Human-beast shaped jade ornament
Photo source: National Museum of Prehistory
Surprisingly, archaeological studies have shown that the Peinan people of Taiwan (5300~2300 BC) were capable of grinding jade. They actually made many outstanding works. One of these is a jade ornament shaped as a human-beast. This ornament is so distinctive that the National Museum of Prehistory has used this shape as its logo. Prehistorical heritage jade ornaments from the Philippines and Vietnam have been found to have the same structural compositions as those in Taiwan. This was know long ago. But the mystery was where these ornaments had come from. The later discovery of Fong Tian jade, however, has clearly solved this mystery. They all come from Taiwan.
Archaeological excavations of heritage sites from the Neolithic Age reveal all sorts of shapes. There are jades shaped as human-beasts and as tubes. There are jade ornaments and jade bracelets. In the Peinan site alone nearly 5000 pieces of jade were uncovered. All were made of Fong Tian jade from Hua Lian and Xi Lin. Based on studies of color, components, mineral compositions and the geologic time of jade mineralization, it was clear that these archaeological jade remnants originated from the Fong Tian area in Hua Lian. The origin was the same as pieces of nephrite from nearby Philippines and Vietnam.
How was this mystery solved? Australian researchers set out on the task of sourcing the jade ornaments excavated from the Philippines and Vietnam. We already know the answer to the question of origin. Through analysis of shape, design and chemical composition, using exquisite modern devices, all these precious jade pieces are known to have their origin in Fong Tian. But what was this about? What does it tell us of Fong Tian people at that time? Very early, around 5000 years ago, the people on Taiwan were already aware of and valued the beauty of jade. They created a mysterious prehistorical jade culture that lasted 3000 years. In this time, jade spread out among the areas of southeastern Asia.
Jade isn't the only mineral used by Taiwan's Peinan prehistorical culture. Hornblendes were also used as ornaments or decoration. According to researchers of the National Museum of Prehistory, jades found in the Peinan site may be partly from modernday Xi Fong county, in the Fong Tian area of Hualian.
The jade pieces excavated from the Peinan site have clear markers that point back to their origin. They have a special composition. They have a distinctive morphology. In the whole process, from picking the material, to carving it and making it a final work, this has given these pieces a quality leading to them being valued as delicate and exquisite art. The source of these ancient jade masterpieces is clear. It's a special green nephrite. It's Taiwan's nephrite. It's Fong Tian jade! These materials have such beautiful shape and texture. We already mentioned one of these exquisite pieces, the human-beast shaped jade ornament. Everyone now recognizes its value. It's known as a "National Treasure of Taiwan". The design of human-beast connection gives a hint that back in the earlier times, jade was used as a communicative medium among living people, their ancient spirits and spiritual animals.