Sunday, August 24, 2008

Jade - Special Stone with Rich Chinese Culture

The history of jade is as long as the Chinese civilization. Xu Zhen defined jade as beautiful stone in the first Chinese dictionary. Jade is generally classified into soft jade (nephrite) and hard jade (jadeite). Since China only had the soft jade until jadeite was imported from Burma during the Qing dynasty (1271-1368), jade traditionally refers to the soft jade so it is also called traditional jade. Jadeite is called Feicui in Chinese. Feicui is now more popular and valuable than the soft jade in China.

Throughout the jade-mining history in China, Hetian jade has always occupied the center stage. Hetian jade, found in southwest Xinjiang Autonomous Region in Northwest China in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC), has a history of more than 2,000 years. Most of the imperial jade seals were made of Hetian jade, which has been considered as the "real jade". The saying that "gold is costly, but jade is priceless" is in recognition of Hetian Jade. But after a long time of excavation, resource of Hetian jade is dwindling. It was at this time that Kunlun jade was discovered.

The manufacture of Chinese jade articles was already highly developed by the Shang Dynasty (16th to 11th century B.C). The Chinese of this period had the technology to produce jade articles of every imaginable type, shape, and size. By the end of the Chou Dynasty (11th century to 256 B.C.) and the beginning of the Han Dynasty, Chinese jades reached a second peak in their development; craftsmen had more advanced tools as well as more efficient methods of polishing jade and creating unsurpassed masterpieces. From this point on, jade craftsmen could accommodate practically any and every customer demand.

When polished and carved into various objects, jade was attributed with certain cultural characteristics. In ancient Chinese cosmology, the heaven was considered to be round, and the earth square. Thus a round jade ornament with a hole in the center, called a "pi", was carved to honor the gods of heaven, and a long hollow jade ornament with rectangular sides, called a "ts'ung", was made to honor the terrestrial spirits.

According to ancient Chinese legend, the phoenix and the dragon were animal deities that were the life-source of family clans. For this reason, jade was often used as a material for carving phoenixes and dragons which worn as ornaments and fashion accessories. These ornaments symbolized the noble bearings of a gentleman, and so is the origin of the Chinese saying: "The gentleman's morals are like jade."

1 comment:

Cameron wieght said...

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