Published Mar 20 2013, by


Archaeology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has revealed a broad assortment of prehistoric implements and ornaments originating from sites throughout northern China. These Neolithic works display a taste for minimal decoration, abstract perspective, and geometric volume. Their often ungainly proportions indicate a society working through the initial stages of its own artistic development and a culture actively engaging in ritual practices and ceremonies.

In a form most commonly associated with the Liangzhu culture (3500–2200 b.c.), which thrived in the area around modern-day Shanghai, this cong is a ritual object associated with mortuary rites. Its exact role is not yet fully known. This fairly large example was crafted out of a single piece of yellow stone with gray and black inclusions, and the exterior has been shaped and polished into an almost perfect rectangle. The middle has been drilled out slightly off center to leave a cylindrical void running the full length of the object. The upper and lower edges have been cut away to create a raised ringed rim and foot. For this cong, one of the more elegantly proportioned examples known, the artist has successfully used the natural veining of the stone as a compelling decorative element.