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For some four thousand years, the Chinese have considered jade to be a unique substance and have held it in higher esteem than gold or jewels.
During the first two millennia of Chinese culture, jade was thought to be of supernatural origin, an emanation of streams and mountains, something created by the forces of nature, born within the earth and endowed with transcendental qualities.
The first jade objects of probable ritual use appear in the late Neolithic, roughly 2,000 B.C. or a bit earlier. In Shang and Chou, the repertoire of ceremonial implements expands and changes, and the quality of craftsmanship for this intractable material is unsurpassed.
The early Chinese Classics, cryptic in style and mostly written somewhat after the fact, give us certain names of the jade insignia and some description of their usage and the rites. Specific jades were necessary for the emperor to pay homage to Heaven and Earth, from whom he derived his mandate to rule. By using other jades like a seal of office, he enfeoffed his feudal nobles with still others he could bribe the unfriendly, reward faithful service, give royal passports and military orders.
Toward the end of the Chou period, perhaps by 500 B.C., jade takes on a more worldly use and the religious significance begins to diminish. Although the Classics tell us that the musical chime of the courtier’s jade girdle pendants is meant to remind him of virtue and thereby banish unworthy thoughts, the wearer must also have taken a purely aesthetic delight in the charm and intricate carving of those small objects, and also of his jade belt hook, the inlay on his dagger or scabbard or knife handle.
But along with its ornamental use, jade also retained its aura of a magic substance. Powdered and ingested it was thought to combat illness and promote longevity. A corpse whose orifices were stopped with jade was not supposed to decay.
Between the 3rd and 7th centuries A.D., or from the end of the Han to Tang, the use of jade seems to be sharply reduced. This can probably be attributed to the acceptance of Buddhism in which jade had no ritual role, and also to curtailed imports of the raw material during a long period of political and economic instability. The relatively few objects that can be dated within these centuries are mainly cups, fantastic animals and ornaments.
Certainly, jade did not then, or at any time in the future, lose its special appeal. It continued to intrigue the Chinese consciousness as a material which appears to have a soft, waxy glow and yet is of obstinate hardness, requiring extraordinary labor and patience to produce an object in which the mineral and the design, or nature and art are blended. Also, some of the ancient ancestral reverence for the material lingers jade is the only proper medium for gifts of great homage, or emblems of merit, or for the Seals of State used until the last Emperor of China. And the ordinary citizen prizes his jade ornaments and jewelry, and even the poorest usually manages to have an amulet.
Both the visual beauty of jade and the spiritual quality of virtue it was once believed to possess are reflected in the language. Yu li, standing like jade, i.e. pure, chaste, handsome, would probably be familiar to the ancestors of Western culture as halos kai agathos, good and beautiful. Or, a man whom we describe as having a heart of gold, would have a jade heart in China. Poetry’s golden boys and girls are Chinese beautiful, talented youths, and they may become adults with lofty and pure aims, said to have bones of jade.
The Western term, “jade” comes from the French, through the Spanish “piedra de ijada,” stone of the loins, referring to the dark green jadeite amulets which the Conquistadores reported the Mexicans used as a treatment for kidney disease. Sir Walter Raleigh is supposed to have brought the mineral to European attention, and alluded to its presumed medical value by calling it nephrite, derived of course from nephriticus or nephros (kidney).
The Chinese term for jade is yu which actually refers to any very hard and finely grained stone which will take a high polish, such as agate, quartz, serpentine, although in later times the Chinese referred to these as “false jade” as opposed to “true jade.” In the West, only two minerals, nephrite and jadeite, are considered jade. Nephrite is a silicate of calcium and magnesium with a fibrous structure jadeite is a silicate of sodium and aluminium, granular in composition.
Neither nephrite nor jadeite is found in China proper. Nephrite, the mineral worked since the prehistoric age, came from the rivers and mountains of Turkestan and Siberia. The Yüeh-chih tribe seem to be the intermediaries who brought it to China in the form of river pebbles and boulders, or blocks crudely mined from mountain veins. Jadeite was not used in China until the 18th century when it was imported from Burma through Yunnan.
