Dagger-axe (ge 戈) with masks (taotie) and dragons

Ceremonial sickle in four parts: three of bronze inlaid with turquoise, one (the blade) of jade decorated in linear relief with notched back and ground edge.

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Historical period(s)
early Anyang period, Late Shang dynasty, ca. 1200 BCE
Bronze with turquoise inlay and jade (nephrite) blade
H x W x D (overall): 34.5 x 17.5 x 5.4 cm (13 9/16 x 6 7/8 x 2 1/8 in)
China, probably Henan province, Anyang
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Ceremonial Object, Metalwork

Ceremonial object: dagger-axe (ge)

Anyang period (ca. 1300 - ca. 1050 BCE), China, dragon

From 1939 to 1940
C. T. Loo & Company, New York from September 26, 1939 [1]

From 1940
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from C. T. Loo & Company on May 3, 1940 [3]


[1] See C. T. Loo's stockcard no. 86520: "Set of four pieces, bronze ornaments, Shang," C. T. Loo & Frank Caro Archive, Musée Guimet, Paris, copy in object file. According to information on the stockcard the object was inventoried on September 26, 1939. See also "List of objects owned by C. T. Loo & Co., New York and [left] at the Gallery for examination," with an annotation that the piece was delivered by Loo to the Freer Gallery on November 4, 1939, copy in object file.

[3] See C. T. Loo's invoice, dated May 3, 1940, copy in object file.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

C.T. Loo & Company 1914-1948


Ceremonial sickle in four parts: three of bronze inlaid with turquoise, one (the blade) of jade decorated in linear relief with notched back and ground edge.


No objects of this type have yet been scientifically excavated in China, so it is difficult to know the purpose of this extremely rare axe. It consists of four separate pieces: a tubular bronze handle, two caps with dragon motifs, and an unusual serrated jade blade that might not be original. Traces of wood inside the handle suggest it was lengthened with additional elements that are now missing.

Published References
  • J. Keith Wilson, Jingmin Zhang. Jades for Life and Death. .
  • William Watson. China Before the Han Dynasty. Ancient Peoples and Places, vol. 23 New York. fig. 22.
  • William Watson. The Art of Dynastic China. New York, 1981. ill. 210.
  • Sueji Umehara. Yin hsu: Ancient Capital of the Shang Dynasty at An-yang. Tokyo. pl. 38.
  • Sekai kokogaku taikei [Archaeology of the World]. 16 vols., Tokyo, 1958-1962. vol. 6: p. 98, fig. 275.
  • Sekai bijutsu zenshu [A Complete Collection of World Art]. 40 vols., Tokyo, F1951-1953. cat. 72, vol. 2.
  • Mizuno Seiichi. In Shu seidoki to tama [Bronzes and Jades of Ancient China]. Tokyo. pl. 1.
  • Rene Grousset. La Chine et son Art. Collection Ars et historia Paris. facing p. 29.
  • Chugoku no bijutsu [The Arts of China]. 6 vols., Kyoto. vol. 6: p. 201, pl. 47.
  • Cheng Te-k'un. Archaeology in China. 3 vols., Cambridge, England. vol. 2: pl. 35a.
  • Sueji Umehara. Furia bijutsukan Shuzo no Gijo no Riki to sono ichirui [An Example of a Ceremonial Axe in the Collection of the Freer Gallery of Art]. vol. 13, no. 4 Kyoto, October 1954. pp. 1-17, pl. 1.
  • Grace Dunham Guest, Archibald Gibson Wenley. Annotated Outlines of the History of Chinese Arts. Washington, 1949. p. 6.
  • Smithsonian Institution. Report of the Secretary, 1940. Washington. p. 43, pl. 1.
  • Werner Speiser. China: Geist und Gesellschaft. Kunst der Welt Baden-Baden. p. 47.
  • Zusetsu sekai bunkashi taikei [Cultural History of the World]. 27 vols., Tokyo, 1958-1961. p. 70, fig. 97.
  • Na Chih-liang. "玉器通史." Yu ch'i t'ung shih [A General Study of Chinese Jade]. Hong Kong, 1965. p. 71, fig. 94.
  • 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. 88, pl. 42.
  • Archibald Gibson Wenley. Early Chinese Jade. vol. 63, no. 5 Washington, November 1946. p. 342.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Jades for Life and Death
Google Cultural Institute
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