History of the Bi-disc
The object is flat and disc-like with a small hole in the middle; its colours could range from dark, dusty brown to translucent white; it is an ancient symbol, but its look is curiously modern: we are talking here about the Bi-Disc.
This object has been hanging around in Chinese history for over 5000 years. Chinese civilisation stretches back for thousands and thousands of years, and saw immense changes in its people, their culture and their behaviour, but the bi-disc has not changed much, at least in appearance.
In the earliest Chinese history, archeologists theorise that the shape of the bi-disc might link to sun worship and the heavens of the afterlife. A couple of thousand years later, the bi-disc was used as a powerful symbol of status of emperors, warlords and the Chinese elite. However, three hundred years ago, the emperor did not even know what a bi-disc was when he found one in his art collection and thought it must be a jade cup stand!
Jade: wisdom and immortality
The bi-discs dug up by archeologists or found in ancient collections of art works are made of beautiful and often decorated stone: jade. This jade stone was for ancient Chinese more valuable than gold and plays an important role in Chinese civilisation throughout its history. Jade can be found in multiple colours, but the most valuable jade is a kind of light emerald green translucent jade. The famous philosopher Confucius assigned the virtues of wisdom and purity to the stone and nowadays people still prefer jewellery made from jade for these associations. Even more importantly, jade was also linked to long life and immortality. Touching jade or drinking from jade cups would increase one’s life span magically. And if you could not live forever on earth, being buried with jade objects or even a jade body suit would ensure eternal life in the afterlife.
Shaping jade is a very difficult and time consuming process. The stone is hard and can easily break if you make large, very flat discs. Can you imagine the effort and artistry of the people who shaped and decorated these stones before iron was around?
Bi-discs in Interior Design
When the Qianlong Emperor (1736 – 1795 AD) was speculating about the bi-disc being a fancy cup holder, he had a cup specially created so the disc could fulfil its supposedly original function.
Even now, we do not know the original function of the bi-disc, but we can always imagine more ways how we can incorporate bi-discs in our live and homes. The round shape and vibrant colours are very attractive to the modern eye which makes bi-discs excellent decorative objects. They are easily combined with other decorations and different interior styles.
While real jade bi-discs are true collector’s items and works of art, we use bi-discs made of different kinds of stone. We even see its shape in old mill stones and antique wooden wheels.
Bi-discs’ long and mysterious history might have been partially forgotten, but they will endure as interestingly decorative objects. True timelessness indeed!