Axe (yue 鉞)

A ceremonial implement: The blade of mottled gray brown and white nephrite mounted in bronze closely inlaid with turquoise (four tiny bits missing); socket for vertical shafting; scattered malachite incrustations.

Historical period(s)
Anyang period, Late Shang dynasty, ca. 1300-ca. 1050 BCE
Medium
Bronze with turquoise inlay and jade (nephrite) blade
Dimensions
H x W x D (overall): 21.3 x 7.9 x 2.1 cm (8 3/8 x 3 1/8 x 13/16 in)
Geography
China, probably Henan province, Anyang
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1941.4
On View Location
Freer Gallery 19: Afterlife: Ancient Chinese Jades
Classification(s)
Ceremonial Object, Metalwork
Type

Ceremonial object: axe

Keywords
Anyang period (ca. 1300 - ca. 1050 BCE), China, inlay, nephrite, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

Reportedly excavated in Anyang, Henan province, China [1]

From 1940 to 1941
C. T. Loo & Company, New York from November 1940 [2]

From 1941
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from C. T. Loo & Company on March 20, 1941 [3]

Notes:

[1] According to John Lodge's curatorial remark, dated 1941, in object file.

[2] See C. T. Loo's stockcard no. 86949: "One grayish jade hatchet with a bronze handle with guard decorated in mosaic of turquoise inlay with mask designs. SHANG," C. T. Loo & Frank Caro Archive, Musée Guimet, Paris, copy in object file. The object was brought to the Freer Gallery for examination on November 13, 1940.

[3] See C. T. Loo's invoice, dated March 20, 1941, copy in object file.

Previous Owner(s)

C.T. Loo & Company 1914-1948

Description

A ceremonial implement: The blade of mottled gray brown and white nephrite mounted in bronze closely inlaid with turquoise (four tiny bits missing); socket for vertical shafting; scattered malachite incrustations.

Label

Possibly inspired by a functional chisel or small spade, this ceremonial tool has a jade blade that is fitted into a shallow slot at the base of the bronze handle. Corrosion extending from the bronze onto the jade surface proves these two parts have been together since antiquity. The turquoise inlay is almost completely intact, another indication this ornate chisel has changed very little over several millennia.

Published References
  • Geoffrey WIlls. Jade of the East., 1st ed. New York, 1972. fig. 28.
  • Sueji Umehara. Yin hsu: Ancient Capital of the Shang Dynasty at An-yang. Tokyo. pl. 37 (1).
  • Sekai bijutsu zenshu [A Complete Collection of World Art]. 40 vols., Tokyo, F1951-1953. cat. 84, vol. 2.
  • Cheng Te-k'un. Archaeology in China. 3 vols., Cambridge, England. vol. 2: pl. 35c.
  • Dagny Carter. Four Thousand Years of China's Art. New York. p. 19, a.
  • Rene Grousset. Chinese Art and Culture. New York. p. 22.
  • Joe Dan Lowry, Joe P. Lowry. Turquoise: The World Story of a Fascinating Gemstone. Layton, UT. p. 26.
  • Charles Patrick Fitzgerald. The Horizon History of China. New York. p. 53.
  • Na Chih-liang. "玉器通史." Yu ch'i t'ung shih [A General Study of Chinese Jade]. Hong Kong, 1965. p. 77, fig. 103.
  • compiled by the staff of the Freer Gallery of Art. A Descriptive and Illustrative Catalogue of Chinese Bronzes: Acquired During the Administration of John Ellerton Lodge. Oriental Studies Series, no. 3 Washington, 1946. p. 89, pl. 43.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Jades for Life and Death
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.

Related Objects