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Jade Configuration of Dragon, Bird and Snake (4th – 3rd century BCE)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Jade Configuration of Dragon, Bird and Snake.

About the Work

Title : Jade Configuration of Dragon, Bird and Snake
Medium : Highly polished, translucent brown and honey-colored nephrite
Dimensions : H. 13 x W. 7.8 x Thickness 0.5 cm (5 1/8 x 3 1/16 x 3/16 in.)
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Chinese Decorative Motifs

According to the digital catalogue for the Harvard Art Museums :

“In the Zhou dynasty the number of jades in burial sites increased significantly, as multiple plaques and beads were sewn or strung together and draped over the face and body of the deceased. Jades in the forms of figures and animals became increasingly realistic, and surface patterns became more complex and highly decorative.”

Certain animal motifs are seen commonly in Chinese artefacts, these include the dragon, bird and snake.

The dragon in Chinese culture symbolises auspiciousness, power, and good luck. The snake denotes mystical energies and protection from evil, while the symbol of a bird alludes to a joyous occasion.

Other Details

Jade Configuration of Dragon, Bird and Snake is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 1740. It is part of the museum’s collection of Arts of Ancient China from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age. This piece has been at the Fogg Art Museum since 1943.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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