Between Heaven and Earth

Secrets of the Jade Cong
From the work of
Compiled by Suzanne Thompson

Bernard I. Pietsch

In his comprehensive survey of the symbolic and ritualistic nature of Chinese jades, Charles Stanley a Nott offers four criteria for evaluating the virtue of antique jade art: rarity and age, merit of execution, aesthetic value and quality of stone. To this list we would add a fifth factor, one unanticipated by Nott--the geometric and metrological (measured) context of the work. The revelation that ancient forms fit into a large and invisible geometric framework will come as no surprise. Chinese poets have alluded to the metaphysical qualities of jade for centuries, and to the awareness that it is an art comprehended indirectly. In the following essay Mr. Pietsch reveals the geometry embedded in an archaic sculpture, and the significance of the numbers associated with the form. This approach introduces a new vector in collecting. In the future, scholars and curators may be obliged to appraise not only the aesthetic properties of jade art, but also the metrological provenance of the objects in their collections.

Introduction: Beneath the Tradition

From the ancient recesses of Chinese history, three mysterious art forms emerged: the pi disk, the music stone and the cong. Though variations have evolved through the ages, each motif has endured for millennia. Our research suggests that these three objects are linked through number and geometry to an underlying physical and cosmological understanding. The shape and geometry of each contains information which can be deciphered. Each shape is also part of a larger framework, the analysis of which reveals much about the mind that produced the art, as well as the science which cultivated it. The following presentation focuses on one of the three forms--the artifact known as a ts'hung, or cong. Traditionally, the cong is considered simply an archaic burial object for the “worship of the earth.” Congs appear in various sizes, and some are estimated to be more than 4,000 years old. Thousands have been removed from burial sites all over China. Like the pi disc and music stone, the cong exercises a mode of communication that can be "read." The system of communication embedded in the work originated from recognition of fundamental relationships in the natural order. Scientific observations, perhaps millennia in the making, were encoded in works of art--in the languages of number, geometry and measure. Over time, direct transmission of the knowledge the works contained was lost. Only the form itself

Pi Disk

Music Stone or Ching


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survived, carried forth by tradition. Like a container without its contents, appreciation of the artifact was sustained only by reverence for the past; the knowledge it once contained, traded for mystery. Even so, the conceptual intent of an artifact like the cong, can be recovered by reading its attributes: the qualities of its material, its geometry, and the quantities of its measure. Properly read, one can assess the true value of a work, not only to confirm its authenticity but also to appraise its provenance as a masterpiece of conceptual art. For this study, we have chosen a model we believe to be such a masterpiece. It is prototypical of the cong concept. In measure and form it demonstrates many of the processes with which we may investigate other artifacts in its class. Because of its unusual size, we refer to it as the very large cong or VLC for short. Decoding the cong involves identifying its characteristic features and examining how each part relates to the others. Height, width, volume and weight all participate; each feature of the piece relates to the whole and derives from an origin. After dissecting its physical and geometric attributes we will trace the associations which drive the form and triangulate, as it were from several perspectives. Some aspects of the design originate from outside the physical object itself. In the overall communication of the work, meaning will be found in the extension of its geometry, in the empty spaces contained by its form and in the indications of time determined by its height. Our aim is to re-construct the artifact from its conceptual ground and demonstrate how this simple jade object transcends the limitations of physical form and fulfills its traditional role as “a stone of heaven for the worship of the earth.”

Bernard Pietsch with the Very Large Cong (VLC for short)

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Although congs are various sizes, characteristically they include the following elements: bore, cone, corners and collars. In the particular model we have selected for analysis, each of the above features makes an important contribution to the artistic narrative of the whole.

Overview: Anatomy of the Very Large Cong

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

The Bore

The bore is an essential part of the cong. (Figs. 1 & 2) It is not material yet it is defined by the material of the cong. The bore is the empty space around which the cong is devised. In a sense, the cong emerges from the empty attributes of the bore. It is the same height as the cong and is cylindrical; its sides are parallel. It has diameter, volume, and surface area, but being just space, has no weight. The Cone The cong is basically built on the form of a truncated cone, and is traditionally displayed standing on its smaller end. (Fig. 1) For purposes of illustration, we will show it inverted, with the larger end down. The cone physically encloses the empty bore. (Fig. 3) Each end plane of the truncated cone is different in diameter—one larger than the other (Figs. 4 & 5). The geometry and dimensions of each end plane are integral aspects of the composition, and to a large degree, organize it, as does the height of the truncated cone and bore. 5 4
3 Small and Larger End Planes of Cong

Empty Bore

Bore inside Cong

Fig. 3

The bore and cone are partially enclosed by four not quite rectangular corner embellishments or prisms. (Fig. 6 left) The prisms do not extend the full length of the cone, but stop short of either end, 5 6 creating the appearance of a “collar” on each end. The collars are actually the exposed cone. As in our model, the prism

The Corners and Collars

Cong inverted

Truncated Cone & Bore

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elements are often carved with lines and simple mask like motifs. The geometry, dimensions and weights of the prisms and the exposed portions of the cone and collars can be isolated as meaningful components. The bore, cone, collars and prisms are the visible elements of the cong-- each can be described by its dimensions and geometry. Other aspects to be considered will include the invisible or indicated dimensions of the form. The indicated geometry is derived from the cong’s physical elements but lies outside the object itself. Even the nature of the material out of which the cong is fashioned--its volume, weight and density relative to other materials, will come into play as we navigate the conceptual organization of the object Lastly we will look for the relationship of the cong’s geometry to time. It will be necessary to meander among its various features before each can be connected, but at the end of the exercise, the beauty of the whole will be seen in the harmonization of its many details. The intrinsic and emergent properties of the cong will become self-evident. Bearing in mind that the conceptualization of this work could begin from any point in its geometry, we now move to examine more closely the details of its elements. We initiate the organization of the cong, from outside the cong itself.

