Dagger-axe (ge 戈)

Ceremonial weapon. Blade (ge type) of gray green, translucent nephrite with paler mottling. Tang indicated. One hole for suspension (?).

Historical period(s)
Western Zhou dynasty, ca. 1050-771 BCE
Medium
Jade (nephrite)
Dimensions
H x W x D: 17.1 x 2.5 x 0.4 cm (6 3/4 x 1 x 3/16 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1939.21
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Jade, Jewelry and Ornament
Type

Ceremonial object: dagger-axe (ge)

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

1928-1929
Reportedly discovered in tomb located in in Jincun, Honan Province, China. [1]

?-1939
Zhang Naiji (1899-1948), Shanghai and New York, 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] The pendant traditionally was said to have been excavated at Jincun in Luoyang, Henan province based on information provided by Zhang Naiji to John E. Lodge at the time of acquisition, see J.E. Lodge's note, 1939, in F1939.6 object file. Several tombs near Chin ts'un (Jincun) in Western Honan were discovered in the summer of 1928 after heavy rain, when sinkholes began to emerge. Immediately upon discovery, the tombs were heavily scavenged by locals. Only two tombs were systematically excavated (See: William Charles White, Tombs of Old Lo-Yang: A Record of the Construction and Contents of a group of Royal Tombs at Chin-ts'un, probably dating to 550 bc. Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh Limited, 1934 and William Charles White, "China's Cultural Heritage" in Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada vol. 37 (1943): 151).

[2] See object information sheet and "List of objects contemplated for purchase by Freer Gallery of Art," approved on February 1, 1939, Freer Gallery of Art Purchase List file, copies 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 Zhang Naiji 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 1.

Previous Owner(s)

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

Description

Ceremonial weapon. Blade (ge type) of gray green, translucent nephrite with paler mottling. 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
  • Archibald Gibson Wenley. Early Chinese Jade. vol. 63, no. 5 Washington, November 1946. p. 343.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Jades for Life and Death
Google Cultural Institute
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