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Jade

    Jade, natural hardstone attaining its merits admired by our ancestors for generations, is in general translucent, of fine quality and elegant in color. Jade is sincerely considered only by Chinese to be the symbol of purity and goodliness and to be a representation of dignity and holiness. It is personified yet supernatural. It has blended profoundly into Chinese traditional culture, etiquette and custom.

    Skillful craftsmen from different dynasties craved jade into various utensils and artworks that were normally given to contexts beyond their forms. Jade might be used as a sacrifice to worship God, as a kind of accouterment to show one’s status and moral, as objects accompanying dead to signify immortality, as symbols to show wealth, and also as articles for daily use with joys.

CEREMONIAL JADES

    Jade used in ceremony could be further divided into two categories: ritual objects and ceremonial service objects. The six traditional ritual objects are Bi, Cong, Gui, Zhang, Hu, and Huang. These have long been considered to be a means of communication between human and God.Thus, it was indispensable on occasions of sacrifice. Ritual jades were also considered to be the symbol of royal power favored by God and used in cases of meeting the king, appointment, treatment of diplomatic relations, and taking an oath indicating that all these were done in name of God. The ceremonial service objects include Yue, Fu, Ge, Qi, Dao, mostly transformed from practical weapons, and were used for royal and aristocrat ceremonial activities to enhance sacred atmosphere.

    Such functions of these ritual objects started in the late prehistoric times, prevailed during the Shang and Zhou Dynasties, and declined in the Spring and Autumn Period.


PENDENT JADES

    The original use of jade was for personal pendent. One started to use natural jade stone to glorify personal adornment as early as the prehistoric times. Later on crafted jades appeared in high quality. It was in the Western Zhou Dynasty when jades were normally used to indicate one’s status. The different uses of pendent jades such as their configuration and combination and hanging methods and placements vary according to different status of owners as well as to practices of moral and ethical significance.

BURIAL JADES

    Jade used for funerals was intended to protect dead by providing special jade suits including facial covers, mouth—insertion and hand—insertion, etc. because people believe that jade could prevent the remains from being decayed. This custom began in the Neolithic or New Stone Age. The burial jade first appeared in the Western Zhou and prevailed during the periods from the Spring and Autumn Period to the Han Dynasty. Hereafter, although jades were used as burial goods while special function of burial jades no long existed.

JADES AS DECORATIVE ART

    Given glittering and translucent nature, jades were easy to be carved into various objects to decorate house furniture and the like in later dynastic periods. One always enjoyed watching the festive and propitious ornament design and exquisite carving craft attained by jades. The display of these jades, of course, may indicate the owner’s wealth and decentness. Therefore, the jades are not only to be shown off, but also for appraisals and collection by their owners.

JADES AS DAILY UTENSILS

    Since the East Han Dynasty, Jade in China started to leave behind its mystery and entered into people’s daily life. It became increasingly ordinary and reached the peak of consumption during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. People in upper class used it to show off. It not only enriched their lives by adding special tastes and flavorsbut meanwhile reflected their appreciation of art.