Jar showing a stork with a fish and a stone axe


China Modern Contemporary Art Document

China Modern Contemporary Art Document
Beijing, China

This Jar, unearthed in Yan Village, Linru County of Henan Province in 1980, is one of the most impressive among all the Yangshao pottery unearthed to date. The vessel is read on the exterior wall where there is a vivid colored painting: the left side depicts a standing white stork with a large white fish in its beak; and the right side shows a vertical stone axe, its shaft wrapped with fabric and inscribed with “X” symbols.

This jar is widely believed to be a coffin as it contained bones of an adult when it was unearthed. But it is a rare one among ancient funeral wares with its colored and complete painting, because most of the other coffins of the same period were simply shaped without colored drawings. So many people believe that this coffin belonged to a tribe leader. Some scholars made a further guess that the painting depicts the triumph of one tribe over another as they believe that stork is the totem of the tribe which the owner affiliated to while fish is that of the enemy tribe, and axe here is the symbol of power.


  • Title: Jar showing a stork with a fish and a stone axe
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: -3000
  • Provenance: National Museum of China
  • Physical format: Pottery, 47h x 32.7d cm
  • Medium: red earth clay
  • Dynastic period: Neolithic Period

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