Dagger-axe (ge 戈)

Miniature blade of slightly translucent pinkish yellow nephrite (?), the two surfaces almost alike; the tang indicated; one hole for suspension.

Historical period(s)
Anyang period, Late Shang dynasty or Western Zhou dynasty, ca. 1100-ca. 1000 BCE
Medium
Jade (nephrite)
Dimensions
H x W x D: 6.9 x 2.4 x 0.4 cm (2 3/4 x 15/16 x 1/8 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1939.19
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Jade, Jewelry and Ornament
Type

Ceremonial object: dagger-axe (ge)

Keywords
Anyang period (ca. 1300 - ca. 1050 BCE), carving, China, nephrite, Western Zhou dynasty (ca. 1050 - 771 BCE), WWII-era provenance
Provenance

As early as 1928
Reportedly discovered at archeological sites in Anyang, Honan Province, China [1]

?-1939
Zhang Naiji (1899-1948), Shanghai, China and New York, NY from at least February 1939 [2]

From 1939
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased through C. T. Loo & Company, New York from Zhang Naiji on April 17, 1939 [3]

Notes:

[1] According to information provided by Zhang Naiji to John E. Lodge at the time of acquisition, see J.E. Lodge's note, 1939, in object file. Zhang Naiji stated that he had obtained the jades, selected by the Freer Gallery from a group of about 350 pieces offered for sale (F1939.6-F1939.26 and F1939.28-F1939.33), at the places of their excavation. Lodge commented in his 1939 note: "I see no good reason to doubt [Zhang's] statement. I have, therefore, specified Shou Chou, or An-yang, or Lo-yang (Chin Ts'un) as the source of a piece in accordance with Mr. Chang's [Zhang's] designations given in my presence and recorded by me." Excavations at Anyang began in 1928.

[2] See note 1. See also "List of objects contemplated for purchase by Freer Gallery of Art," approved on February 1, 1939, Freer Gallery of Art Purchase List file, copy in object file. According to an annotation on the list, the purchase was made from C. T. Loo & Company, New York acting as agent for the owner and the payment was made on April 17, 1939. Zhang Naiji (also known as N.C. Chang) was a businessman, born to a prestigious family in Zhejiang that made their wealth in the silk and salt industries. He collected ancient Chinese art objects and Chinese coins. Zhang amassed his collection whilst living in Shanghai, before leaving for America in 1938. Zhang did not return to China until 1946. While the earliest documentation of Zhang's ownership of the jade dates to February 1939, we know that he acquired the objects in China before his departure.

[3] See "List of objects contemplated for purchase by Freer Gallery of Art," cited in note 2.

Previous Owner(s)

C.T. Loo 1880-1957
Zhang Naiji 1899-1948
C.T. Loo & Company 1914-1948

Description

Miniature blade of slightly translucent pinkish yellow nephrite (?), the two surfaces almost alike; the tang indicated; one hole for suspension.

Label

The blade known as ge, based on the shape of the metal dagger-axe, is first found at the early Shang site of Erlitou, Henan.  A ge consists of a long blade beveled to a sharp edge on the sides, usually with a median crest; a projecting crosspiece with a perforation at the base of the blade; and a narrower butt, or tang, which may be plain or ribbed. Ge blades display great variations in size, from miniature to enormous. This variety of size is understandable in view of the fact that the jade blades were intended only for ceremonial and symbolic purposes, rather than for practical use. Small ge blades are occasionally mounted in bronze handles, usually adorned with inlaid turquoise.

Published References
  • Alfred Salmony. Carved Jade of Ancient China. Berkeley, 1938. pl. 7, no. 4.
  • Paul Pelliot. Jades Archaiques de Chine appartenant a M.C.T. Loo. Paris and Brussels. pls. 8, 9, 16.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Jades for Life and Death
Google Cultural Institute
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