The Chinese regard carved jade objects as intrinsically valuable, and they metaphorically equate jade with human virtue due to its solidity, durability and (moral) beauty. Jade items are precious and rare treasures of China.
The earliest jade ware found in China was a piece of serpentine stoneware unearthed at the Immortal Cave in Haicheng, Liaoning Province, dating back more than 12,000 years. The second was a small hanging jade article excavated at Hemudu in Zhejiang Province dating back more than 7,000 years. Jade ware from that period was mainly used for personal decoration. A large number of exquisite jade objects were produced 4,000 years ago. At the time, jade ware was mainly used for witchcraft and as an emblem of privilege.
In the Zhou Dynasty, jade was imbued by the ruling class with the concepts of benevolence, righteousness, etiquette, faithfulness, wisdom and courage. Thus jade wares were not only ornaments, but also symbols of social virtue and order A man of virtue considered his jade to be the symbol of his virtue and he took great care not to lose it. Clearly, jade played a very important role in people's spiritual and cultural life during the period. There are many moving historical stories about the jade treasures of the different kingdoms of the time.
In the Han Dynasty, jade wares moved from noble families into ordinary people's homes. Their shapes assumed a more realistic style, although some parts were still very decorative. After the Han Dynasty, jade wares were mainly used as decorations or everyday items.
From the Wei and Jin to the Qing dynasties, jade objects took on amore secular aspect in their shape and design although the Guanyin Bodhisattva was still a popular design. So, too, were the lion mother and son and the child with lotus leaf. The proportion of patterns with auspicious meaning increased during the period. The shape and design of jade objects were greatly influenced by the ideas of the literati. Some very large jade wares were made in the Qing Dynasty . The Dayu Controlling Water jade ware, for example, weighs about five tons, and its production took 18 years.
Jade production is a complicated process involving material selection, design of the pattern, grinding and polishing. The principal jade objects include jewelry, handicrafts and miniature landscapes. Jade handicrafts include jade figurines of court ladies, children, old men and Buddhas, jade flowers and birds, animals Such as horses, elephants, oxen, sheep, lions, tigers and dragons, and utensils such as pots and vases.
The patterns of China's jade ware have rich connotations, revealing strong, auspicious colors. Bats and gourds were used as subjects for more than 100 patterns because the Chinese words "bat" and "gourd" sound like "good fortune" in Chinese. When a bat was carved on an ancient coin with a hole, it meant that fortune was at hand; bats coupled with birthday peaches referred to fortune and longevity; bats mixed with sika, birthday peaches and magpies were also considered good omens. These beliefs reflected the ancient Chinese people's yearning for a happy life and revealed the essence of China's traditional culture.
Jade in China is varied and can be divided into two categories: hard and soft jade. Good materials provide a strong basis for jade ware carving, but the value of a jade object depends on the skills and reputation of the craftsman, date of carving, peculiar modeling and the owner's status. Certainly, different people will have various views on the value of the same jade object. It is difficult to have a unanimous standard. Due to the high value of ancient jade ware, there is an equally long tradition of fake jade ware, which looks very much like the real thing. Jade ware collectors should be careful and seek the opinions of professionals before making any major purchases.