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Chinese Arts - Handicrafts
Jade Objects 玉石器物
(including other precious stones)

The material jade is actually made up of two different kinds of stone. The most widespread mineral is nephrite, a variety of the mineral actinolite and a silicate of calcium and magnesium. It is composed of fibrous intertwinned crystals. The other, more precious but less used mineral is the pyroxene jadeite, a material composed of interlocking and very compact crystals. Chemically, it is a mix of sodium and aluminium silicate NaAl[Si2O6]. The tough character of jade that made it even stronger than steel was one reason for its widespread use in early civilisations in Europe, Far-East and Meso-America. Besides its toughness, the smoothness of the stone and the broad range of colors made it very attractive to early artisans and artists. The basic jade's colors are white and a colorless opaqueness. Inclusions of different metals give it the most beautiful colors: chromium makes it emerald green ("Imperial Jade"), iron makes it brown and green, manganese creates violet colors. Calcium inclusions give it many different colors like white, apple green, red, brown and even blue. It can be cut and shaped with sandstone, slate and quartz sand on lathes with tools of bronze or iron. Finally, the pure sound of jade stones made it a very important idiophone musical instrument.
Chinese Jade comes from the most western point of China in today Xinjiang (Khotan, Yarkand). Since the 18th century, the qualitatively better jadeit from Burma was introduced. Neolithic artisans used to shape the stones to axes, knives and animals. A typical Chinese shape for jade objects are emblems like a ring called huan 環, a half-ring pendant named huang 璜, axes called yue 鉞, fu 斧 or chan 鏟 and a disk called bi 璧. Sacrificial and religious character are best seen in pieces called han 琀 that have the shape of a cicada and were put in the mouth (han 含 means "containing") of a deceased person. The other is a hollow cylinder called cong 琮. It symbolized heaven (the round inner hole) and earth (the quadrangular outer shape). Jade objects belonged to the symbols that the ruling elite used to prove their relationship to heaven. Hardness, durability and beauty of the jade stones had to be imitated by the noble man.
Jade fakes on the market are produced from serpentine which is not as hard as the real jade. The expensive and beautiful emerald green jade is faked by dyeing colorless pieces or even by producing pieces from heavy lead glass.
The Chinese character for jade yu 玉 is the picture of three pieces of jade bound together. Many stones or minerals have a character with jade as determinating component, like agate manao 瑪瑙, pearl zhenzhu 珍珠, coral shanhu 珊瑚 or glass boli 玻璃.
Jade CONG tubes, Neolithic Two extremely long examples of a cong 琮 tube. Most of the Neolithic and Shang period 商 jade objects were found as burial gifts of the ruling class. A bit similar to a scepter, the cong symbolized the connection between the owner and the heaven. They are ornated with taotie 饕餮 faces like the later bronze vessels of the Shang and early Zhou period.
Jade JUE circle, Hongshan Culture A 10 cm wide jade piece called jue 玦 from the Hongshan Culture 紅山文化 in modern Liaoning Province. This piece with a white, opaque color is not finished because the slit to the middle hole in not broken through. Used as a talisman, the jue was worn before the owner's breast on a cord.
Jade utensils, Neolithic Different jade objects from the Neolithic period.
Ceremonial GE dagger, Shang The sacrificial weapons made of jade like axes or this 25 cm long ge 戈 dagger from the Shang period of course have never been used as real weapons. They were only symbols of the owner's power.
Jade utensils, Shang A goose, a parrot and a phoenix (about 10 cm long each) from the late Shang period. This pieces are very flat (from 2 mm to 7 mm) and are decorated with the same patterns like the bronze vessels from this time.
Jade HUANG circle segment, Spring and Autumn A circle-sector jade ornament called huang 璜 from the early Spring and Autumn period 春秋, 11 cm long, decorated with birds and other animals. The shape of the animals is very abstract and seems more to be only a cloud pattern.
Jade mask or plaquette, Spring and Autumn The owner of this grey opaque jade plaquette (7 cm long and high) used it to protect himself. It was probably worn in front of the breast. The decoration shows clouds and a monster face from the late Spring and Autumn period.
Jade PEI dragon, Warring States A wonderful piece of a jade ornament called pei 珮 (sometimes written with a man as radical 佩) in the shape of a dragon from the Warring States period 戰國.
Jade BI disk, cut in halves, Warring States This is an unusual example of a bi 璧 jade disk. Most of the bi are made from white jade and show a hole in the middle of the piece. This example shows a dragon and is cut in two pieces (a so-called "combined bi" hebi 合璧 7 cm wide).
Jade HUAN circle, Western Han A type of jade piece that is very similar, but more pierced than the former, is the huan 環, a character that simply means "circle" in modern Chinese. This is a 9 cm wide piece from the Western Han Dynasty (Xihan) 西漢.
