bc03062008

The original function and significance of the bi are unknown, as the Neolithic cultures have left no written history. From these earliest times they were buried with the dead, as a sky symbol, accompanying the dead into the after world or “sky”, with the cong which connected the body with the earth. They were placed ceremonially on the body in the grave of persons of high social status. Bi are sometimes found near the stomach and chest in neolithic burials.

Jade, like bi disks, has been used throughout Chinese history to indicate an individual of moral quality, and has also served as an important symbol of rank. They were used in worship and ceremony – as ceremonial items they symbolized the ranks of people.” -Wikipedia 2016

As a sign of aristocracy for ages, these round rocks with holes- symbols of empire and hierarchy- may have been specifically targeted and confiscated by the Chinese Communists with the purpose of bringing everyone down to the same level, and many also appear to have been taken from graves with dirt and gravel still attached. Though many are made of jade, they are also made from a variety of other materials including dyed ones, but this doesn’t necessarily make them “fake”- in many instances it was what a person could afford at the time, and not everyone was rich.

55mm15mmbiba

Above is a 55mm x 15mm bi of what was once a mottled white and black stone that has been dyed a pinkish color. This type, having very smooth and rounded corners and a larger size at between 5 and 6 cm, are probably from the height of the Cultural Revolution from 1950-1970 or prior, but most are probably not older than 20th century. It is unknown whether the original purchaser realized the stone had been dyed, but these are quite common, and in a price range available to many Chinese. Though these may not have been as expensive as top of the line jade, they were and are worth a lot more than just the couple dollars that they are currently being sold for, particularly since they seem to be antiques that are no longer made this way. The newer bis are much smaller and tend to be a green color normally associated with jade.

halfredba

Another similar sized and aged bi that has been half dyed red purposefully. Definitely not nephrite jade or something like that, but China is full of fairly workable stone that is soft- and apparently porous enough to dye as well. The act of dying stone isn’t a new one, and it doesn’t necessarily indicate whether the item is fake or not at all. The act of dying half of it red is quite symbolic and purposeful. But what it means? Hard to say from the scant information I’ve been able to look through, but it does mean something.If you have any information, please comment below.

One of the red flags about these jade bis besides their outragously low price for family heirlooms is the fact that the sellers all seem to be the exact same person or group of people who also happen to sell Tibetan dzi beads as well. These were all from the same shop in Hong Kong, though I had ordered through 6 different Ebay shops. Many Hongshan artifacts (neolithic) are also sold through this very same location using different aliases.

 

59mmbiaa

Jade bi made from nephrite, translucent in color and unlike the former examples, very much real jade. A beast (which could be dog or dragon or even a big cat depending on your perspective and century) holding a ruyi in its mouth and a phoenix (which also may be a falcon, not a “phoenix”) are carved on it. Originally these two animals- the falcon and the dog were hunting animals and among the first to be domesticated, but over time the became more and more stylized and less recognizable- until they became different species all together.

180mm17mmbiaa

Again the case of the Chinese bat may be another example of animal portraits being stylized until they change species entirely, and this may be not a bat, but a representation of a silk worm moth which was far more important culturally and economically.

Chinese bi

This is a much earlier bi probably from the Han dynasty (206-220 CE) or earlier featuring four dragons. Because of the rotary drill being invented long ago as well as the grinding wheel, it enabled the Chinese to make stone discs en masse even thousands of years ago. The example above shows how the design was probably carved first, then the hole in the middle drilled completely out later (it may have had a full circle carved in the middle whose top and bottom were lost in the drilling).

120mm8mmbiba

This face called a taotie is featured on many Chinese artifacts throughout ancient times including jades and bronzes, and though is currently interpreted by scholars as a gluttonous ogre, it appears to have horns, and is probably a continuance of earlier animal worship- particularly of goats, sheep and oxen- which began in neolithic times with their domestication. This design may also be one and the same as Rahu (a Hindu deity) or Yama (a deity known in Tibet as The Lord of Death or King of Hell) who is often depicted on Tibetan paintings (thangkas) even to this day. In Hinduism it is a deity thought to be responsible for solar eclipses.

119mm6mmbiaa

117mm9mmbiaa

300mm10mmbifa

Though the style of the bi above seems quite different comparatively to others, the fact it has a chariot and horse below the ruler and their humble servant in a palace- essential for a King to travel and any empire to build wealth through trade, as well as important in death, chariots were often buried with the dead- makes me feel like it is real and not fake at all. See the photo below of the surface patina that has developed on the dark stone over time. At 300 mm (30cm or 11.8 inches) this is also as big as these stone discs are ever made, and may have personally belonged to one of the emperors and been interred with him at death.

