|Large jade disks with center holes begin to crop up during the Neolithic Era. They are assumed to have some ceremonial or spiritual purpose because they did later. Some bi were probably worn as bracelets. Gradually, as it became clear that jade was not readily available, its value would have increased. As some patterns and colors were more attractive or unusual, those, too, would have increased in value over others. The increased value would mean that they would either be owned in common or that people who had managed to accumulate more resources would be able to trade for them. People who found likely jade rocks would have a means of trading for the labor of others; the definition of wealth. Specialization of labor and skills places people at different positions in a society. Those with specialized skills can command more for their labor, while those with general skills end up at the bottom of the heap in a bidding war with those at the same level. In the Neolithic Era when the difference between the "haves" and "have nots" was a piece of jade, the distinction made little difference. It is only at the close of the era that social structures became sufficiently complex as to deny those at the bottom the benefit of their own labor.
This jade bi dates from 2100 BC to 2900 BC and was found at Lushanmao, Yan'an, Shaanxi Province.
Last update: March 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2010