Jade is the most prized in modern Chinese culture. Reportedly, the philosopher Confucius expressed this fascination by making jade a metaphor for virtue, goodness, wisdom, justice, civility, music, sincerity, truth, Heaven and Earth. Chinese jade, any of the carved jade objects produced in China since the Neolithic (c. Historically, the Chinese have considered carved jade objects to be inherently valuable and, metaphorically, equated jade with purity and indestructibility).
Jade is still a popular gemstone in China, so pieces of jade can be purchased everywhere. Many people, especially children or young people, wear jade pendants. Jade (nephrite) was considered the most precious stone in ancient China and symbolized purity and moral integrity. Prized for its durability and magical qualities, the stone was painstakingly carved and polished into all types of objects, from jewelry to desk ornaments.
Jade was especially used for ritual objects, such as bidisc and zong (cong) tubes, which have an unknown function. Even in religion and mythology, jade made its impact, and one of the main Chinese gods, the Jade Emperor, is named after the gemstone. Also present at this time, in the Liangzhu culture and, in the province of Shandong, in the Longshan culture, are the Gui and Zhang ceremonial knives and axes, as well as an increasing variety of pendants, necklaces and ornamental jade bracelets (often in the shape of an animal), together with the important decorative appearance of masks; all of these forms link Neolithic jades with those of the later Shang period. As the technique of jade carving had changed little over the interval, it is difficult to distinguish them from authentic archaic jades, except for a somewhat playful elegance and a tendency to combine shapes and decorations that are not found together in old pieces.
Another characteristic of Han's jade sculpture is the use of defects and impurities in the jade to form part of the sculpture. The largest jade sculpture in history, Yu the Great Taming the Waters, is an enormous representation of a Qing Dynasty landscape carved in 1787 CE by a team of sculptors that took more than seven years to complete, and illustrates the continuing dominance of jade in the Chinese imagination, which remains strong even today. The best jade carving of the Qing Dynasty is often attributed to the reign of Qianlong, but carved jade is difficult to date, and since 1950 some high-quality pieces of the Qianlong style have been manufactured at the Beijing Craft Research Institute. The beautiful color of jade made it a mysterious stone for the Chinese in ancient times, so jade objects were popular as sacrificial vessels and were often buried with the dead.