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The bore again, is an essential form defined by the physical artifact. It is actually in the artifact--but not as substance. It is the empty space around which the cong is constructed. The bore is a cylinder. Its sides are parallel and each end’s diameter is the same. Its height is coincident with the height of the cong: 37.85872 inches. (The height, as we will see later, will be meaningfully derived.)
Attributes of the bore by the numbers: --Circumference of the circular end plane of the bore: Formula for Circumference = diameter x  2.911355321" x  (3.141986363 0 = 9.147438716 --Area of the circle at the end of the bore: 2 Formula for Area = r x  2 1.45567766 = 2.118997451 2.118997451 x  = 6.657861095 sq. in. --Volume of the bore: Formula for Volume of cylinder = area of end plane x height. 6.657861095 sq. inches in (end plane) x height = vol. 37.858752 X 6.657861095 = 252.058312 cu. Inches in bore. --Surface area of the bore: Formula for Surface area of cylinder = diameter x  x height. 2.911355321 x  x 37.858752 = 346.3106138 sq" Adding the area of the two ends, the total surface area of the cylindrical bore would be: 346.3106138 + 13.31572219 = 359.626336 sq". End plane of bore hole.

The Bore—Building On the Empty.

The Bore

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III. Defining the Larger End of the Sculpture:

Fig. 7

Looking straight on at the larger end of the sculpture, a "ring" of material is visible. (Fig. 7) The inner rim of the ring is delineated by the edge of the empty bore. The ring is the visible base of the truncated cone within the geometry of the physical cong. As both ends of the truncated coned are different, the area of each end must be determined prior to calculating the volume of the cone. Following is the process of definition.
Larger End Larger End Ring geometry shows base of cone.

Dimensions of the Larger End (Fig. 8) --The outer circle of the large end has a radius of 3". --The area of the full outer circle is 28.27787728 square inches.

Fig. 8
r = 3"

--Deduct the area of the bore, from the area of the outer circle, to get the area of the larger ring: 28.27787728 - 6.657861095 = 21.62001617 sq. in

A = 28.277 sq "

Area of Bore A = 6.65 sq "

Ring on Larger End A = 21.62001617sq "


The square of the number of the area of the outer circle, 28.27787728, is very nearly 800 or 799.6383427--Canon  being slightly less mathematically exact.

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On the smaller end of the cong, the diameter of the empty bore is the same as its diameter at the larger end: 2.91 inches. b A ring-like geometry of the smaller end, similar to the larger end, is produced by the excision of the empty bore through the truncated jade cone. (Fig. 9) As the cone is tapered, the radius of the outer ring is determined by the height of the point of intersection of the bore and the angle of the cone's slope. The radius of the ring of the smaller end's outer circle is 2.25 inches. Finding the volume of the truncated conec:
We know that the area of the end plane of the empty bore (Fig. 11) is d 6.65 square inches , and that the area of the outer circle of the smaller e end is 15.90 square inches . (Fig. 10) Subtracting the area of the empty bore from the area of the outer circle: f 15.90 - 6.65 = 9.24 square inches , the area of the smaller end ring. (Fig. 12) Now that the areas of both circular end planes of the cone have been defined, the next step in determining the volume of the cone is to add both ring areas, divide their sum by 2 (Fig 13) and multiply the result by the height of the cone: 9.248444886 + 21.62001617 = 30.86846104 sq " 30.86846104 = 15.43423052 2 15.43423052 x 37.858752 = 584.3207055 cubic inches in the cone.
Smaller End of Cong

Defining the Smaller End

Fig. 9

r = 2.91“

Smaller End Plane showing ring of cone around empty bore.

Fig. 10 r = 2.25"

Smaller End Plane Radius = 2.25”

Smaller End Plane A = 15.90 sq "

Fig. 11

Fig. 12

A = 6.65sq” Area of Bore

Smaller End Ring A = 9.24 sq "

The lesson in the above exercise is part of the art of the sculpture: dissonance inevitably arises between the physical form and its mathematical description. Necessarily, the formula used above requires averaging the top and bottom areas in order to calculate the volume of the cone. By applying mathematics to physical properties and homogenizing the differences, there is a sacrifice--perfection cannot be averaged. Therefore the mathematically determined volume, 584.3207055 cubic inches, is an approximation. Though not exactly the same, the number produced by this mathematical reckoning will come into play
b c

2.911355321inches bore’s diameter. An alternate formula for a right circular cone: V = Pi (R2 + r R + r2) h/3. d 6.657861095 square inches area of end of bore. e 15.90630596 square inches f 9.248444868 square inches area of smaller-end ring.

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later. Note: As an aside, the number 15.43423052 (representing the average of the two end planes’ areas) is coincidentally the number of grains in one gram, in either the troy or avoirdupois weight systems.


The next level of the cong’s indicated architecture derives from the primary form around which the physical cong is built--the truncated cone, perforated by the empty cylindrical bore just described. (Fig. 13) The diagram shows the geometry of the cone and bore thus inverted. By placing the larger end of the cong down, it is not difficult Cone & Bore to visualize the extension of the truncated cone to its geometric conclusion--the point where its sloping sides would come together. (Fig. 14) The third diagram (Fig.15) shows more closely the geometry of the cone if it were extended above and beyond the actual sculpture. The non-physical aspects of the cone are derived by the extension of the truncated form. The dimensions, volume and weight of both the physical and the non-physical form of the cone are part of the communication of the cong. The indicated dimensions represent the “heavenly” aspect of the artifact. The sides of the cone would intersect the diameter of the bore at 2 times the height of the bore + 2.23 inchesg, or 77.9 inchesh from the base. Again the indicated is not physically part of the object, but an extension of its internal geometry.
Height to top of Physical Cong Fig. 13 Truncated Fig. 14 Extension of the cone to apex angle.

The Cone: Art Intercepting Geometry.

Height where extended Cone would intersect extended Bore: 77.9"


2.237363476 inches above 2 VLC heights, the bore intersects the projected geometry of the cone. h 77.95480348 inches from the base, the bore intersects the cone.

