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Neolithic period

Neolithic period

The first human settlements began with agriculture around 8000 B.C. Art objects arose approximately at the same time. In China, several highly distinctive cultures may coexisted.

Distributed in the middle course of the Huang He Valley, sites of the Yangshao culture (about 5000-1700 B.C.) slowly spread from the east (Henan and South Hebei) to the west (Gansu and Qinghai). This culture is representative of high-fired terracotta (around 1000°C) highly decorated with paints. Beginning with realistic animal images (fishes, batrachians), designs become more and more abstract. The most typical potteries of Majiayao Culture (about 2500 B.C.) in Gansu are large jars with unbroken borders of spiral figures. They are of reddish colour with designs in black and purple. Pigments such as natural ochre, red iron and manganese are applied with a brush before firing. These jars seem to be used only as grave furnishings.

At the same time (about 2500-1700 B.C.) the Longshan culture was developing on the eastern coastline. Its characteristics include town enclosures built with the rammed-earth technique. This society is stratified, rituals playing a major role. The Longshan classical period, particularly in Shandong, was the period of a burnished black pottery made with the wheel. These elegant footed vessels have often been found in funerary pits, purposefully arranged on steps. These potteries must have had specific ritual functions to perform.

In some cultures, jade is related to religious life. So is this exceptional jade ring with a flying bird belonging to the museum. On the open works and rims, lines in true thread relief can be seen. It apparently comes from the Longshan culture. In the Liangzhu culture (4000-2500 B.C.) of southern Jiangsu and northen Zhejiang, the most common ritual jade is the cong, a tube of square cross-section, with a circular base. Found in certain graves, sometimes in large numbers, it is still regarded by many scholars as unexplained paraphernalia as well as the circular bi often associated to the cong.

  • Jar
    Jar Banshan style (approximately 2800 – 2500 B.C.) ; Majiayao Culture - Terre cuite peinte
  • Plate decorated with a bird
    Plate decorated with a bird Longshan Culture (approximately 2000 – 1600 B.C.) - Nephrite