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Posted on Tuesday, March 28 - 2006

" The Chinese have been continuously creative in working jade for more than six thousand years - from the Neolithic Hermadu culture (about 5000 BC) to the present. But China is hardly the only culture to place a high value on jade.Jade of one type or another is found in Burma, Central Amer..."

A Neolithic mottled green jade Pi (Bi) disc.

The Chinese have been continuously creative in working jade for more than six thousand years - from the Neolithic Hermadu culture (about 5000 BC) to the present. But China is hardly the only culture to place a high value on jade.Jade of one type or another is found in Burma, Central America, Brazil, Canada, Japan, India, Siberia, Finland, Tanzania, and elsewhere; in this country, it occurs in California as well as in the northeastern and southwestern states.It is prized for its hardness, glassy luster, and rich translucent colors. Colors vary from white to green, but there are also red, yellow and lavender jades. In China, a clear emerald-green stone is valuedmost highly.

According to ancient legend, yu, as the jewel is known, came from the holy mountains and was thought to be crystallized moonlight. In fact, jade came from along the Silk Road. Because jade is extremely hard, it might have been tried early on for tools and weapons. But jade is also brittle, and the forms that have survived appear to have been used for symbolic, rather than utilitarian purposes. Jade clubs, for example, were used to represent authority among the Maori. Knives, daggers, and scepters were used in ritual or military ceremonies in China.Jade often possessed not just symbolic but belief-system significance - as seems the case with the mysterious bi discs and cong tubes found in Neolithic Chinese grave sites (the former is a disc with a hole in the center, the latter a tube that, in section, is square on the outside and round on theinside). Centuries later, the corpses of high-ranking officials were clothed in suits made of more than 2,000 thin slivers of jade sewn together with gold wire. In ancient times, as today, jade was also used for personal adornment. Jade rings, bracelets, pendants, beads, and the like appear very early. Even today, the ring disk - a symbol of heaven - is still worn as a talisman; jade bracelets are believed to protect against rheumatism in some regions of China. Exceptional artistic effects can be achieved with jade - outside of Asia, some of the most stunning work was created by Central American artists of Olmec, Toltec, and Mayan cultures. Still, no culture can rival China for the breadth, depth, richness, and variety of work in this medium. "Jade" is really several stones - or at least that is the usage of the Chinese word, yu, which was applied......


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