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Dragon Pendant

CC0 Public Domain Designation

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Eastern Zhou dynasty, Warrring States period (c.480–221 B.C.)
4th/3rd century B.C.



About this artwork

These matching pendants were designed as serpentine dragons with backturned heads, coiled tails, and small fins that project above and below their undulating trunks. The rhythmic fluency of these creatures belies the unyielding quality of jade—a compact, fine-grained stone that cannot be carved and must be worn away with abrasive paste applied to its surface with saws, grinders, and drills. The craftsman’s remarkable dexterity with this intractable material is displayed in smoothly rounded, heart-shaped units and delicately incised spirals, striations, and cross-hatching that thoroughly enliven both the front and back surfaces. Their substantial size and thickness, technical refinement, and glossy polish point to aristocratic patronage. That these pendants were likely designed to drape down the owner’s shoulders or from a waistband is indicated by holes pierced for suspension through the creatures’ hindquarters. Toward the end of the Bronze Age when these pendants were created, sinuously curved dragons had become prominent motifs in many luxurious materials. Contemporary literature suggests that such dynamic creatures were not merely decorative but also envisioned as supernatural beings. When buried with the deceased, jade pendants like these may have reflected widely held beliefs in the dragon as a vehicle that could transport the human soul on its journey to the netherworld.


On View, Gallery 132


Arts of Asia


Dragon Pendant


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.

400 BCE–200 BCE




9.2 × 16.8 × 0.7 cm (3 5/8 × 6 5/8 × 5/16 in.)

Credit Line

Edward and Louise B. Sonnenschein Collection

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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