Ritual Object (Cong)
Neolithic period, Liangzhu culture (ca. 3200–2000 B.C.)
ca. 2400 B.C.
H. 10 in. (25.4 cm); W. 2 3/4 in. (7 cm)
Purchase, Sir Joseph Hotung Gift, 2004
This ritual object is one of the principal jade types of the Liangzhu culture that flourished on the eastern coast of China during the third millennium B.C. It has the most complex shape of the Neolithic Chinese jades—a tube with a square cross-section and a round hole—and almost invariably is decorated on its four corners with face motifs characterized by circular eyes and a bar-shaped nose. The cong seems to have evolved from the bracelet and gradually acquired its standard form by 2500 B.C. The function and meaning of the cong remain unknown. The discovery of cong in large, lavishly furnished tombs suggests that it probably signified wealth and privileged social status. It may, however, have had other functions as well. In a recently excavated tomb, numerous cong lay in a circle around the tomb occupant, suggesting that they had been arranged for a specific religious or ritual purpose.
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