Jade earrings, Xiongnu Gold and white jade are combined to shape this pair of earrings from the Xiongnu 匈奴 area during the Western Han Dynasty. The jade part shows slighty changed Chinese motifs, while the golden part is clearly nomadic (whole length 6 cm).
Jade seal, Western Han A white jade seal from a Western Han empress (height 2 cm). The inscription says 皇后之璽 "Seal of the Empress". It was found near the tomb of the Empress Lü and was probably her own seal.
Shroud of Prince Liu Sheng, made of jade pieces, Han Jade as a heavenly stone was used to demonstrate the nobility's relationship with the heaven during life and after death. The dead of the Han dynasty wear clothes made of jade like this princess. Nine pieces of jade were used in addition to close the body's nine openings. This is the shroud of Prince Liu Sheng 劉勝, called Prince Jingwang of Zhongshan 中山靖王.
Jade ear-bowl cup, Six Dynasties From the Han Dynasty on until the 6th century, the usual drinking vessels had the shape of an oblong bowl with two narrow handles at both sides, called erbei 耳杯 "ear-bowl". This opaque jade erbei is from the Six Dynasties period 六朝.
Agate rhyton, Tang This agate rhyton (drinking horn) from the Tang Dynasty 唐 is clearly not of Chinese origin.
Jade bowl, Tang A wonderful thin-walled bowl of bluegreen jade from the Tang Dynasty.
Jade utensils, Tang to Song From the Tang dynasty on, jade objects had much more decorating character than the antique sacral objects from the Shang, Zhou 周 and Han dynasties. Birds, flowers, and Buddhist elements like the upper left example of a feitian 飛天 fairy became widespread and could be used to decorate clothing and hair.
Agate cup, Song The handle of this agate cup from the Song Dynasty 宋 is not Chinese, at least not in this comination with a cup that almost looks Western.
Jade cup with cover, Ming A covered cup with three feet and birds on the top from the Ming Dynasty 明. Similar examples are known from the Han Dynasty.
Neo-antique jade GUI tablet, Ming This tablet called gui 圭 (sometimes written without the jade radical 珪) was formerly used as a memo tablet. The jade material makes it a symbol of the owner's rank during the Ming Dynasty.
Jace comb, Ming A comb made from wonderful emerald green jade from the Ming Dynasty.
Jade brush container, Ming A brush container from the Ming Dynasty, decorated with two climbing dragons. The whole object is carved in an irregular shape following the raw material's surface.
Quadrangular jade box, Ming Made of bluewhite jade, a quadrangular box from the Ming Dynasty.
Jade bowl with golden cover and plate, Ming A Ming Dynasty artist put a white jade bowl on a golden plate and made it a golden embossed and pierced cover.
Jade cup, Qing Two handles ornate this cup of pure white jade from the Qing Dynasty 清.
Round jade vessel with cloisonné stand, Qing A small table of cloisonné serves as a stand for this almost ball-shaped vessel of green jade from the Qing dynasty.
Neo-antique jade GONG vessel, Qing An uncovered gong 觥 type vessel of green jade with brown stains from the Qing dynasty. During the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the gong was covered and often had the shape of an animal. This piece has the shape of a dragon boat and bears - like the antique precursors - an inscription on the inner side.
Neo-antique jade GU vessel, Qing The shape of a gu 觚, a bronze vessel type from the Shang and Zhou dynasties, served as model for this Qing dynasty vase, made of emerald green jade.
Jade imperial seal, Qing A brown jade seal of a Qing Dynasty emperor with the shape of a reclining lion.
Jade landscape stone, Qing Qianlong The mythical Emperor Yu 禹 taming the floods and arranging the nine regions with their different soil qualities is the theme of this landscape made of a giant jade stone (height with base 244 cm) of green jade, carved during the Qianlong period 乾隆.
Jade RUYI scepter, Qing A ruyi 如意 scepter of white jade. The shape of the scepter imitates the form of a mythological (phallic) mushroom named Lingzhi that was said to give eternal life. In Qing times, the ruyi scepter was used by princes and the emperor as a symbol of their position.
Jade bowl, Qing A bowl of pure white jade, decorated with a Qing Dynasty poem.
Jade plate, Qing Expensive and pure jadeite is the material for this wonderful dish from the Qing Dynasty, carved with a poem.
Neo-antique jade ZUN vessel, Qing This is the third example of an antique vessel type copied with a new material. This three legged zun 尊 of yellow jade is ornamented with the heads of three rams.
Crystal vase in the shape of fishes, Qing Mountain crystal served as matrial for this double fish vase from the Qing Dynasty.

  © 2000 ff · Ulrich Theobald · Mail