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Great Jade Ge: the King of Dagger-axes

Oct 9, 2010

Great Jade Ge

Name: Great Jade Ge Dagger-axe | 中文名: 大玉戈
Date to: 1600~1046 B.C. | Culture: Early Shang Dynasty
Unearthed: 1974@Tomb #3, Lijiazui, Panlongcheng, Huangpi, Hubei | Current location: Hubei Provincial Museum
Dimension: 94 x 14 x 1 cm

Soldier holding a Ge

A Terracotta Army soldier holding a Ge

This is a ceremonial jade object in a dagger-axe shape. It is so big that it’s also known as the “King of Jade Ge (Dagger-axe)”

China had a large stone industry in Neolithic times. As early as 4500 BC, people on China’s east coast employed fine polished stone axes and knives. The working of jade was an extension of this. Jade was used for beautifully coloured and prestigious versions of everyday tools. Jade is scarce and very labour-intensive, and so these objects were fashioned for ceremonial, not utilitarian, purposes.

The dagger-axe (Ge, sometimes confusingly translated “halberd”) is a type of weapon that was in use from Shang dynasty until at least Han dynasty China. It consists of a dagger-shaped blade made of jade (ceremonial), bronze, or later iron, mounted by the tang of the dagger to a perpendicular wooden shaft with a spear point. There is a variant type with a divided two-part head, consisting of the usual straight blade and a scythe-like blade.

Jade Ge

A typical Jade Ge Dagger-axe

Dagger-axes appear to have seen use in combat, though most examples are ceremonial jade weapons found in the tombs of aristocrats. These examples are often found within the coffins themselves, possibly meant to serve as emblems of authority and power, or in some other ritualistic capacity. Sometimes they are found in a pit dug beneath a coffin, with a victim who was sacrificed to guard the tomb, where they presumably are intended to keep the spirit-guard armed.

[Forbidden Treasure of China Series]
This is the 26th of 64 culture heritages that the government of China forbids to exhibit abroad. The complete list is here. In Chinese.

[Chinese Keywords]
国家一级文物 禁止出境

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