Representation of Heaven and Beyond: The Bi Disc Imagery in the Han Burial Context

  • Hau-ling Eileen Lam The Education University of Hong Kong
Keywords: bi disc, imagery, pictorial representation, heaven, Han dynasty

Abstract

The bi (“disc”) is an object that was originally made from jade, and became an independent motif that appeared widely in different pictorial materials during Han times. The bi disc is considered one of the earliest jade forms, and has been used for ritual purposes or as an ornament from the Neolithic period until today. This paper focuses on the Han Dynasty (202 BCE–220 CE), a period in which jade bi discs were extensively used and placed in burials of different ranks. Present finds show that images of bi discs also appeared widely in Han burials, in which they were depicted on coffins, funerary banners covering coffins, and mural paintings, and were also engraved on pictorial stones and pictorial bricks, these practices becoming more ubiquitous in the later Han period. By studying various images of bi discs in different burials throughout the Han period, this paper will explore the development and significance of different pictorial representations of bi disc in Han burial context, and also attempt to reveal the rich content and thoughts embedded in the form of bi discs during this period of time.

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Published
2019-06-28
How to Cite
Lam, H.- ling E. (2019). Representation of Heaven and Beyond: The Bi Disc Imagery in the Han Burial Context. Asian Studies, 7(2), 115-151. https://doi.org/10.4312/as.2019.7.2.115-151