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Phoenix Reborn: Chu jades excavated from Hubei at the Art Museum, CUHK

Originating as a feudal state in the early Western Zhou Dynasty, the Kingdom of Chu expanded to become one of the strongest powers in the Spring and Autumn Period. Chu territory spread over a vast area in southern China, even reaching up to half the country at its height. Flanked throughout its history by neighbours in the Central Plains and coastal regions, the Chu Kingdom persisted, and its influence can be recognised in China for over eight hundred years even until the Han Dynasty.

The impact of Chu culture is explored in the Art Museum CUHK’s latest exhibition jointly presented by the Hubei Provincial Museum. “Phoenix Reborn: Chu Jades Excavated from Hubei” focuses on the development of stylistic features in Chu jades in the mid to late Warring States period, while highlighting their relationship with people of the Central Plain through a study of jades from the Kingdom of Zeng.

Displayed in the exhibition are jades excavated from tombs dating from the Zhou Dynasties to the mid and late Warring States period. These tombs were located in the ancient Kingdom of Zeng (Guojiamiao and Zeng Houyi) and the Kingdom of Chu (Shanwan, Yaojiagang, Caojiagang and Jiuliandun). The works are presented outside the mainland for the first time.

Phoenix Reborn: Chu Jades Excavated from Hubei

21 October, 2017 to 25 February, 2018

Art Museum, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Free admission

For more information, visit

Exhibition highlights

Jade pendant in the shape of a winged man Warring States Period L: 13.8 W: 3.5 Th: 1 cm Recovered from tomb no.1 at Jiuliandun, Zaoyang, Hubei province in 2002 Hubei Provincial Museum

Jade wingman appeared as early as late Shang dynasty from a tomb located at Dayangzhou, Xin’gan, Jiangxi province. This reflected how men worshiped flying birds. Similar to this pendant, the jade god face recovered from Shijiahe culture located at Tianmen, Hubei province had raised wing-shaped decorations or two sides of its eyes and cheeks curled upwards. The elongated mouthpiece was similar to the animal face that was popular in the late Western Zhou to Spring and Autumn period. This jade pendant could be a two-faced god figure or a hybrid configuration of man, bird, hui and animal which symbolized god strength beyond ordinary men.

Jade pendant in the shape of three men standing on a hog

Warring States Period

L: 5.1 W: 3 Th: 0.4 cm

Recovered from tomb no.2 at Jiuliandun, Zaoyang, Hubei province in 2002

Hubei Provincial Museum

Pendants with man holding their hands standing on top of a dragon’s tail or holding one dragon in each hand were recovered from Chu tombs in the early to mid-Warring States period, which is analogous to this jade. The characters depicted on these jades could be god, witch or wizard. The meaning was that man could communicate with the spirits through animals like dragon and hog. This was a display of the worshiping of animals and spirits. The long robes wore by these gods were engraved with rectangular net pattern checkered with rectangular plain boxes, which was the style of jade engravings from Zhongshan State founded by the Di people located in northwestern China.

Jade hybrid dragon-phoenix pendant in openwork Warring States Period H: 2.6 L: 4.4 Th: 0.3 cm Recovered from tomb no.1 at Jiuliandun, Zaoyang, Hubei province in 2002 Hubei Provincial Museum

Both sides of the pendant had curved convex surfaces. The whole design consisted of two phoenix heads and dragon’s body coiled into S-shaped with backs to each other. The phoenix head was connected to its high crest. An inverted phoenix head were engraved on the two sides. The surface was engraved with net or geometric patterns. If this pendant is placed upside down, it is quite similar to the feline mask found in the burial site from the Neolithic period located at Shijiahe, Tianmen, Hubei province. The relationship between the two is worth further investigation.

Jade double-phoenix pendant in openwork Warring States Period L: 4.8 W: 2.5 Th: 0.5 cm Recovered from tomb no.2 at Jiuliandun, Zaoyang, Hubei province in 2002 Hubei Provincial Museum

Formed by two phoenixes facing towards the rectangular centre to form a bilaterally symmetrical pattern. The outline resembles the jade feline face from Shejiahe culture.

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