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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Culture: Chinese
Title: Pendant in the form of a fish
Date: Shang dynasty, ca. 1200 BC
Medium: Carved jade
Dimensions: 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm)
Credit Line: George and Mary Rockwell Collection
Object Number: 88.002.239
Shang and Western Zhou dynasty jade pendants were made in central China, in the vicinity of Anyang and Zhengzhou, in Henan province.

The hardness of jade makes it one of the most difficult stones to work, requiring even harder stones such as quartzite or diamonds to abrade it. That Neolithic cultures such as the Liangzhu were able to fashion such refined “carved” jade items is nothing short of amazing considering the primitive tools at their disposal. Hand saws or gut-string saws would have first been used to cut or slice the jade into a workable form, then simple awls and drills, perhaps made of bamboo, with points or disks likely made of quartzite, would have been employed to drill holes and to form intaglio and relief designs. Finally, the piece would be polished using abrasives.

Jade pendants and other ornaments were found in burials and seem to have been made specifically for adorning the corpse. Jade, venerated since the Neolithic period, has been continuously prized throughout China’s long history. Jade was thought to have magical properties and its luster, translucency and hardness were considered to embody virtues such as benevolence, integrity and courage.

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.