300mm10mmbifb

Another 300 mm disc below which also features 9 dragons, a symbol used by the Emperor themselves and often seen in commissioned pieces of art.

Jade bi with 9 Dragons 300mm by 9mm

300mm10mmbiba

Now you might think looking at the above huge piece of stone and three different sellers who have it that it surely is a fake being mass produced. But all the Chinese who are on Ebay seem to be working together, and these items were found in hoards- there wasn’t just one of something, there were as many as the tomb owner could afford and stuff into a given space- given the huge size of this bi at 300mm across- they were probably pretty wealthy, which means there could be 200 of these for all we know that are ALL real. Though they may have been mass produced to begin with, that doesn’t mean they are new or fakes.

Though people believe cowrie shells were the first form of currency, and there are some early Chinese coins that resemble them, there are far more coins which resemble these stone discs which go back as far back as spindle whorls and beads do. Way back. (Cowrie shells may have been more of a southern/Polynesian thing) These stone discs may have been the first form of money the Chinese had, hence the reason to have so many carved and put into tombs- so that the dead would have lots to trade with in the afterlife. When metal was invented they made round discs out of that as well and were able to mass produce many, many more, but the value of the stone discs never diminished over time, though their use as a trading currency did. For it was a long ling of Emperors and each one had to try to out do the others even in death, and this is why there are so many of these “coins” that never were in circulation and available today for a nominal fee. If you tried to send it back to China for as much as you purchased it for, you might have a hard time in most cases paying the postage, especially since they are made out of rock!

300mm10mmbica

300mm10mmbigb

The bi above and below are perhaps from the same tomb since they are made from the same material in the same carving style with the same amount of wear and age.

300mm9mmbiaa

105mm15mmbiaa

turquiosebiaa

Above is a scene of birds and beasts- all apparently mythological- while below a man has taken the goat by the horns as well as a dragon. Because the materials are the same, and the aging of the stone and carving style it is thought these all came from the same hoard in a tomb that was looted.

There are are least two different types of synthetic stone that looks similar to this- one is dyed and whose colors fade with UV rays, and this one which is closer to a true turquoise, but I suspect isn’t and one of the world’s oldest synthetic stones. They loved this color and had several formulas for making it from various ores and melting them dating back to the Hongshan Culture at least some 4,500 years ago, though the age of these are much younger.

95mm6mmbiaa

140mm6mmbiaa

101mmbiaa

Discs with various animals attached were also very popular, the pair above appears to be of a phoenix and is probably from the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD) while the one below may be serveral thousand years older. It appears to have a phoenix-dragon on the left and another animal on the right which may also be a form of a dragon. The head of a beast and tail of a bird is a very early symbolic amalgamation that is copied again and again throughout the ages and becomes a symbol of the Chinese people and empire.

The raised dots covering the surface of both discs are often used as a spacefiller, and are also called a cloud design.

Jade disc with three animals

  • See this auction: sold 05/28/2016 for $35.24 by qing*206219

Again, the bis above and below may be from the exact same tomb that was robbed. Though looting of graves has been widespread in China since graves started having precious items placed in them, and many of these may be from old looting that occurred, because the rich, aristocrats and scholars in China and Tibet were robbed of everything they have, never before has all the looted items been in one place at one time- which would have been a good opportunity to sort through them and learn something. But instead China just keeps selling it all while possibly executing those who may have taken it from the grave in many cases, learning nothing, and not preserving any of it. Much of it is sold so cheaply that buyers expect it to be fake, and these objects might never see a museum or be studied, but are abused and damaged and even thrown away as fakes and valueless.

biwithappendagesba

  • See this auction: sold 09/18/2016 for $9.50 by qing*206219

55mm9mmbiba

55mm14mmbiaa

69mm5mmbiaa

The bis above and below are about the same size, design for the carving and type of stone, but look very different.

