A universal guide for China studies
Chinese Art - Handicrafts
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Jade objects (and other stones)
|Bronze Ritual Vessels|
Gold and Silver
Other Metal Items
Jade and other Stones
Wood (except furniture)
Ivory and Bone
Leather and Horn
Earthen and Stone Ware
|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 the most western point of China in today Xinjiang (Khotan, Yarkand). Since the 18th century, the qualitatively better jadeit 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 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 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.