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The fourth diagram (Fig. 16) shows that when the Cone is extended to its geometric conclusion, it peaks at exactly four times the height of the physical cong: 4 x 37.858752" = 151.435008" Each side of the cone inclines 1.1349°. (Fig. 17) Why the inclination angle is critical will become apparent shortly, after a description of the corner motifs.

Fig. 16 Apex of extended Cone: 12.61917' or 151.435008"


Fig. 17
Slope angle of cone.




Height where extended Cone would intersect diameter of Bore: 2.23 inches above nd 2 height of core.


Height at top of Physical Artifact.

Cone extended

Not to scale.

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VI. The Jade Carver's Art: Finessing the Prisms

The corners of the very large cong, sometimes referred to as "prisms", do not extend the full length of the sculpture, but begin ¾ of an inch from either end of the cone, thus exposing ¾ of an inch of the circular cone on each end. This sculpting of the corners creates the effect of ring-like "collars" around the top and bottom of the piece, although the collars are actually just the exposed cone. The corner prisms follow the contour of the cone, taper on the smaller end and thus are not truly squared. The areas of the prisms’ corners at either end are also different. Their geometry makes them look as if they were appended or "added" to the length of the body of the cone, although they are indeed carved away from the block of material. By carefully carving away the material on the corners, the prisms could be fine-tuned to indicate a desired weight. The weights of the four prisms contribute to the conceptual contrivance of the work and reiterate the relationship between jadeite and nephrite.
Corner prism features.

Large end showing exposed “collar.”

Indication by Subtraction

In the case of the very large cong, because the cone portion of the design is a pure geometric form, its volume and weight can be determined from its measure. The volume of the cone is 584.32 cubic inchesi or 60.74 pounds of nephritej, and the weight of the four sculpted prisms can be found by subtracting the weight of the cone from the weight of the whole cong which is 68.93 poundsk. Whole cong weight - weight of cone = weight of 4 prisms. 68.93 - 60.74 = 8.19 lbs.l All 4 prisms would weigh 8.194832823 pounds of nephrite. 8.194832823 4 = 2.04870378 lbs. each prism.

i j

584.3207556 cubic inches in cone. 60.74351764 lbs. of nephrite in cone. k 68.938350485 lbs. total cong. l 8.194832823 lbs. 4 prisms.

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Recall that the ratio between the weight of jadeite and the weight of nephrite is: Jadeite = 1.1349080763. Nephrite And that 1.134 as degrees is also the slope angle of the cone. The sculpting on the four corners is a subtle but ingenious mark of the jade carver's art. The cut away portions of the prisms had to have been meticulously executed in order to fulfill the following equation: The cone weighs only 60.74351764 pounds of nephrite. If the cone were pure jadeite, it would weigh 68.938350485 lbs. --the same amount as the weight of the entire nephrite cong. This relationship holds true only if the prisms were adjusted to weigh exactly what they do. Certainly, not every piece of jadeite would have a perfect and ideal density (specific gravity) exactly 3.333 times the weight of water. However, a form could be "crafted" until it weighed the proper amount to indicate such a perfect relationship. The method chosen to indicate the information is the true art of the designer. The artist can overcome the physical limitations of an impure material and compensate for the inexactitude of its density. The consummate artist would be able to produce a work which symbolized a perfect representation of jade. As we just observed in the very large cong, an imperfect piece of jade or nephrite could be “perfected” by crafting the material to indicate a perfect form and weight. By design, the sculptor can intimate the rigor of mathematics. The observer who can recognize the inference of the communication can go beyond the limitations of the medium and perceive the distinction between the desired, the actual and the indicated.

VII. Gold: The Initiator

An example of the fidelity of perfect number applied to an imperfect world is formulated by the mathematical relationship of the weight of jadeite with the weight of gold: –e = 360 5.886104031 The term 360 represents the perfect number of degrees in the perfect circle of geometry.
Fig.18 An amount of gold.

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The term , for natural logarithm, is a mathematical expression used in quantifying the progression of phenomenal behavior patterns in the natural world. 5.886104031 is the ratio between the weights of two equal volumes of gold and jade. Gold weighs 5.886+ times an equal volume of pure jadeite. The formula, 360 = 5.886 is an amalgam of two worlds: It unites the perfect representation of “heaven” or gold, on the one hand with the imperfect “earth” of jade, on the other. This intimate relationship between gold, jade and mathematics further unfolds as we approach the intersection of the cong with the canon of measure. Canon metrology (measure) ordains congruence on many levels. In the Chinese system, the principle of uniting dissimilar categories is reflected in the organization and architecture of the cong under discussion, albeit the formal links to the canon have been lost or obscured over time. Again, the conceptual source of this cong is not only in the object itself but in the relationship of the cong’s dimensions to a quantity of gold and to the elemental relationship between gold and jade. In alchemy east and west, gold symbolizes the highest aims of spiritual aspiration. Through the ages it has been associated with wealth, power and station. Valued for its strength and malleability, its untarnishing luster, its purity of color and its stability, gold as a commodity, is recognized world wide as a standard of value. It is from these inherent properties of gold, its weight and density that our artifact is generated. The conceptual foundation of the cong evolves from an amount of gold. Let the initiating amount of gold weigh 1892.9376 lbs. (Fig.18)


Gold = 5.886104031 Jade 1

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VIII. The Cube of Gold

Let this amount of gold be formed into a perfect cube. (Fig. 19) m The cube weighing this amount of gold would have a volume of 1.577448 cubic feet.n We will return to these numbers for consideration later, but for now we resume with the initiating term of 1892.9376 –the pounds weight of an amount of gold in the shape of a cube. (Fig.20)
Fig. 19 An amount of gold as a cube.

Fig. 20: 1.577448 cubic feet of gold at 1892.9376 lbs.

m n

Each edge of this cube would be 13.96903043 inches in length. For reference later on, 1.577448 x 1 billion is the Canon number for the circumference of the Earth in inches: 1,577,448,000. 1.577448 is also the number of square inches on the top of the smaller incept.

