We are happy to announce the launch of the Smithsonian’s “Jades for Life and Death,” a digital catalog that documents the extensive collections of early Chinese jade in the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, which together possess one of the finest holdings in the world. This release, the first in a series of five volumes, will include more than 250 outstanding jades produced during the Chinese Stone Age (ca. 5000―1700 B.C.). Subsequent on-line volumes will be dedicated to works from the Chinese Bronze Age through the end of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.―220 C.E.). The online publication features bilingual information and incorporates research from the fields of art history, archaeology, geology and materials science, and take advantage of the rapidly evolving understanding of ancient China.
The majority of the works were produced by the Neolithic Liangzhu culture (ca. 3300―2250 B.C.), which is now recognized as the most prolific and advanced center for jade production in ancient China. Despite the significance of these objects, they have never been featured in a catalog such as those created for other major jade collections in China and the West.
New Chinese archaeological discoveries continue to underscore the importance of the Freer and Sackler’s works. The pace of research internationally amplifies the need for a scholarly catalog that is both interdisciplinary and digital. This digital catalog allows for immediate revision and expansion as new archeological sites and jade objects are discovered; new scholarly resources can also be added relatively easily.
In addition to current and historical research, each entry includes links to related objects in the Freer and Sackler collection and elsewhere; associated documentation such as purchase records and other archival materials are also being published for the first time. This digital approach offers numerous advantages, including an almost limitless capacity for images and content that ranges from historiographic to archaeological.
The next volume in this series, scheduled for release in fall 2017, is dedicated to jades of the early Bronze Age, chiefly the Shang dynasty (ca. 1600―1050 B.C.). “Jades for Life and Death” has been generously supported by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Additional funding has been provided by the Leon Levy Foundation.
The catalog can be found at:
J. Keith Wilson
Curator of Ancient Chinese Art
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Co-chair, Smithsonian Congress of Scholars
1050 Independence Avenue, SW
MRC 707, P.O. Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012