After rebellions crushed a united China under the Han Dynasty in 220 AD, a turbulent period began where power moved from North to South. During the Six Dynasties (220 – 589 AD), especially the Period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386-589), Confucianism was challenged, as Buddhism and Taoism took hold. It was a period of great political turbulence and artistic creation, especially in poetry.
These two magnificent jade combs, just acquired by The Creative Museum, might have been made in the Southern Dynasty period 420 – 589 because of the decorative carvings’ relationship to Xu Ling’s famous poetic anthology, “New Songs from the Jade Terrace.”
Religiously, Buddhism was traveling from its Hindu origins in India to Chinese culture. As Buddhist characters entered into Chinese mythology, the Creative Museum’s combs might portray Jiālóuluó, a celestial music master in the form of a man with an eagle’s head and wings, and a ram, who was a sun god.
Then there is the myth of the archer Yi and the Sun. As the story goes, the Sun God’s children were having fun riding in chariots together, but their collective heat was causing crop havoc on earth. Concerned, their father Dijun sent the great archer Yi to frighten his children into behaving. When Yi realized this wouldn’t work, he started killing them. After he finished, only one sun was left, the one we see today.
This could be the meaning of the other carvings on these two exquisite jade combs. Please notice that in each carving, the man wears his hair in a top knot. The carvings might represent the life of Chinese Buddhist mythological character Yi in love and in war.