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IX. The Rectangular Container: the box it came in.

Continuing the evolution of our form from the cube of gold, we must borrow the number that is ½ the number (1892.9376) of the weight of the initiating amount of gold. One-half the number of pounds of gold is 946.4688. This number will now also be used as a number of inches-divided by 100, to arrive at 9.464688 inches. (Fig.21) Multiply 9.464688 by 4 to derive the height of what is to become a rectangular shape. The height of the form being constructed would now be 37.85872 inches. (Fig. 22) The volume of this rectangular shapeo was derived from ½ the number of the weight of the original cube of gold divided by 100. Its height is fixed at 37.85872 inches, and its weight if it were filled with gold would be 946.4688 lbs. Given that the form is rectangular, that its height, and weight as gold are known, the area of each end plane can be calculated as 36 square inches or 6" on a side.p The dimensions of the box are thus defined as a rectangular form, 37.85872" x 6" x 6". ( Fig. 22) (The outer dimensions of this form are to contain the artifact under construction. (Fig. 23) We call it the rectangular container, or the box the cong would come in. The 6" square of the box just contains the outer circumference of the large end of the cone. (Fig. 24.) The artifact is evolving through a progression of forms coerced and constrained by geometry and material. Metaphorically, the conceptual origin of the artifact descends from the mind (heaven), through number (1892.9376), through form (the cube), through measure (the dimensions of the cube) through matter (as gold) and finally as weight--each
o p

Fig. 21

Fig. 22

= 946.4688

Fig. 23 The Rectangular Container 37.85” in height, 6” x 6” wide

1,362.915072 cubic inches volume of rectangular container. (An alternate method of deriving the volume is taken from the relationship of the weight of the object to the weight of one cubic foot of gold: 946.4688 lbs in the form divided by 1200 lbs gold in one cubic foot = .788724 of one cubic foot. .788724 of one cubic foot is 1,362.915072 cubic inches—the volume of the form holding 946.4688 lbs of gold.

The square end of the box contains and defines the large end of the cone.

Fig. 24

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stage becoming more defined and quantified. The "idea" descends to Earth and quantity emerges as form. Having begun from gold and its attendant characteristics we return to jade and its aesthetic qualities in the following translation from the "Shuo Wên," the first lexicon of the Chinese language, circa AD 100.

Jade is a certain kind of fine stone possessed of five qualities: 1) The Character of being Kind and Affectionate is embodied in its moist glossy texture; it has thus the essences of "Jen". 2) The Quality of Perfect Understanding idealistically imbued in fair dealing is envisioned in its composite assembly, for those used to handling the stone find its soul (interior qualities) visible on its outer crust, thus it envelopes the essence of “Yi”. 3) Intelligence is made manifest in its ’Voice’ which is both musical and resounding, thus it enshrines the essences of “Tsi”. 4) Fortitude and Braveness are its factual qualities, for although it may be “cut” yet it retains in each of its portions the essences of its “Soul”. This characteristic of preserving its personality, imbued it with the character “Ying”. 5) In it purity of presentation and its undefiled clarity, envisioned in its translucency and crispness of color is perpetuated the essences of “Chieh”.

Tribute to Jade



Nott, Stanley Charles, Chinese Jade, 1942.

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X. Introducing the Incept

The essence of this sculpture--its empty spaces, extended geometries, and abstract attributes, can be imagined as having evolved from the contemplation of that which is not. The form evolves from antecedents not in the world as objects, but rather as concepts. The incept is such a concept; it is both extrinsic or outside the geometry of the sculpture and precedes it. It ought to be noted that the author alone takes responsibility for having identified the concept of an incept. Nowhere in the study of jade and nephrite art is there a single mention nor representation of such a notion. The incept is an essential form; it does not exist. Yet, like the circle and square pattern so familiar in Asian art, the incept can be seen as a fundamental organizing principle in Chinese sculpture. The coin or cash (Fig. 25) pictured on the right, is an illustration of how a two dimensional circle and square pattern can suggest a three dimensional form (Fig. 26). The flat disc (Fig.25) could be envisioned as a sphere, (Fig. 26) and the square in the center, as a cube. The cube within the sphere could be seen as "empty" and the volume of its space deducted from the volume of the sphere. The derived volume of the sphere minus the empty cube within could then be configured as a volume (mass) of a specific material. The number designating the weight of the material could direct us to a meaningful referent, such as a standard of measure, etc.


Fig.26 26

Fig. 27

Smaller end

Larger end Fig.29

Regarding our cong, the circle and square motif is most clearly visible on either end plane of the artifact. (Fig.27) The circle defining the bore would enclose an imaginary square, (Fig.29) which if extruded through the length of the bore into a rectangular tube the height of the cong, would begin the construction of the three dimensional form. This extruded rectangular tube would fit exactly in the cong’s empty bore. (Fig.28) We will call it the larger incept. Fig. 28 Larger

incept in place in bore.

Circle enclosing imaginary square top of incept.

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XI. The Larger Incept

The larger incept is conceptual in nature. Though linked through measure and geometry to the artifact, this form is not part of the physical artifact--it is the long rectangular tube which would exactly fit in the empty space of the circular bore. The larger incept (Fig. 30) is the same height as the bore and its end planes are square and equal in area.

Fig. 30

By the numbers:
Height, 37.85872”. Diagonal length of each square end plane (also the diameter of the bore) is 2.911355321". Square end is 2.05863909" on a side. The area of each end plane is 4.237994902 square inches. Larger Incept

The ratio of the surface area of the large incept to its volume is about 2 to 1:
Surface = 320.2260169 square inches = 1.99859152 Volume = 160.445198 cubic inches

If the larger incept were solid jadeite, its weight would be 18.929376 lbs—1/100th the weight of the amount of gold with which the cong was initiated.
Larger Incept fits precisely inside cong’s bore.

