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Sculpting a civilization

Intricately crafted jadeware, dating back four millennia, helped carve out a blueprint for China's earliest societies, Deng Zhangyu and Zhou Lihua report in Wuhan.

By Deng Zhangyu and Zhou Lihua in Wuhan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-18 06:07

Jade artifacts from Shijiahe culture on display at the museum represent the highest level of jade craftsmanship of its time, displaying exquisite skills, and imaginative designs. The prehistoric culture dates back to 5,900 to 3,800 years ago. [Photo provided to China Daily]

About 4,000 years ago, during the late Neolithic period, a group of people sculpted vivid animals, sophisticated portraits of deities, figurines and divine birds — all from pieces of jade as tiny as a fingernail.

How these prehistoric people produced such intricate jadeware at a time when tools were mostly made from stone is not yet known, but the jade culture of the time reveals not only the highest levels of craftsmanship, but also the development of a glamorous civilization in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River.

The ongoing exhibition, Mythological Jade of Shijiahe Culture, at Panlongcheng Site Museum in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province, offers visitors a rare chance to get a close and full view of jade pieces from a prehistoric civilization that lived around from 5,900 to 3,800 years ago.

On display are 172 sets of jade artifacts and related cultural relics loaned from 21 key museums and cultural institutions across the nation. While the jade pieces are mainly those unearthed at the Shijiahe site in Tianmen, Hubei province, the exhibition also presents relics from southwest China's Sanxingdui culture, east China's Liangzhu culture and Longshan culture from the Yellow River.

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