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Dagger-Blade (ge)

CC0 Public Domain Designation

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Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC)



About this artwork

The earliest archaeological finds of silk in China comprise very small fragments of fabric that are datable to the 4th and 3rd millennia B.C. Silks with woven patterns are rarely preserved but can be documented about one thousand years later, primarily through ghost-like imprints on jade implements as well as bronze vessels and weapons. Before burial, these prestigious ceremonial objects were evidently wrapped in fragile but fugitive silk fabrics.

Preserved near the edge of this jade blade is a three-dimensional pseudomorph (“false form”) of a squared, tightly woven pattern, whose organic material has completely disintegrated and been replaced by minerals that duplicate the original textile structure. Under high magnification, this pattern displays a slight “Z” twist in the original filament thread, as characteristic of reeled silk that is simply woven (“plain weave.”).

Such indirect but clearly preserved evidence of Shang dynasty silk is extraordinarily rare. The collective expertise of the Art Institute’s conservation scientists and scholars of Chinese textile history and technology have facilitated the identification of the material seen here.


On View, Gallery 131


Arts of Asia


Dagger-Blade (ge)


China (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

1300 BCE–1000 BCE




19.6 × 4.1 × 0.3 cm (7 3/4 × 1 5/8 × 1/8 in.)

Credit Line

Edward and Louise B. Sonnenschein Collection

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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