Neolithic Era in China
The Neolithic era in China began in around 10,000 BC, lasting up until around 2000 BC. Perhaps the earliest artistic production of the period was in the form of pottery, usually utilitarian in nature. Chinese Neolithic pottery was made entirely by hand, moulded without the assistance of a potter’s wheel, by stacking coils of clay and then smoothing them into the desired shape. Pottery from this period found in graves rather than domestic settings, shows greater artistic flair, with designs painted in red and black pigments in geometric and linear designs.
Neolithic Chinese Art
The communities that produced such items were simple agricultural settlements, not yet, it would appear, at an stage of a wider Chinese identity. Additionally, though there would likely have been communication and cultural exchange between communities, especially as most were centred around key rivers, artistic production was relatively free in style, though simultaneously limited by the technology available. Consequently, Neolithic Chinese art was by no means uniform in style, though there certainly were common types and techniques.
Jade was also an early medium employed in the Chinese Neolithic period. It appears most commonly in the form of ritual objects, with the main types being ‘bi’ and ‘cong’. ‘Bi’ take the form of jade or stone discs with a central hole and seem to have been used as part of a burial ritual. ‘Cong’ are tube-shaped jade vessels, also found in tombs, often buried in large numbers. They take a squared shape with a circular, hollow centre, and sometimes feature stylised faces on the exterior design. Their purpose, however, remains a mystery, and it can only be assumed they had some kind of religious or ritual significance due to their frequent appearance in tombs.