Asian Art Museum
- Introduction to China
- An introduction to ancient China
- Archaeology and the study of ancient China
- Discoveries in Chinese archaeology
- Bottle with mouth in the shape of a mushroom
- Ritual implements (cong and bi)
- Working jade
- Introduction to the Shang dynasty
- Shang dynasty ritual bronze vessels
- Ritual vessel (fangyi)
- Horse decoration in the form of a taotie mask
- Ritual vessel in the shape of a rhinoceros
- Covered ritual wine vessel (gong)
- Ritual wine vessel (hu)
- Seated Buddha dated 338
- Introduction to the Han dynasty
- Vase with cover
- Money tree
- House model
- Terracotta Warriors from the mausoleum of the first Qin emperor of China
- An Introduction to the Tang dynasty (618–906)
- Central Asian wine peddler
- Stele with the Buddha Shakyamuni and Prabhutaratna
- Stele of the Buddha Maitreya
- Chinese Buddhist cave shrines
- Buddhist Temples at Wutaishan
- An Introduction to the Song dynasty (960–1279)
- Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Chinese: Guanyin)
- Taoism in the Tang and Song dynasties
- Arhat (Chinese: luohan)
- Bowl with brown mottling
- Classical gardens of Suzhou
- An introduction to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
- Technology during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
- Covered jar with fish in lotus pond
- Song of the morning
- Appreciating Chinese calligraphy
- Decoding Chinese calligraphy
- Whirling Snow on the River Bank
- Climbing Huangshan (Yellow Mountain)
- The Forbidden City
Ritual implements (cong and bi)
What is this object? Where does it come from?
Cong (pronounced tsong) are unusual jade objects found among the graves of the Liangzhu culture in the eastern province of Jiangsu, around Lake Tai, near present-day Shanghai. Cong are tubeshaped objects consisting of a circular tube shape with protruding square corners. They appear in short segments (like this piece) or in longer pieces with decorative sections along the length of the object.
What was it used for?
Cong tubes, along with the bi discs (see image below) that are often found with the cong, are some of the most enigmatic objects in ancient Chinese culture. They are the principle jade objects found in Liangzhu culture sites. Many interpretations have been given. Later Zhou and Han texts refer to the ritual use of cong and bi representing the earth and the heavens, but we can’t assume this was their original meaning. Some scholars have suggested that the round/square shape may have developed from a bracelet shape. While it is unclear what their function is, cong are found in the tombs of people who must have held some important position or rank within the society.
Cong often carry minutely incised decorations showing mask-like faces. In this case, there is a small face on the corner of the cong, made up of two round eyes and a curved, oval shape suggesting a nose or mouth. Above the face are two rows of incised lines. Some scholars have suggested that these splitface designs might have influenced the later design of taotie masks on the bronzes from the Shang dynasty (approx. 1600–1050 BCE).
How was it made?
Jade is extremely hard and cannot be carved. It must be worn away with using drills or saws. Jades such as this would have taken a long time to create. Some scholars have suggested that these jades were heated, in order to be worked with such fine lines. Others have suggested they were ritually burned as part of the burial process. Burning or heating might account for the lighter color of some jade cong.
Want to join the conversation?
- Can someone explain something about the English language to me...
So if "Cong is (pronounced tsong)"...why do we not just spell the word as "Tsong"?(4 votes)
- Pinyin is the official phonetic system for transcribing the Mandarin pronunciation of Chinese characters into Latin alphabet. Phonetically the pronunciation of TS in English is represented by C. what I mean that the written in Pinyin is "Cong" and pronounced in English "Tsong".(14 votes)
- What kind of jade is the cong in this article's image made from?(1 vote)
- Would "...burning or heating..." hard stone such as Jade really "soften" the stone and make it easier to incise the lines into the stone?(2 votes)
- What is the purpose of extended corners for this Cong?(1 vote)