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XII. The Smaller Incept: Conceived from Jade

A second, smaller incept (Fig. 31) can also be devised from the rectangular container extruded from half of the original cube of gold weighing 946.4688 pounds. For this smaller incept, we borrow 1/100th of the number of the rectangular container’s weight as gold: the number is 9.464688. Let the number 9.464688 now be used as the weight in pounds of a volume of jade. The shape of it shall be that of a tapered rectangular form. The height of the smaller incept will be identical to that of the bore and larger incept, 37.85872 inches, but one square end plane will be larger than the other. (Fig. 31) The dimensions of the larger end of the tapered incept, are also borrowed from the number associated with the initiating quantity of gold: 1892.9379 lbs. As a cube, this quantity of gold would contain 1.577448 cubic feet. Using the number 1.577448, but as a number of inches, let that number of inches be the length of the side of the square of the larger end of the taper. The larger end square is 1.577448 inches on a side and its weight in jade is 9.464688 pounds. Given these parameters, the width of the smaller end plane’s square can be determined by calculation as 1.333 inches on a side. The median width of this tapering form is 1.45567766 inches. Its volume is 80.222599 cubic inches. Relative to the larger incept, the edges of the smaller incept would just fit inside the larger incept. (Fig.32) If the smaller incept were solid jade, its weight would be one half of the larger incept, 9.464688 pounds. Two distinct rectangular tube-like forms have now been defined: the larger and smaller incepts. The larger was abstracted from an amount of gold; the smaller from an amount of jade. Neither has physical existence. Neither is part of the artifact. Yet each by virtue of its characteristics contributes to the conception of the artifact appointed to the worship of Earth.

Fig. 31

The Smaller Incept

Fig. 32

Smaller incept contained within larger incept.

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XIII. The Source of Measure

In other writings, we have discussed the evolution of measure not from an historical perspective but from the viewpoint that there is an emergent aspect to measure that transcends history and culture. We propose that the foundations of measure arise from the functions and frequencies of the human body. As the human body is substantially the same in any part of the world and has not evolved significantly in millennia, we suggest that at basis, the fundamentals of measure in all cultures are derived from the same source— the harmonics of our physiology. The physiological frequencies of heartbeat and breath, evolved in a matrix of planetary rhythms and cycles. The measured correspondences of our physiology with the universe are embedded in our physical rhythms. We are synchronous participants with the cosmos. We “come from the stars”. The alchemical aphorism, “as above, so below,” pertains to the correlation of celestial cycles with patterns and rhythms manifested in earthly terms. The template is universal; its expression is individual, and on different scales. The common denominator of all natural expression is the golden ratio or phi: .618. All dynamics and growth conform to this dictum. We hold that the observation of this singular phenomenon is at root the basis of all systems of measure world wide. Diverse cultures developed variant units, but each resonates with the underlying driver of the cosmos: the golden number. The observation of living organisms structured by time, like tree rings and sea shells or the non-organic remnants of geologic formations sculpted by wind and water will ultimately lead to the recognition of the golden pattern. In many cultures and over many centuries, cataloging the occurrence of celestial events like the phases of the moon, the periods of the planets and the cyclic appearance of eclipses progressed to an organized system of timing based on frequency. It is not difficult to imagine how the development of a system of timing based on 60 seconds would emerge from the heartbeat as a unit of measure. A tribal elder being mature in age would likely have a heartbeat approximating 60 cycles per minute. Multiples of this simple standard coupled with the over arching cycle of the sun’s annual path culminate in the ancient sacred cycle of 360 days, giving rise to the 360 degree circle and 1,296,000 seconds of arc. Observation of the moon and planets’ passage across the heavens in periods of time factored by recurrent numbers lends special significance to those numbers. The rhythmic repetition of

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celestial events like the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is an example. Over many generations the point of their coincidence in the heavens every 20 years or so would be recognized as occurring the golden proportion of degrees from the preceding conjunction. Whether expressed in the form of an antler carved with the phases of the moon some 40,000 years ago, or in an exquisitely carved piece of jade, the human passion to account and record its observations of nature in art forms endures. Our study of ancient art and architecture through the lens of geometry, number and measure, has led us to recover what we regard as a set of, or canon of measures. This canon does not exist--it is not recorded in books, scrolls or tablets--it does however, persist, in the great architectural works and monumental art of the ancient world. The units of measure which arise out of the civilizations of the past are at basis, driven by the relationships represented in the canon. Correspondence between one culture's system of measure and another's may not be exact, but each, in its own way none the less approximates its common canonical source. Elements of art and architecture, unfolding throughout history are the demonstration of the canon of measure, expressing itself synchronistically through the ages, a mystery understood more by intuition than by logic. Number and its functions liberated from the rules of mathematics abet the perception of this mystery.

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XIV. The Alchemy of Time, Space and the Very Large Cong

Characteristic of the canon of measure, units of the canon frequently identify themselves by correspondence with other units in the canon but in dissimilar categories, e.g. association between units of weight and units of time, linkage between the measure of an angle with a measure of weight r, correspondence of a measure of length with a physical or mathematical constant. In the case of the very large cong, the exercise of establishing its three-dimensional shape, measure and weight can be seen, in a manner of speaking as emerging from the 4th dimension of time. One significant measure of time which emerges is that of the last quarter day of the solar year—the 6¼ hours left over after 365 days has passed. Many cultures attach ritual importance to the "end of the year". Some regard the last 5 days as qualitatively different from the preceding 360. In particular, the last quarter day of this period—the 6¼ hours left over after 365 days has passed is especially significant. The measure of time of the last quarter day of the year is 6 hours 11 minutes 52 seconds .58. Isolation of this period would require years of astronomical observation and calculation. An intimation of such expertise is indicated by the VLC, but not directly. The information is "projected" from the work geometrically: Imagine an array of this cong arranged side by side in a circle, like many spokes on a wheel. (Fig. 33) Given the height and angle of inclination of the cong, the diameter of that circle would be 25.23 feets. (Fig.34) There would be 158 plus a fraction of very large congs in the 360º circle—each one taking up a wedge or pie cut of 2.26+ degreest. (Fig.35) Each wedge would have an area of 454.30 square inchesu. This number, 454.3026409 is the anti-natural logarithm of another number: 6.118763586.


