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