Erotic Jade Phallus
My love of erotic art, jade and the ancient world are perfectly represented by this exquisite piece. However, now that my life style orientated to travel and technology this is one of those treasured pieces that I have to let go of. As you read the following, you'll discover what I have, the secrets of it's symbolism and heritage.
The Jade ‘Pan Ku' Turtle Phallus
According to Chinese mythology the universe was nothing but formless chaos until it coalesced into the shape of an egg. When the egg eventually opened the primordial man, Pan-Ku, emerged from its cracked shell. Pan-Ku, praised for his immense generative power and fertility, gave rise to the two basic elements, Yin and Yang.
Yang formed the sky and Yin condensed into the Earth.
The phallic ‘Pan Ku’ Turtle shares many similarities with the sacred Linguam of Saivite and Tantric lore. Similar to the Yin and Yang, the Linguam (phallus) is joined with the Yoni (Vagina) in the form an egg shaped Linga (Tao).
The phallis is an expression of the masculine side of divinity and represents the organic plan of life that's lays inertly hidden within the seed.
The majesty of a towering oak tree remains but a hidden potential in an acorn. In a similar way the Yang (phallus) is the inert possibility of birth while the Yin (womb), is the place where the potential of birth gestates into a living being.
A Turtle seamlessly melds into the shapely base of the Erotic Jade Phallus.
As you can see in the above picture, a Turtle seamlessly melds into the shapely base of the Erotic Jade Phallus. This is fitting, because in one version of the ‘Pan Ku’ myth, a turtle was one of the four sacred animals that aided Pan-Ku in his act of creation.
Remnants of this legend ripple across the mythological strata of the ancient world. The turtle is also critical to the creation of living beings in the Vedas of India. According to Satapatha Brahmana the Creator-Brahma/Prajapati assumed the form of a turtle to create a living world populated by offspring. (H.P. 167 Satapatha Brahmana 18.104.22.168)
A turtle is an animal that's rich in the symbolic significance of the created sphere. It’s underside, the plastron, is a hard flat shell, representing the terrestrial plane of existence and its four legs are suggestive of the four directions of space.
The upper body of a turtle, its dome (carapace) represents the celestial vault, and the rib like seams that partition its inner shell, bring to mind the bands of longitude and latitude that crisscross the cosmic shell of space and time.
At least symbolically, the earth is like a giant turtle swimming through the universal ocean of space. And when you think about it, the earth is enshrined by atmospheric shell that protects all life from cosmic radiation.
So when we bring it all together the Erotic Jade Phallus is a object of veneration that was believed to endow sexual potency, long life and fertile abundance.
It's also a testament to the ancient Chinese culture, which celebrated the art and pleasure of sexuality. We know that the Chinese honor their heritage, their ancestors and their children.
Like many cultures of years gone by, children represented the innocent joy of life and plenitude. The larger the family the more happiness and success could be expected not only in this life but also in the after life.
Before we move on to examine the Jade and authenticity of this erotic artifact, lets take one last look at the photo pictured above.
Did happen to notice that the turtles head actually doubles as the surreal head of a reared back serpent?
Jade Insights and Signs of Authenticity
The ancient people of China cherished Jade for its inherent beauty and mystical properties that were thought to prolong life and enhance vitality.
“Pan Ku” Turtle Phallus is a exquisite specimen of ‘Old Jade' Old Jade is a term that refers to jade artifacts that were crafted before Han Dynasty (A.D. 220).
There are two types of old jade, that which was used in burial and that which has not.
Jade that hasn’t been buried is called Zhuan Shi Gu, or ‘handed down the generations’. Jade that has been buried is called Jiu Yu.
Another distinction of ‘old jade’ is Han Yu or ‘Jade that was buried in the mouth of the deceased’. Often burial jade was used to seal a persons orifices to protect their vital essence.
The ‘Pan Ku’ Phallus carving is a rare example of ancient ceremonial art. It’s deep, reddish brown patina gives it a beauty, that like a fine wine, has only gotten better with time.
Old Jade that has red tints of patina is caused by it being buried close cinnabar. Cinnabar was used to make vermilion pigment and presumably makeup.
Even though I refer to this piece as a carving, Jade actually cannot be carved. Because of its hardness, it can rarely be shaped by chiseling or chipping but must be worn away by abrasion with tools and hard sand pastes.
This is a process that requires immense patience — even with modern machinery equipped with diamond-tipped burrs, it remains laborious. Even so, jade sculpting was perfected in China several thousand years before metal tools existed.
Neolithic jade artisans worked with bamboo, bone, and stone tools, using a drilling or bow action to abrade the jade with sand. Because the process was so labor-intensive and time-consuming, carved pieces of jade reflected the ability of a ruling elite to command resources, and therefore came to symbolize power, status, and prestige.
The ‘Pan Ku’ Turtle Phallus has no major cracks or chips and is in excellent condition. However there is evidence of erosion and slight pitting. These types of surface fissures are commonly found on jade artifacts.
In fact, these markings are what help to establish the age, value and quality of the Jade specimen. If the patina is removed from an ancient piece of jade its value is all but destroyed.
The polished smoothness, proportion and masterful execution of the ‘Pan Ku’ Turtle Phallus’ are suggestive of the refined skills exemplified by the artisian carvers of the Liangzhu culture (3400-2250 BCE).
Due to the extraordinary elegant workmanship, Liangzhu Culture jade artifacts are the most sought after. Even though it isn’t possible to guarantee that the ‘Pan Ku’ Turtle Phallus is a product of the Liangzhu culture, we can guarantee its Neolithic origin.
Notes on the Valuation of Archaic Jade
According to Dr. Daphne Lange Rosenzweig, (Ph.D., Columbia University) an art historian specializing in East Asian art, the value of jade antiques may be appraised through the following factors:
- identification and quality of the material
- size and condition of the carving
- quality of the workmanship
- aesthetic consideration of shape, subject and marking color
- market and personal taste
Dr. Rosenzweig stresses the necessary discipline of judging jade on its own merits and not by its pedigree or the important name of its former owner.
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