Congs laid side by side in an array.

Fig. 34

25.23’ diameter 25.23′ diameter

( 1/45°) · 1000 = 28.35 grams to one ounce avoir dupois. 25.239168 feet t 2.269816737 degrees angle of divergence. u 454.3026409 square inches

Fig. 35 One section of a circle taken up by the angle of the extended cone of the VLC. There would be 158 + pie cuts in all.

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The number 6.118763586, seen as a measure of time represents the last quarter day of the year: 6 hours 11 minutes 52 seconds .58 A deeper level to this association occurs if the number 6.118763586 is taken as the length of a pendulum. A pendulum 6.118763586 feet high would beat a period of 2.741215268 seconds of time. The number 2.741215268, cubed is very nearly the number of inches in our canon common cubit : 20.6 20.6 as minutes of time synchronistically represents the minutes difference between the mean solar day of 1440 minutes and the sacred (360 days/year) day of 1460.6 minutes. Beginning with the area of part of a circle, we passed through logarithms into time associated with the length of a pendulum whose frequency beats a number of seconds. That number of seconds cubed is the same number as the number of inches in the common cubit. Transforming the number of the inches in the common cubit back into time, we arrived at the number of minutes difference between the solar and sacred day. In this exercise we navigated through different categories of measure: Number was the thread. Cross referencing categories like some huge card catalog in a library, units of measure and the functions of mathematics, e.g. logarithms, roots, trigonometry, etc. are the portals to other levels. Access to the “library” of the canon is gained through observation of functions in nature and matching patterns in the domains of geometry, and mathematics. The elements of our observation—whether as imagery, number, frequencies or intervals of time, form the "pool" of our individual experience. With an attitude of watchful receptiveness, unfettered by expectations, one may access their own reservoir of observations—the intuition. The more elements one has available, the more associations are possible and the more ones fluency develops. When an individual becomes fluid in the process, he or she arrives at a station beyond ordinary organization and assembling of concepts. The mind, with freedom of access, perceives relationships intuitively: a single event can have
6.11 foot pendulum beats 2.74 seconds

Fig. 36

2.741215268 = 20.5982074 or 20.6


“An inch of time is an inch of gold: treasure it. Appreciate its fleeting nature; misplaced gold is easily found, misplaced time is lost forever.” --Loy Ching-Yuen

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expression in divergent categories; a single number can reference multiple concepts and levels of scale. This reciprocation between levels affirms some exquisite universal organizing principle expressed not only in nature but in number as well. Fluency is the ability to recognize a single unit as emergent from the "all" of which it is a part. There the largest concept we can conceive is mirrored in the smallest. There is an alchemy to the act of recognizing when a number has an alter or veiled representation. Refer back Figure 36 and to the thread of associations leading to the number 20.6. As minutes difference between the duration of the sacred and solar day (1460.6 minutes – 1440 minutes), the number 20.6 was derived from the cong indirectly by a process, a type of figurative transmutation. To reiterate, the number 206 is germinal; it is a building block of the canon of measure and informs many architectural works of the ancient world. Parsing the number 206 through categories, it manifests in different guises and in different domains, yet it maintains its identity as 206. We recognize 206 variously as:
.206 x 3 = .618 2.06 ÷ 2 = 1.03 20.6 20.6 206 206 1_ .206 = 4.854368 206
--number of the Golden Ratio. --ratio of the major to minor axis of Earth’s orbit. --number of inches in the common cubit. --minutes difference between the mean solar day (1440 minutes) and the sacred day (1460.6 minutes.) --number of courses in the Great Pyramid. --number of years in seven orbits of the planet Saturn. --number of inches in the canon handbreadth. --number of bones in the human body.

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XV. Geometry Intersects Time

In the next example we return to the very large cong and the point at which the geometry of the cone, extended to its apex, terminates. The point of intersection is exactly 4 times the physical height of the very large cong: 151.3404 inches. Observe from the diagram following, that four pendulum lengths are illustrated. Each corresponds to a multiple of the height of the cong. First, a pendulum the height of one VLC: 3.154896 feet. The second pendulum is twice that height: 6.309792 feet. The third is three times at 9.46 feet and the fourth pendulum four times the height of the first at 12.619584 feet or 151.3404 inches.

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Fig. 37 Progression of Pendulums the Heights of 1, 2, 3, and 4 VLC's #4
Apex of extended Cone: 12.61917' 151.3404"





Height where extended Cone would intersect diameter of Bore.



Height at top of Physical Artifact.


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These are the lengths and periods of pendulums the heights of multiple VLC:
1. The height of one VLC (#1) is 3.154896 feet. A pendulum this length would have a 1.96835682 seconds of time. period of

2. The combined height of 2 VLC (#2) would be 6.309792 feet. A pendulum this length would have a period of 2.78367691 seconds of time. 3. The combined height of 3 VLC (#3) would be 9.464688 feet. A pendulum this length would have a period of 3.409294019 seconds of time. 4. The combined height of 4 VLC (#4) would be 12.619584 feet. A pendulum this length would have a period of 3.936713639 seconds of time.

Given the 4 heights and the 4 periods, we can extract the following number values of the trigonometric functions enumerated below: 45º ( 1/8 the degrees in a circle), 30º (1/12 the degrees in a circle) and 35.26438969º, the degrees of the major diagonal of a cube. (Fig. 38)  The period of 3 congs heights as a pendulum The period of 4 congs heights as a pendulum = cosine of 30.º
Or: 3.409294019 3.936713639 = .866025408 .866025408 is the cosine of 30.º

Fig. 38 Major diagonal of the cube: 35.26°

 The period of 1 cong’s height as a pendulum = tangent of 30.º The period of 3 cong’s heights as a pendulum
Or: 1.96835682 = .577350269 3.409294019 .577350269 is the tangent of 30.º

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 The reciprocal of the cosine of 30,º is 1 = 1.154700538. .866025408.  1.154700538 is also the common log of another number, 14.27909024. 14.27909024 x 100 is almost exactly the number of cubic inches in the volume of the geometric cone extended to its apex: 1427.909024 cubic inches.

Apex of extended Cone: 12.61917'

Volume of cone extended to its apex: cubic inches.


XVI. Co-incidence and self-evidence

Height of VLC x 3

At first glance, correspondences between numbers alone may appear coincidental. In some cases, correlations though not initially apparent, are simply the logical expression of relationships inherent in a work of art. These observations could be seen as such, yet without the art object in our attention, and without the observer’s participation, the deeper correspondences would not rise to awareness. This artifact contacts a domain we might term objective art. The qualification arises through the relationships the artifact expresses not only in its mass, but in those indicated by the extension of its geometry. Math, physics, geometry and trigonometry can be derived from this sculpture as concepts communicated in number: lengths as heights, the periods of time of those heights, logarithms, ratios, trigonometric functions, angles, etc. After the fact, it could be said, “Such relationships would be true of any height that is quadrupled….” Again, without the work, one would not be moved to make the connection--the design of the piece calls forth the association. The exercise of multiplying the heights of the very large cong and finding the corresponding pendulum periods can be continued to the levels of 5, 6, 7 and 8 times the height of the artifact. At the height of five congs, 15.77448 feet, we see nested, the same number (divided by 10) as the cubic feet in the cube of gold (page one) from which we initiated our investigation: 1.577448. Multiply this number by 10 million, and we recognize the canon number representing the inches in the equator of the earth: 1,577,448,000. At the height of 6 VLC, 18.929376 feet, we find a referent for the number of canon feet in the ancient Chinese measure the Li, as 1892.93 feet.
Angle of cone would intersect bore here. Height of VLC x 2

Height to top of physical artifact.


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Again, for no reason, if the period of 5 heights is divided by the period of 6 heights, and the result multiplied by 4, one arrives at:
4.40137965 seconds = .912871201 4.82146984 seconds .912871201 x 4 = .365148805 .365148805 x 100 = 365.148805

365.15 is recognizable as a number intending the days in the solar year.

XVII. Art Metes Time

Notice that the extended cone converges with the geometry of the extended bore at a height of 77.9 inches. v If we see that point of intersection as a node and use the length to reference the period of a pendulum 77.9 inches in height, an interesting correspondence occurs. By the formula for finding the period of a pendulum w, inches of height would beat a period of 2.82 seconds x. During the time interval of 2.82 seconds, 4,236.75 feet earth's equator would rotate.

77.9 of

The number of square inches on either end of the larger incept is 4.237994902. That number times 1000 = 4,237.994902 is very close to the above number of feet the equator would rotate in 2.82 seconds. The difference in the two numbers is: 4,237.994902 4,236.755808 1 .239094 (.99970 difference) . Hence, the synchronicity between the number of a measure of square inches, and the number of feet of equatorial rotation

77.95482195 inches.

Formula for finding the period (t) of a pendulum (l) feet in length: t=2 ( l ) g = 32.15481179 g 2.824503872 seconds


4,236.755808 feet . 4,236.75 feet is 2.23 Li. The difference in the height of two very large cong and the point where the geometry of its extended cone would intersect the diameter of the extended bore is 2.23 inches. Refer to Fig . 37.

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during an interval of time. The time is derived from the height at which the slope of the cone intersects the diameter of the bore within the cone. The lyric of this communication is composed from an imaginary geometry, a measure of space. There is no second height of stone. There is no pendulum. Geometry alone supplies the rhetoric. By extension, the object has guided us to the recognition of the correspondence between the real and the indicated, in number. It is noteworthy that the points of intersection between number and geometry are not random--even though such correlations may appear spurious at first. Whether it is the meeting point of cone and core, the intersection of time and length, or the harmonic of two numbers separated by factors of ten, something occurs at each node. The extension of geometry is conceptual. The object which generates the geometry is real.

XVIII. Jade and Nephrite

The volumes of the different physical parts of the very large cong-- the cone, the corners, and the collars have been quantified numerically. The non-physical aspects such as the incepts and bore have also been defined. But only the physical object itself has weight and density and therefore quality, i.e. the quality of nephrite. As described above, each side of this cong tapers in slightly at an angle of 1.134908637º. If one happened to notice, the number of this angle is also very nearly the number of the ratio of the density of jadeite to the density of nephrite: 1.1349080763. It could be asked: was the choice of this angle intentional? Did the designer of the artifact intend this relationship when he initiated the piece? Was the objective to indicate values for both jadeite and nephrite in a single form?

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XIX. The Tao of Form

The extension of the cone is not part of the form of the cong, yet it generates the sculpture and gives reference to its place on the earth. The extended cone emerges out of a higher level of knowledge—that of the dimensions of the Earth, and the location of the cong on the Earth--hence the designation of the cong as "a ritual object for the worship of the Earth." Looking more closely at the relationships which surface from the following observations, one is inclined toward the sentiment of the Tao, wherein, The all can be found in the one. The one is the largest and the least--it is at once full and empty. For our purposes, the largest and least is in the name (number) of the equator. Although it is empty, it contains all other measures. It is at once the one and the many. In our cannon of measure, the equator encircles 25,000 miles. The various other names/numbers for the equator in the canon system translate as follows: 25,000 miles x 5258.16 feet to one mile = 1,314,540,000 feet on the equator. 1,314,540,000 feet x 12 inches to the foot = 1,577,448,000 inches on the equator. This largest number, 1,577,448,000 represents the number of the smallest unit, --1.577448 inches is one billionth of the earth's equator. As to the measure of gold, the criterion for the value of gold can also be derived from the equator; hence its virtue as a standard is linked to the one: One cubic foot of gold weighs 1200 pounds.z One cubic inch of gold, (1/1728th of one cubic foot) weighs .69444 pounds.aa



Troy weight (12 ounces/pound) 8.3333 ounces to one cubic inch of gold, Troy.

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See that: There are 360 degrees of arc on the equator. In one degree of arc on the equator, there are 69.444 canon miles of 5258.16 feet each. (525,816 is also the number of minutes in one canon year of 360 days.) There are 69,444.444 Canon Li on the equator. (2.77Li to one canon mile: (1/2.77 = .360) In one Canon Li there are 1892.9376 feet. See also: 1.577448 cubic feet of gold weighs 1892.9376 pounds. 1.577448 inches is one billionth of the equator. Here we have the cube (earth) wedded to the sphere of 360 degrees (heaven.) The 7th root of the number 1892.9376 is the ratio of the weight of Nephrite to the weight of water:

XX. The Purity of Jadecc

"Benevolence lies in its gleaming surface, Knowledge in its luminous quality, Uprightness in its unyieldingness, Power in its harmlessness, Purity of soul in its rarity and spotlessness, Eternity in its durability, Moral leading in the fact that it goes from hand to hand without being sullied."

Poetically, jadeite represents the perfect. Its quality is in the purity of its quantity. As a perfect referent to gold, the natural logarithm of the number 360, (a designation for the circle and for the whole,) is 5.88.dd The number, 5.88 is the ratio of a volume of jade (avoirdupois weight) to the same volume of gold (troy weight).
bb cc

2.9387847876 ratio of weight of Nephrite to weight of water. “Li Ki," Book XVIII, Part I, p2, No. 31. From Nott, Stanley Charles, Chinese Jade, 1942. dd 5.886104031 logarithm of 360

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The purity of jade can also be authenticated by comparing it to a measure outside of itself. The purity of jade is affirmed by its weight relative to a like volume of water. When held to account, jadeite is 3.333 times the weight of the same volume of water. In its endless repetition, the figure 3.333 has the flavor of the absolute. Jadeite is the metaphor of “heaven" wherein all form can be considered as perfect.

XXI. Nephrite

In contrast to jadeite, nephrite is metaphorically less constrained by the tyranny of perfect numbers. It is less heavy than jadeite yet similar to the senses. The ratio of its weight to water departs from the ideal 3.333 of jadeite, and ranges anywhere from 2.91 to 2.95 in density. This ratio is found concealed in the number which initiated this exercise: 1892.9376. The 7th root of the number 1892.9376 is the ratio of the weight of nephrite to the weight of water: Again recall that one half the convergent angle of the geometry of the cone of the very large cong. 1.134904,º conceals the ratio of the weight of jadeite to the weight of nephrite 1.13.

XXII. Our exposition ends very near to its beginning…

It is evident that the Chinese reverence for nephrite, jadeite and gold commenced over 3,500 years ago. The philosophical and scientific scrutiny necessary to analyze the qualities of those materials--and incorporate that knowledge into a metrology obeisant to geometry, mathematics and astronomy--had to have been in place long before any single unifying representation, like the cong could have been artistically exercised into physical form. Maintaining our reasoning that the cong is indeed the harmonized expression of many diversities, we have in this investigation, been attempting to locate the point of origin from which those diversities became differentiated.

2.9387847876 ratio of weight of Nephrite to weight of water.

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The initiating notion pertains to the factor of the relationship between densities of materials--the ratio of the weight of a volume of material relative to the same volume’s weight as water. Water alchemically represents not only life, but the universal solvent or solution. It is the fundamental building block of all natural systems. As the “stone of heaven”, jadeite symbolizes realms of understanding too rarefied to be embodied in matter. The heaven jadeite represents is one of absolute and perfect notions. Jadeite is privileged to indicate flawlessness in material, weight, volume and geometry. If the expression or material itself falls short of perfection, it is to be seen as if it embodies these qualities. The very large cong expresses in ratio and geometry the difference between nephrite and jadeite. Although it is nephrite, it is a tribute to jade. The measures of the very large cong also pay deference to a third element, gold--the metal of immortality in Chinese alchemy. Embedded in the number of the height of the very large cong is a reference to an amount of gold, which when taken through a process of mathematic transmutation, stands in for the volume of the rectangular shape around which the cong forms. Again in order to engineer this relationship, the reckoning of material weight and linear measure had to have been coordinated systems. That an ancient system of Chinese metrology included geodesy or earth measure can be inferred from the very large cong’s extended geometry. Completing its indicated form by extending the cone, the context of the cong expands to include time and latitude. The very large cong geographically/geometrically addresses an area near Shanghai. The very large cong could be likened to one piece of a complex three dimensional metrological puzzle. Any one facet of a piece matches or has an association to another piece of information but in a different category or dimension. For example: the quantity of gold with a known volume, as a cube matches in weight the number which when multiplied by one billion represents the circumference of the earth. In the case of the large incept, if its volume were weighed as jadeite, it would weigh 1/100th the number of the amount of gold with which we started.

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From this simple form, carried forward in time by ritual and custom, we have retrieved the thread of a tradition which has been lost these many millennia. The tradition is deeper than custom, style or lineage. It originates from a fundamental understanding of universal principles and relationships, the organization of which we are just beginning to grasp. Albeit, in the physical world, nothing is perfect, except in its conceptualization; measure always falls short. On the other hand, art in the service of understanding, endeavors to reconcile our efforts to achieve perfection in physical form, continuously pointing us in the direction of an inner search for the sublime.

Questions and comments about this and other works by Mr. Pietsch may be forwarded to him directly at the email address below: Additional excerpts from his investigations into the art and architecture of the ancient world can be found online at: Video clips of Bernard discussing Chinese jades, the Great Pyramid and the geometric inferences of the Washington Monument can also be found on our Vimeo Channel: Written In Stone at

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