Jade - the Stone of China

Jade (Yu) in China refers to a fine beautiful stone with a warm color and rich luster. In the Chinese culture, jade symbolizes nobility, perfection, constancy and immortality. For millennia, jade has been an integral part of the lives of Chinese. It is viewed as the most valuable of all precious stones. For the Chinese, Jade held an occult value apart from its commercial value. Since nearly the beginning of the Chinese civilization, it was considered the “Stone of Heaven". There is even a Chinese saying goes "Gold has a value; jade is invaluable."

Jade is found in mountains and riverbeds. The Chinese considered Jade to be "the essence of Heaven and Earth." Jade is an essence produced through the natural forces of rivers and mountains over eons. However, if it is not skillfully cut and polished, the potential richness and luster that people prize about jade cannot be expressed. When polished and carved, jade is attributed with certain cultural characteristics. Jade in its purest form, was a link between the physical world and the spiritual world.

Ancient texts such as the Li Ji (Book of Rites) expounded the importance of jade to a gentleman whose wearing of jade pendants had a moral and aesthetic reason. Confucius said of jade, "In ancient times, men found the likenesses of all excellent qualities in jade. Soft, smooth, and glossy, it appeared to them like benevolence. Fine, compact and strong, like intelligence; angular, but not shard and cutting, like righteousness.

The patterns of China's jadeware have rich connotations showing strong auspicious colours. Bats and gourds were often used as a basis for more than 100 patterns because the Chinese words (bat and gourd) sound like "good fortune" in the Chinese language. If bats were mixed with sika, birthday peaches and magpies, they also had a good meaning. All these reflected the ancient Chinese people's yearning for a happy life.

Jade ornaments have remained popular up until the present day. The purchase, wearing, and giving of jade items as gifts is still very common. Jade is viewed as an ideal gift for couples making a mutual commitment and for one's children when they get married. Even now, the Chinese retain the idea that in addition to being beautiful, jade can protect from misfortune and bring good luck.

Although good materials provide strong basics for jade ware carving, the value of a jade object depends on the skills and reputation of craftsmen, the dates of carving, peculiar modeling and the owner's status. Due to the high value of ancient jade ware, there is an equally long tradition of fake jade ware, which looks much like the real thing. Jade ware collectors should be careful and seek the opinions of professionals before making any major purchases.

Source: http://library.thinkquest.org/
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