Skip to main content

Dagger-axe (Ko)


Artwork Details

Dagger-axe (Ko)
1600 BCE - 1100 BCE
heat-treated jade
11 1/8 in. x 2 1/16 in. x 1/8 in. ( 28.2 cm x 5.2 cm x 0.3 cm )
Museum purchase from the collection of Max Loehr


Shang lapidaries—master workers of nephrite jade and other hard stones l—inherited their craft from their Neolithic predecessors. Neolithic jades fall into two categories: ornaments used by the ruling elite such as pendants, belt hooks, and bracelets and implements for ceremonial or ritual use such as bi disc and cong tube. Shang jades fellow this basic repertoire of Neolithic forms but added decorative flourishes such as serration along the contours of objects, incised geometric designs, and, sometimes, inlaid bronze work. The two ceremonial halberds shown here, is, however, a Shang jade form without Neolithic precedent. It is based on a bronze weapon called ge developed during the Shang period. This jade form remained unchanged in style throughout much of the dynasty, due to its ritual use and the difficulty of carving hard stones.
(Label for UMMA Chinese Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)

Subject Matter:

jade ge dagger-axe for ceremonial display by Shang (circa 16th to 11th century B.C.) elite in Bronze Age China, often discovered as grave goods in elite burials of the Late Shang period, along with bronze halberds and other military hardware associated with chariot warfare. It was probably once covered in cinnabar, red mercury sulfide, as everything else in the elite burial. The jade or hardstone was probably heat treated to create the bony look.

Physical Description:

ceremonial jade ge dagger-axe, pointed blade on one end and squared tang for hafting on the other. It was broken and mented in the middle. Traces of cinnabar, red mercury sulfide, remain on the jade surface, indicating it probably came from a Shang elite burial in China. The jade material was probably fire treated to create the bony look.

Usage Rights:

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.