A funny bunny made of jade
Updated: 2011-01-25 07:52
By Zhu Linyong (China Daily)
A gray-cyan jade rabbit pendant is set to have viewers hopping to it as the Year of the Rabbit dawns.
The top-rated relic at the Tianjin Museum of Art is believed to have been unearthed from Shang Dynasty (1766-1122 BC) ruins in Henan province. The museum acquired it from a private collector in the 1950s.
The small artifact - 3.1 cm high, 6.4 cm wide, and 0.4 cm thick - is a big deal in archeological terms.
Its creators carved the flat black jade with parallel, incised lines (commonly known as double-hook lines), in the pattern of flowing clouds and gouged out two small holes for its front legs.
With its eyes wide and ears down, the rabbit looks as if it's ready to run.
The artifact is "an excellent example of ancient China's rich and profound culture of jade carving, collecting and appreciation", Yun Xizheng, a veteran jade appraiser in Tianjin, says.
The oldest jade objects Chinese archaeologists have discovered date back to the early Neolithic period (about 7,000 years ago).
About 170 different kinds of stone are categorized as jade in China.
However, in the strictest sense of the word, "jade" refers to nephrite, a hard non-crystalline mineral consisting of silicates of calcium and magnesium.
It varies in color according to the proportion of iron it contains.
Jadeite - usually regarded as an excellent substitute for real jade - is a harder silicate of alumina and sodium.
Ancient nobles and royalty wore jade ornaments and used jade-ware to flaunt their power, status and wealth.
They also buried the mineral in tombs, as they believed the stone could ward off evil spirits and slow the body's decay.
The rabbit has been a favorite subject for jade carvers since the Shang Dynasty, as it is viewed as an auspicious animal.
And rabbit-shaped jade pendants have become all the rage as the Year of the Rabbit draws near to its starting date, Feb 3 on the Gregorian calendar.
The rabbit ranks fourth among the 12 animals of the zodiac, coming in after the rat, ox and tiger.
It also marks the coming of dawn at maoshi, the fourth critical period of the 12-part circle of a day in ancient society.
Traditional beliefs hold this year will be ben ming nian, meaning "a little unlucky", for those born in the Year of the Rabbit. But wearing jade rabbit ornaments is believed to ward away bad spirits for the year.
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The discovery of the fossile of a female pterosaur nicknamed as Mrs T and her un-laid egg are shedding new light on ancient mysteries.
China's GDP growth jumped 10.3 percent year-on-year in 2010, boosted by a faster-than-expected 9.8 percent expansion in the fourth quarter.