Some of these bis are experiencing what I would call “tomb rot” on parts of them. The darker spot is probably closer to the original color and condition of the stone, while the other portion of it was more exposed to the elements. This exposure to elements varies with moisture, soil type, and air pollution if at all exposed to air, and different types of stone age differently as well. This has became a lighter color and more unevenly colored, and may have became more brittle and fragile where exposed.

biwithappendagesaa

71mm5mmbiaa

54mm8mmbiaa

This jade bi is clearly straight from someone’s grave with the amount of dirt still on it. Many of these may be from official excavations, not from individuals doing looting by themselves, particularly items like this where looters would have rubbed off all the dirt typically in rough transport.

65mm6mmbiaa

61mm4mmbiaa

The bi above is from the Qijia culture supposedly, though the seller states their bis are also from Shaanxi Province which is further south than the known Qijia cultural area. Shaanxi is called “the cradle of Chinese civilization” and there along the banks of the Yellow River it is believed civilization began.

The bi below made of a different sort of stone may be even older. The whitish discoloration on both the stone above and the stone below is from age, and different stones age differently. Some stones such as crystal don’t form any kind of deposits after time, and remain seemingly unchanged over thousands of years if not exposed to the elements.

Neolithic Chinese Stone Ring

73mmbiba

  • See this auction: sold 05/01/2016 for $3.25 by liuwencai14: no longer a registered user when checked back on seller 09/2016
  • Auction, different photo, different seller: sold 09/24/2016 for $5.08 by 3_hk027

77mmbiaa

The stone discs above and below are neolithic artifacts and could be 6,000 years old or more, being sold for just a couple dollars. The whitish discoloration of the stone’s surface is due to its incredible age- some stones show this age more than others, and though such effects can be somewhat faked using acid to eat away at the rock, why would you go through all that trouble to sell something for the prices these are being sold at? Even in China you can not make enough money to live if you are manufacturing fakes at these prices.

pigbiaa

The bis above seems to predate writing according to Chinese history as it is currently known, or at least on the very cusp of the ancient origins of the Chinese writing system, and a good example of what artifacts are being sold prior to any scientist studying them. Another example of writing at its very rudimentary roots is seen in the stone below, with the bird’s body a very primitive character. On the backside is a representation of probably a silk worm moth pupa- an extremely important animal throughout China’s history.

Though we tend to only think of jade being a shade of green or white like the examples above, soft stone came in a variety of colors, and perhaps they were more like rainbow people to begin with before supplies ran low of the various varieties since so much was carved, then buried in tombs like where these came from.

hongshanbiaa

Besides just round circles or donuts, there is wide variation in the shapes, particularly of these very, very early stone carvings.

80mmbiaa

These appear to be the world’s first coins, or some of the very first.

76mmbiaa

Apparently these stone discs were used as coins before coins were produced out of metal. The writing may be a number for the denomination. Because of the similarity of the type of stone, carving and aging, these probably all robbed from the same tomb- which must have had quite the hoard of these. Metal coins in Chinese tombs are known to number in the hundreds and thousands, and this may be true with these stone coins too.

Chinese must have had the best of dreams of the afterlife, but the Chinese communists have certainly crushed all of that by selling their things even before their life stories could be told. But that is religion for you, and religious belief- not much good to communists apparently who are bent upon crushing it while making a buck or two.

83mmbiaa

Though many might try to tell you this is all fake jade, the square bi above has discoloration- a reddish orange color- on the one side from where it might have been exposed to more oxygen over time or other things. The whitish color on the surface of the stone that makes the carving stand out can be faked, but it also appears after long periods of time on certain stone like such as this. The stone below also has that same whitish surface patina. If you look at the holes there is also this same surface discoloration.

trianglebiaa

trianglebifa

trianglebiga

60mm9mmbiaa

  • See this auction: sold 05/18/2016 for $20.50 by 88bxy: no longer a registered user when checked back on seller 09/2016

257mm11mmbiaa

At just over 25 cm in diameter (more than 10 inches)- these jade discs are massive and would have been reserved for the tomb of someone very important. The orangish discoloration on the surface of this stone is due to its great age, and probably within a range of 4,000 to 6,500 years old being from the Hongshan culture. Above an elephant and fish are depicted, and below is another fish, a bird and an insect. Though these two jade discs are being sold by two different Ebay dealers, chances are these came from the exact same tomb, and if the seller’s aren’t the same people, they’ve been supplied by the same people. Both of these sellers are legitimate sellers as far as I can tell (who actually deliver the goods they show in photos), but for them to sell the numbers of very real artifacts they do without being arrested and sentenced to death in China, they have to be related to the Chinese government itself. Chances are either these were taken from a freshly exhumed tomb without going to a museum at all, or they are from a museum storehouse (where they weren’t on public display and therefore may not be missed).

