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Hello, I have inherited this decorative item, possibly Chinese, and I am trying to find out any information I can about it including:

- age

- origin

- material

- purpose

- restoration

- value

I don't see any kind of identification marks on it, but maybe I just need help finding them. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you. 

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Replies to This Discussion

I picture isn't enough to answer your questions. You have the object in your hand and yet you can't say what it's made of? There isn't anyway I can tell from a picture.

Dimensions. Bigger than a penny doesn't tell me anything. Why can't you measure it and tell us the diameter? Or work out the mathematics of ratio and proportion*.

And how thick is it?

Are those x-shaped carved things pierced through? Can you see tool marks?

And what does the back look like?

*penny Diameter is 18mm, penny in pic is 42mm. Disc in pic is 160mm.  18-42 = X-160

42X = 2880,  X = 68.6mm (apprx 2-3/4" diameter).

It looks Japanese to me; also looks to be a reproduction or fake. Called a "Bi-disk", a sign of great wealth in ancient China or Japan. Buried with the owner at death.

The object is approximately 7cm in diameter, and approximately 2.5mm thick.  The x-shaped carvings are pierced through. Judging by the solid parts it seems like painted shell, however from the filigree sections it looks like some kind of stone or ivory. 

I received it from a relative, and it is a quite dirty so I can't tell what material it is, or see any obvious tool marks. I don't know how to safely clean it to see more detail without taking off the paint or breaking the filigree. It is in storage, but this weekend I will measure it exactly and take pictures of the edges and back.

Usually, Bi-disks usually have a hole to be carried on a cord, but it is a possibility.

Thank you for your response. 

My math worked!  I figured it was 68.6mm, which is "approximately 7cm" as you say. You're right most bi-disks do have a center hole but quite a few do not. Many are worn as pendants, others lie on a shelf collecting dust and others have a pin to wear it as a brooch.

There is a test for ivory. Heat a needle tip to red hot, push into ivory. If it makes a hole it is NOT ivory.  If no hole, it is ivory. Do it on back where it's not visible.

Hi Walter, Cool item there, but it's so dark, I'm having trouble seeing what we are looking at?

Please, please please, when you re-take photos place the item in GOOD lighting - natural light is best, but at least it needs to be bright enough to show details. ( Please don't use flash instead,  as it seldom comes out well on art objects like this, :( Also place it on a solid background in either white or grey. As Tom stated, we need the photos of the back and edges to please, and if there are piercings I can't even see them?

Lastly, is the design raised on the tile? I'm going to call it a "Tile" as I'm unsure just yet what it is. But if the design is "Bas-Relief" or Raised we then are sure that this item was made to be hung up, as opposed to a flat surface that could be a tea pot trivet. and etc...

Looking forward to really seeing your cool item soon! 

Thank you for your suggestions, Vicki. I will take clearer pictures this weekend.

The current picture is on a white background, it is tissue paper (you can see the edge in the lower left corner.) 

After a bit of photoshop enhancing (see image below), it appears to me to be bas-relief as you mentioned.  I agree that it is most likely a decorative item, rather than a functional one.

For a bit of interesting information regarding the man depicted on your piece, I've copied and pasted some information from Wikipedia about Shou, the Chinese God of Longevity.

"The star of Shou (壽), Shouxing 寿星, is α Carinae (Canopus), the star of the south pole in Chinese astronomy, and is believed to control the life spans of mortals. According to legend, he was carried in his mother's womb for ten years before being born, and was already an old man when delivered. He is recognized by his high, domed forehead and the peach which he carries as a symbol of immortality. The longevity god is usually shown smiling and friendly, and he may sometimes be carrying a gourd filled with the elixir of life. He is sometimes conflated with Laozi and corresponding gods of Taoist theology.

Other symbols in Chinese iconography that represent longevity include pine trees, cranes, spotted deer, special collectors' stones (shòushí 寿石), peaches, and tortoises.[5] These are often depicted in small groupings to emphasize the central, symbolic meaning of the picture (for example, cranes standing amongst pine trees)."

Thank you, Molly. I will try to post the next set of pictures inline. 

Hi folks, I have taken and attached some better pictures, in full sun, of the front and back of the disc, straight on, and oblique to show the relief. A little nerve wracking as it was a windy day and the items almost blew away several times. I hope these are more useful than the last and worth the risk.

I have also measured the disc. It is 7.35cm wide by 7.65cm long, and varying in thickness, from 1mm to 3mm. Judging by this size, oval shape and by the "sliced" appearance of the tool marks on the back, I am now almost certain it is ivory, so at least I have that much more information now. The back has two small marks, I believe in Chinese.

I don't think that I would have poked any needles into it anyway, as I think that would only distinguish between ivory and resin or plastic. I don't believe it would distinguish between ivory and shell, bone, or stone. 

I was very pleased to learn so much about the characters depicted, thank you Michael. I see at so many items from the wikipedia in the carving now: the high forehead, peach, spotted deer, pines, etc.

My other concern at the moment is that I have a second disc, with different subject matter, that is broken, and I need to find out as much about them  as possible to get it restored, repaired or protected so they are not lost to time. Even if they are "fake" it is still beautiful to me. They are at least 70 years old, perhaps much older, and I am amazed that people did such delicate filigree carving with only hand tools. 

There is a mark/symbol on the back of the first disk, possibly a name?  Michael? :)

Pictures of the second disc, which is damaged and in need of some TLC. Dimensions are the same as the first, 7.35cm by 7.65cm and 1mm to 3mm thick. Two small dark oblique marks on the edge of the item, visible in the last picture. No marks on the back, as far as I can see. 


IF IT IS NOT IVORY, IT WILL MAKE A TINY LITTLE HOLE.  I can see a lot of black spots on the reverse and edge that could be tiny little holes. If they are pin holes it indicates somebody else has already  tested it and discovered that it is not ivory.

You might also read about buying, selling and trading in Ivory.  It is outlawed in almost every country in the World.

Personally, I think the filigree carving was done by a computer guided laser. It also looks more like celluloid to me. (My opinion)

LET ME REPEAT.  If it is Ivory NO HOLE or MARK will occur.


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