Jade Gui Tablet

AnonymousBC 2200-BC 1900

National Palace Museum

National Palace Museum
Taipei, Taiwan

During the Longshan Culture, social divisions became increasingly distinct and only members of the ruling class were allowed to use jade, highlighting its use as a symbol of social status. Long narrow pieces of jade were called gui, while larger broader pieces were known as yue. The human face decoration on this piece is yellow-gray in color and of fine texture. According to Raman spectroscopy, it has been determined to be nephrite. An analysis of the shape and pattern of the piece indicates that it is most likely a ceremonial jade from an area located midstream to downstream on the Yellow River in the Longshan period. When the tapering end of the piece points upwards, the central area is decorated with representational relief on one side and an abstract pattern on the other. The former shows a figure wearing a hat in the shape of the Chinese character for jie (介). The face has round eyes, a grin, protruding teeth and round earrings from which hang a human head in profile. The other side displays a combination of a vortex pattern and a jie-shaped hat, which stretches outwards to the left and right like wings or the horns of a bull. This jade gui became part of the imperial collection more than 3,000 years after it was made and was particularly favored by the Qianlong Emperor. Qianlong not only commissioned an exquisite red sandalwood stand for the piece, but also wrote poems praising it on his 38th and 58th birthdays, which were then carved onto the piece. Unfortunately, Qianlong's poetry and the original Longshan motifs are oriented in opposite directions on this tablet. Over the past 30 to 40 years, the National Palace Museum has made use of scientific archaeological data to re-examine the Qing dynasty imperial collection, as a result of which a completely new understanding of prehistoric jades has been developed. Thus, it has been decided that this piece should be displayed with the wider end pointed upwards in both exhibitions and related publications in line with the intention of the original maker.


  • Title: Jade Gui Tablet
  • Creator: Anonymous
  • Date Created: BC 2200-BC 1900
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 24.6cm, Width: 7cm, Thickness: 1.2cm
  • Type: Jades
  • Rights: National Palace Museum
  • Dynasty: Late Longshan Culture

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