Axe (yue 鉞)


Historical period(s)
Anyang period, Late Shang dynasty, ca. 1300-ca. 1050 BCE
Bronze with turquoise inlay and jade (nephrite) blade
H x W x D (overall): 21.3 x 7.9 x 2.1 cm (8 3/8 x 3 1/8 x 13/16 in)
China, probably Henan province, Anyang
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 19: Afterlife: Ancient Chinese Jades
Ceremonial Object, Metalwork

Ceremonial object

Anyang period (ca. 1300 - ca. 1050 BCE), casting, China, inlay, nephrite, Shang dynasty (ca. 1600 - ca. 1050 BCE), WWII-era provenance

Reportedly excavated in Anyang, Henan province, China [1]

From 1940 to 1941
C.T. Loo & Company, New York from November 1940 [2]

From 1941
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from C.T. Loo & Company on March 20, 1941 [3]


[1] According to John Lodge's curatorial remark, dated 1941, in object file.

[2] See C. T. Loo's stockcard no. 86949: "One grayish jade hatchet with a bronze handle with guard decorated in mosaic of turquoise inlay with mask designs. SHANG," Frank Caro Archive, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, copy in object file. The object was brought to the Freer Gallery for examination on November 13, 1940.

[3] See C. T. Loo's invoice, dated March 20, 1941, copy in object file.

Previous Owner(s)

C.T. Loo & Company active 1908-1950


Possibly inspired by a functional chisel or small spade, this ceremonial tool has a jade blade that is fitted into a shallow slot at the base of the bronze handle. Corrosion extending from the bronze onto the jade surface proves these two parts have been together since antiquity. The turquoise inlay is almost completely intact, another indication this ornate chisel has changed very little over several millennia.

Published References
  • compiled by the staff of the Freer Gallery of Art. A Descriptive and Illustrative Catalogue of Chinese Bronzes: Acquired During the Administration of John Ellerton Lodge. Oriental Studies Series, no. 3 Washington, 1946. p. 89, pl. 43.
  • Dagny Carter. Four Thousand Years of China's Art. New York. p. 19, a.
  • Cheng Te-k'un. Archaeology in China. 3 vols., Cambridge, England. pl. 35c.
  • Charles Patrick Fitzgerald. The Horizon History of China. New York. p. 53.
  • Rene Grousset. Chinese Art and Culture. New York. p. 22.
  • Na Chih-liang. Yu ch'i t'ung shih (A General Study of Chinese Jade). Hong Kong, 1965. p. 77, fig. 103.
  • Sekai bijutsu zenshu (A Complete Collection of World Art). 40 vols., Tokyo, F1951-1953. cat. 84.
  • Sueji Umehara. In-kyo (Yin hsu: Ancient Capital of the Shang Dynasty at An-yang). Tokyo. pl. 37 (1).
  • Geoffrey WIlls. Jade of the East., 1st ed. New York, 1972. fig. 28.
  • Joe Dan Lowry Joe P. Lowry. Turquoise: The World Story of a Fascinating Gemstone. Layton, UT. p. 26.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum