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AUA Oriental Art

Very Rare Calcified Jade Carving of 'Tortoise Shell' presumably Neolithic Period, Hongshan Culture

Very Rare Calcified Jade Carving of 'Tortoise Shell' presumably Neolithic Period, Hongshan Culture

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The form of a turtle through the meticulous carving of jade. Over time, the majority of the body has undergone calcification, a transformation evident from the thin layer of jade remaining at the edges. This process signifies that the piece has experienced significant geological changes, resulting in the calcification of most of its structure while retaining traces of jade. Such a piece is remarkably unique, with no known comparable works. It may hold specific ceremonial purposes or symbolic meanings, underscoring its artistic and archaeological value.

Period : Presumably Neolithic Period, Hongshan Culture (About B.C 4,700 to B.C 2,900)
Type : Turtle Jade(Calcified)
Medium : Jade
Size : 11 cm(Diameter), 14.7cm(Height)
Provenance : Acquired in 2001, South Korea
Reference :

1) Sotheby's Hongkong 1 June 2023 - Monochrome - Lot 412
2) Sotheby's Hongkong 9 October 2020 - Monochrome II - Lot 21

* Hongshan Culture Jade

The Hongshan culture was an ancient culture located in the northeastern region of China, dating from approximately 4700 BCE to 2900 BCE. This culture is renowned for its jade artifacts and ceremonial objects, which reflect the craftsmanship and advanced skills of the period. The jade objects from the Hongshan culture are interpreted as having religious or symbolic meanings.


  • Jade Carvings: In the Hongshan culture, jade was primarily used for ornaments, tools, and ritual objects. Notable among these jade items are figures in the shapes of dragons, birds, animals, and humans, often believed to serve symbolic or ceremonial purposes.
  • Symbolism and Meaning: Jade carvings are thought to symbolize life, power, immortality, among other concepts. Mythical animals like dragons were seen as symbols of strength and authority, while birds were associated with the celestial realm.
  • Craftsmanship and Skill: Craftsmen of the Hongshan culture possessed exceptional skills in working with jade, intricately carving the challenging material into delicate pieces. This process showcases the level of technological and artistic advancement of the time.
  • Archaeological Value: Jade objects from the Hongshan culture play a significant role in the study of ancient Chinese cultures. They help to understand the religious beliefs, social structures, and artistic values of the period.
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