Perforated Disk (Bi)

Perforated Disk (Bi) Neolithic

Perforated Disk (Bi)

Neolithic (c. 4000 – c. 2000 B.C.E.)
.25 x 4.5 inches diam.

“Simply elegant” and “simply perplexing” describe this perforated disk made of jade. Jade is an extremely hard stone that resists carving. This piece would have been worked slowly and tediously using ground quartz, crushed garnets, or corundum-tipped hand-drills and saws. Nonetheless, disks such as this, traditionally called “bi,” have been found in tombs by the thousands, sometimes strewn into piles, other times used as adornment for clothing. Bi are believed to serve the dead as symbols of heaven and wealth.  

There are two bi in the Rowe Collection. Object 2000.42 from the last period of the Eastern Zhou dynasty (474-221 B.C.E.) sports tiny carved spirals on its surface.

Ebrey, pp. 19-20
Nelson, pp. 33-36
Pearlstein, 10-05-2005
Weichao, vol. 1, p. 100
Willets, pp. 41-46