Pair of Dragon Pendants

Chinese4th–3rd century B.C.

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago

These matching pendants represent serpentine dragons with backturned heads, coiled tails, and small fins that project above and below their undulating trunks. The rhythmic fluency of these creatures belies the unyielding quality of jade—a compact, fine-grained stone that cannot be carved and must be worn away with abrasive paste applied to its surface with saws, grinders, and drills. The craftsman’s remarkable dexterity with this intractable material is displayed in smoothly rounded, heart-shaped units and delicately incised spirals, striations, and cross-hatching that thoroughly enliven the surfaces of both front and back. Their substantial size and thickness, technical refinement, and glossy polish point to aristocratic patronage. That these pendants were likely designed to drape down the owner’s shoulders or from a waistband is indicated by holes pierced for suspension through the creatures’ hindquarters. Toward the end of the Bronze Age when these pendants were created, sinuously curved dragons had become prominent motifs depicted in many precious media. Contemporary literature suggests that such dynamic creatures were not merely decorative but also envisioned as supernatural beings. When buried with the deceased, jade pendants like these may have reflected widely held beliefs in the dragon as a vehicle that could transport the human soul on its journey to the netherworld.

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  • Title: Pair of Dragon Pendants
  • Creator: Chinese
  • Date Created: 4th–3rd century B.C.
  • Physical Dimensions: Left: 8.6 × 16.5 × 0.6 cm (6 ½ × 3 3/8 × ¼ in.); right: 9.2 × 16.8 × 0.7 cm (3.6 × 6.6 × 0.3 in.)
  • Type: Religious/ritual object
  • External Link: The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Media: Jade
  • Culture/Place: China
  • Credit Line: The Art Institute of Chicago, Edward and Louise B. Sonnenschein Collection, 1950.640¬41
  • Artist: Chinese


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