Red Jade Sword Slide

Red jade with surface alteration

Han dynasty

Length: 4 in.


Recent excavations of jades from Han period archaeological sites are among the most sensational events of this century. These scientific excavations provide a rare and vivid glimpse into the ritual practices of the social elite of the Han period. The most significant find of sword fittings is that of Zhao Mo, ruler of the Nanyue Kingdom (d. 122 B.C.), whose tomb was discovered in 1983 in Guangzhou, Guandong Province. This discovery established the ritual use and importance of sword fittings produced for use in the afterlife (mingqi). In our opinion, this powerfully rendered sword slide represents the superb quality of stylistic design and workmanship of the Han period.


Reference Number 2451



Published: Collecting Chinese Art. S. Bernstein. S. Bernstein & Co., San Francisco. 2000.

Plate 29, Page 39. Description, Page 120.

A related example is illustrated in “Selected Jades from an Imperial Nanyue Tomb,” by Peter Y. K. Lam, in Orientations, November 1991, pages 86-87.

Further examples of jade sword fittings used in the burial ritual are illustrated in Jades from the Tomb of the King of Nanyue, Guangzhou: The Museum of the Western Han Tomb of the Nanyue King, 1991. Plates 314-316, 319-320 and 182-229.

For further discussion and illustrations of sword furnishings of the Western Han period, see Chinese Archaic Jades from the Kwan Collection, Art Gallery, Chinese University of Hong Kong. 1994. Plates 210-216, 218-220.

For a thorough investigation and illustrated examples of related sword furnishings from the Warring States period, preceding the Western Han dynasty, see Jades from China, Angus Forsyth and Brian McElney. The Museum of East Asian Art, England, June 1994. Pages 202-204. Plates 124, 125, 126 and 127.

For historical background of Han dynasty burial practice, see Art and Political Expression in Early China, Martin J. Powers. Yale University, 1991.

For related reading on Han dynasty tombs and burial art (mingqi), see Monumentality in Early Chinese Art and Architecture, Wu Hung. Stanford University Press, 1995. Pages 118-122.


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