Jade Mesmerizes

February 23, 2019

Jade Mesmerizes

Jade has been coveted in China for many millenia, and it mesmerizes for reasons to be explored here.

Jade's history has deep roots

Jade, never to be confused with Jadeite, has possessed the Chinese imagination since the Neolithic period (c. 3500-2000 BCE), and remains ever popular. Found most often in ethereal shades of green or sometimes in creamy white, jade's appeal has been enduring. Its spiritual qualities, its historical use in exceptionally fine art, and its appeal to emperors and aristocracy, all serve to perpetuate its fascinating nature.

Jade possesses rich meaning

Jade was first prized as a precious and beautiful natural material, and eventually became known as "the essence of heaven and earth." Over time jade was increasingly associated with the purity and goodness embraced by Confucianism. It even came to symbolize immortality and heaven. Jade's deep significance in Chinese culture cannot be overstated.

Jade is used for oh so many things!

Jade has been embraced in all periods of Chinese history and the objects created with it correspond to the style of decorative art characteristic of each period. There have been countless objects crafted with jade over the centuries:
  • bracelets
  • burial objects
  • buttons
  • ceremonial axes
  • chimes
  • combs
  • desk ornaments
  • figurines, including, human, animal, clouds, and wind
  • hairpins
  • halberd blades
  • jewely
  • masks in the form of humans, monsters, and bulls
  • opium pipes
  • pestles
  • plaques
  • ritual cups
  • spatulas
  • suits made from small jade tiles joined with silver and gold wiring
  • tablets
  • tools
  • weapons
  • writing implements
Jade was also used in Chinese medicine and as an enduring artistic medium. Noteworthy are the Six Ritual Jades created from the Third Millennium B.C. including the cong, the huang, the hu, the gui, and the zhang, which are believed to represent the sky, the earth, and the four directions.

Jade is still used today to create beautiful and meaningful objects:

  • ornaments
  • jewellery
  • figurines
  • sculpture
  • chopsticks
  • sheaths to protect long fingernails
  • ink stones
  • brush pots
  • brush rests
  • belt buckles
  • small furniture pieces

Qing dynasty jade

Here at TLS, we are especially interested in jade from the Qing dynasty. The Qing dynasty was the final dynasty to hold political power in China, 1644 CE until 1911 CE.
Jade carving thrived under the patronage of the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795) which was also supported by the steady inflow of raw materials from Hotan (Hetian). The China Online Museum notes: "As the jade industry thrived, some interesting diversifications also emerged: the market’s taste diverging from the imperial preference, elegance and vulgarity coexisting, and the retro clashing with the trend. All added to the fun and richness of the period looks."

Jade you can possess

TLS recently imported some goregous Jade pieces from China, many of them from the Qing dynasty.  Explore those pieces here: