Knotted Dragon Pendant

Period: Eastern Zhou dynasty, Warring States period (475–221 B.C.)

Date: 3rd century B.C.

Culture: China

Medium: Jade (nephrite)

Dimensions: H. 3 1/8 in. (7.9 cm); W. 2 1/16 in. (5.2 cm)

Classification: Jade

Credit Line: Gift of Ernest Erickson Foundation, 1985

Accession Number: 1985.214.99


A conceptual as well as a technical tour de force, this pendant defies the obdurate character of jade and makes it appear to be impossibly supple and pliant. The pendant takes the form of a serpentine dragon, whose body is grooved to resemble twisted rope. The two ends of the dragon overlap to form a circular ring. One end has a flattened felinelike head with gaping jaws, bared fangs, and striations marking the eyebrow and upper lip. The other end loops behind the head and doubles back in an elegant counter curve. At the bottom of the ring, the sculptor further defies the nature of the medium by making the body appear to have tied itself in a double knot. The pendant was suspended from a small horizontal perforation drilled through the neck of the dragon at the apex of the ring, just behind the juncture of the two ends.