Shanghai: Laiqingge, 1936), pp. 84--85, where it is called a "jade sword 玉刀. See also, curatorial notes in accession file F1918.1.

[5] You Xiaoxi (Seaouke Yue) sold several objects that were part of Duanfang's collection from 1916-1919; he acquired these objects through the family of Duanfang. Seaouke Yue cites the Duanfang provenance in documentation from the American Consular Service, see: "Special Certificate from American Consular Service," signed by Charles E. Kline, American Vice Counsul, May 20, 1919, copy in object file. This object is included in the inventory of box II as number 63. In this certificate, Yue states that he acquired from the Duanfang [Tuan Fang] collection in October of 1918.

[6] See note 4 and S.I. 1392, Original Miscellaneous List, pg. 323, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[7] See note 5. Upon purchased from Seaouke Yue, Freer had this object - and others purchased from Yue at the same time - immediately shipped to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. See: "Special Certificate from American Consular Service," cited in note 4.

[8] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s)

Wu Ching-t'ing
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Duanfang 1861-1911
You Xiaoxi (C.L. Freer source) late 19th-early 20th century
Descendants of Duanfang 20th century

Description

Large emblematic weapon of the type ko [ge] 戈 (Broken in two and mended; one chip missing). Mottled gray, black and brownish nephrite, somewhat translucent; decorative band of parallel and criss-cross lines engraved on the butt of the blade; a conical perforation in the tang; inscription of thirty characters.

Acquired with a wooden box, lid now lost.

Label

This is one of the largest jades to survive from ancient China. While the shape is based on early Bronze Age weapons, its exceptional size and thinness indicate it was a symbol of power meant for public display, not battle. The incised inscription near the base of the blade—rare among early jades—commemorates the Taibao’s successful mission to the south during the early years of the Zhou dynasty. In appreciation, the king presented this valued antique blade to the Grand Protector, who had it inscribed with a new text.

In the sixth month on the day bingyin the king was at Feng [west of modern Xi’an]. He ordered the Taibao to inspect the southern states along the Han [River]. . . . [He] commanded the Lord of Li to assist, using one hundred infantrymen.

Published References
  • J. Keith Wilson, Jingmin Zhang. Jades for Life and Death. .
  • Na Chih-liang. "玉器通史." Yu ch'i t'ung shih [A General Study of Chinese Jade]. Hong Kong, 1965. p. 78, fig. 104.
  • Thomas Lawton, Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. p. 206, fig. 141.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Jades for Life and Death
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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