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THE ORIGINAL SIGNIFICANCE OF BI DISKS: INSIGHTS BASED ON LIANGZHU JADE BI WITH INCISED SYMBOLIC MOTIFS

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This article discusses the symbolic markings incised on a small group of jade bi disks from the Neolithic Liangzhu Culture in southeastern China, now dispersed among museums all over the world. A close description of the objects and their incised motifs - which are, for the most part, diplayed with the center of the bi as the implied point of reference - is followed by an attempt at interpretation. It is found that these objects testify to early stages of development of cosmological concepts that remained important in Chinese culture during the Warring States and Han periods: the notion of a covering sky (gaitian) that revolves around a central axis, the cycle of the Ten Suns, and the use of an early form of the carpenter's square. These objects were handled by shamans who were the religious leaders of Liangzhu society and the transmitters of cosmological knowledge.

Affiliations: 1: National Palace Museum, Taibei

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