On the Motifs of Dragon, Phoenix and Spirit’s Face

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 the 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 as 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 Zhu dynasties has contained animal’s features. As further evolved into Spring and Autumn and Warring States period, the spirit’s motif has become 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 the nature. In the Shang and Zhu dynasties when the societies are governed by the kings and emperors, these motifs became the 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.

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