The motifs of dragon, phoenix and spirit’s face can be traced back to the Hongshan and Liangzhu Cultures in the Neolithic period in China. As shown on the items of Hongshan Culture, Pheonix & Dragon Plaque, and Hongshan Culture, Knife with Motifs of Dragon and Phoenix listed on this website, the motifs of dragon and phoenix are similar to those of the jade artifacts appeared in the Shang dynasty. As for the motif on the spirit’s face, it seems to derive from the spirit’s face (it is generally referred to as the beast’s face) shown on the Liangzhu Culture. The spirit’s face on the Liangzhu Culture’s jade artifacts, in turn, is supposed to be derived from the various parts of the bird’s body. The spirit’s face motif as evolved to the Shang and Zhou dynasties has contained animal’s features. As further evolved into the Spring and Autumn and Warring States period, the spirit’s motif has become a human face.
In the Neolithic period, the appearance of dragon, phoenix and spirit’s face may be explained by the awesome to the unknown power of nature. In the Shang and Zhou dynasties when the societies are governed by kings and emperors, these motifs became symbols communicating between them and the ordinary people. The spirit’s face became scarce after the Tang dynasty and the motifs of the dragon and phoenix have become the symbols of royal families and purely as the auspice symbols. The understanding of the development of jade motifs will help to determine the age of jade antique in jade identification.