Jade has always been the material most appreciated by the Chinese, above silver and gold. Since ancient times, this extremely resistant translucent stone has been worked on ornaments, ceremonial weapons and ritual objects. Jade (nephrite) was considered to be 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. Archaeological jade artifacts include sacrificial vessels, tools, ornaments, utensils and many other objects. Ancient musical instruments were made of Chinese jade, such as the yuxiao (a flute made of jade that was played vertically) and the chimes. For a long time afterwards, jade remained the exclusive property of royal imperial families and, since the era of Song Dynasty art (960-127), jade carving has been considered one of the main forms of art, and reached its zenith during the Ming Dynasty art era (1368-164), when another world-renowned art form, blue and white Chinese porcelain, was also reaching its zenith.
Dushan Jade is also called Nanyang Jade because it is mainly processed in Nayang City, Henan Province. 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 ornamental pendants, necklaces and jade bracelets in the shape of an arc and circular (often in the shape of an animal), together with the important appearance of mask decoration; all of these forms link the Neolithic jades with those of the later Shang period. Later, in the highly developed Han Dynasty (202 BC). C., 220 AD), emperors and nobles wore jade clothing after their departure, which consisted of jade tablets sewn with gold, silver or copper threads, depending on their hierarchies.
During the art era of the Shang Dynasty, especially in Anyang, a new range of jade objects began to be carved, such as ceremonial weapons and their accessories, as well as ritual jades (the cong, the bi), personal jewelry and ornaments for dresses. 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. More intricate jade relief sculptures appeared, including scabbard designs and ornamental accessories and plaques, some of which were made of incredibly thin sheets of jade. Jade dragon pendant from the Warring States period (403 BC).
221 BC) National Museum of China (Photo by Dongmaiying). Another strong point of jade was the belief that, since it was considered indestructible, it conferred some kind of immortality on its owner, and for this reason, jade objects were frequently buried with the dead. Even in religion and mythology, jade made its impact, and one of the main Chinese gods, the Jade Emperor, was named after the gemstone. 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.
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 continued dominance of jade in the Chinese imagination, which remains strong even today. Jade was also used for funerary objects carved to honor ancestors, exorcise evil, and protect against disasters, while personal jade items were used to purify the soul. Although in the West it is popularly thought that jade is a greenish material, in China it has always been white jade that has traditionally been more prized than green. During the Qing period, the production of jade utensils peaked, with items such as cups, bowls, drinking containers, and jade bottles, mainly used by royal and noble families.
In addition to the seal, the jade belt (in Chinese Yu Dai) had been an important representative of a person's social status from the Sui Dynasty (581-61) to the Ming Dynasty (1368-164), when only emperors and highest-ranking officials could wear jade belts. .