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Jade carvings merge man and beast

ANCIENT Chinese jades were often carved with figures of beasts and human beings together, merged as half-man-half-beast, or otherwise tangled together and arranged.

They represented the powerful connection between man and nature and sometimes nature was overwhelming and harsh. Sometimes beasts also were combined in carvings.

Man-beast and beast-beast were common in the Xia (12th-16th century BC), Shang (16th-11th century BC) and Zhou (11th century-770 BC) periods.

The Shanghai Museum exhibits a striking and superbly carved eagle pendant dating from the Shijiahe culture, a late Neolithic culture from about 2,000-1,000 BC.

The pendant is 10.2 centimeter high and 4.9 centimeters in width.

During excavations, relatively large quantities of renowned black pottery were unearthed, while delicate jades were rare.

Carved with open spaces to emphasize the design, this eagle stands upright, bearing a dragon-shaped comb, a beast in its beak and a human head in its claw. Here, mankind is held powerless in the grip of nature, which is represented by the eagle - a view held by Chinese for thousands of years.


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