255mm11mmbida

A bird, fish and insect- perhaps a cicada or a stylized depiction of a silk worm moth/pupa- are depicted on this ancient stone disc from the Hongshan Culture. All of these animals were an essential and integral part of daily existence and survival and highly valued. They could be thought of being worshiped, however it is probably more likely people started out being a fan- much like we do with movie stars or musicians in the modern age; we thought they were “cool”, and some people went a bit overboard and became overzealous fanatics as often happens, and we loose sight of what it really was all about to begin with.

biaa

  • See this auction on Ebay- no longer a registered user on 05/06/2016 when checked back on auction by sunlei2016

This bi made from malachite is from the Hongshan Culture- the only reason we know this is because of the numerous other pendants made from the same material, and have the same wear and discoloration being sold at the same time by the same sellers. Previously anything besides the finest jade was unknown to have been carved by these people, or at least this is all that is shown in any reference them.

threeheadedbiaa

There are also sets made from “turquoise” of many colors- green, red, yellow, blue and these may be the world’s first manufactured stone along with the quartz crystals they apparently melted and colored and also carved into pendants. None of this information about them seems to be published or known. What is known about them is this:

So although they are still putting people to death for robbing tombs, because the new evidence shows that the Hongshan Culture (i.e. “barbarians” from the north whom the Great Wall of China was erected to keep out many years later) may have been the source of Chinese culture, so therefore perhaps it is not so important to keep so many piece in museums, particularly when they indicate that someone else should be given more credit where credit is due.

The Hongshan Cultural area as it is currently known the north of China is also the ancestral homeland of the Tibetan people who were known as the Qiang. The ancestral Qiang people split and some became Tibetans while others the modern day Qiang people who live on the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau even today and share a similar language. They were enemy of the Shang dynasty, who mounted expeditions against them, capturing slaves and victims for human sacrifice, which is part of the reason for the migration to southern mountains and higher elevations. The Qiang people were part of the Xirong according to some historians, whose name means “Western warlike people”.

Because Tibetans and Qiang people were once probably the Hongshan people, the possibility exists that they carried on manufacturing and producing similar art throughout time and have maintained some of the religious aspects of the culture as well- perhaps most closely related to these ancient people is the Bon religious beliefs and practices. This is also another reason why the Chinese are so keen on selling off so many Hongshan artifacts. Not only were some not carved in the time frame that the want the Hongshan to exist in- like up to the current day- but they also go out of the boundries of what they want to relegate that culture and its influence to.

The Chinese would have to admit, particularly with all the Hongshan items and ties to the Tibetan people, that they are the rightful ancestors of China’s great past and inventors of important things like writing even- which they later forgot in the mountains apparently and had to reinvent using another language as a template far later. And the Chinese perhaps don’t want to do that- so they are selling everything they can of the culture, destroying the evidence while making a buck?

Besides the Hongshan Culture (4700-2000 BCE) there are a number of other neolithic cultures in China that are also being exploited on Ebay, apparently systematically by the actual government itself, but in far less numbers. These aren’t just unscrupulous individuals but trusted party members whom to the loot has been distributed to. Because of the long standing issue with informalized looting of graves, and widespread poverty, the chances are fairly high that many of these objects were confiscated from grave robbers who went to prison for the very thing the Communist Party is now doing publicly. The main problem with looting archaeological sites isn’t who is making the money, but what is being done with the artifacts- if assemblages (groups of items that are related) are divided and pieced out, sold to become coveted items in someone’s private collection, then nothing is ever learned and they can’t really be studied scientifically.

53mm6mmbiaa

These stone bis above and below are from the Liangzhu Culture who was located near present day Shanghai, but lived and thrived around the same time prehistoric period as the Hongshan more than 4,000 years ago. Characteristic for their work is to have this unique and geometrical face on it. Also their carvings tend to have sharper edges on them, and are made from stone that doesn’t develop a white surface patina like many Hongshan artifacts.

200mm10mmbiaa

Search using the word “bi” in the category of Antiques on Ebay:

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Search using the word “jade bi” on Ebay:

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Search using the words “peace buckle” (majority are these Chinese stones or bracelets made from used charms sold as new, not belt buckles with peace signs):

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Search using the words “ping buckle” (peace=ping in pinyon Chinese? almost all of these are the relatively newer stone bis featured first on this page):

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