Both minerals are found.in an almost infinite range of colors with green, white, black, grays and browns predominating. Jadeite is often more vivid and glassy in appearance, but the only reliable way to differentiate between the two minerals is by X-ray diffraction.
Both are extremely hard substances. Nephrite is 6 to 6.5, and jadeite is 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness (quartz is 7). Obviously they can not be worked by metal tools, but only by the few minerals harder than themselves, and, in essence, the technique consists of patient cutting, scraping and rubbing with the aid of an abrasive. At first, thin laminae of sandstone or slate with quartz sand must have been used to saw the jade. Finer cutting was made possible somewhat later by a harder abrasive of emery sand or crushed garnets held in grease instead of water. Tubular drills, originally of bamboo, were used to make the perforations. Hansford, who has written extensively on the subject of jade technique, feels that a rotary disk knife was known at least by the Late Chou period, but it may have been used earlier, as Cheng Te K’un reports an Anyang jade which appears to show the marks of a circular saw.
In the Neolithic period, jade was the material par excellence for implements used for grinding or for sharp edged tools, or for a special object which may have some cult significance. However, it was never a common material and excavated specimens are not numerous. No doubt, its rarity combined with its qualities of color, lustrous surface, translucence and sonority helped create the ritual and metaphysical significance it soon acquired.
In A.D. 100 Hsu Shen, in his dictionary, defined jade as “… the fairest of stones. It is endowed with five virtues. Charity is typified by its luster, bright yet warm rectitude by its translucency, revealing the color and markings within (does not conceal faults) wisdom by the purity and penetrating quality of its note when the stone is struck courage in that it can be broken but can not be bent equity in that it has sharp edges which injure none.”
This is drawn from the answer Confucius gave when he was asked why jade was esteemed. Confucius also said that jade was a white rainbow … a thing of heaven, and it was also of earth because it emanated from mountains and streams, and it was of the way of virtue because everyone honored it.
For many centuries before and after Confucius (551-479 B.C.), jade was considered to be of supernatural origin, and to contain the essence of life, virtue, and eternity. It was believed necessary for the rulers to use certain emblems made of it in order to communicate with the heavenly powers, and the possession of these jade objects invested the owner with rank and authority.
A great body of Chinese literature has been written about jade, and there are many references to it in the earliest classics, the Chou Li, I Li, Li Chi, Shih Ching, Shu Ching.
These works also contain the names of the ceremonial jade emblems and notes on their usage, but unfortunately, the descriptions of the objects were made by later commentators in the Han period, after the rites had changed, or in some cases disappeared.
During the period of Buddhist fervor, there was little interest in the archaic rites or the jade insignia, but as Buddhism lost its appeal for the intellectual class, Sung scholars turned back to study Confucius and the ancient history, and to investigate the old rituals. These diligent gentlemen reviewed the texts, and set up a classification of bronzes and jades, illustrating their arguments with drawings based on the imaginative Han descriptions some of the fanciful illustrations continued to be used until the present century.
Although Chinese porcelain had long interested Western collectors, the ancient bronze vessels and jades were not to Victorian taste and were not seriously studied until the early part of this century. When Western scholars did turn their attention to these artifacts they were faced with a large number of objects which were the products of tomb robbery, and for which the provenance was unknown, or might have been concealed or falsified to protect the source. For the first half of this century there was only one semi-scientific excavation in China to provide any reliable archaeological evidence this was conducted at Anyang, the historic capital of the Shang dynasty, by the Academia Sinica from 1928 to 1938.
In spite of the obstacles, scholars like Yetts, Pelliot and Salmony established a feasi ble chronology for jades by comparing their design motifs with the decoration on a number of dated and inscribed bronze vessels. The method seemed to work, but when the Chinese began to excavate in the 1950’s and to publish the results, there was much specu lation on how the old dating system would be affected. Spectacular revelations were predicted.
The excavations are an on-going process, and nearly every issue of the Chinese archaeological publications reports finds of jade. Perhaps the most remarkable result is how well the findings support the earlier theories. They also expand the repertoire of shape and design, create a few new puzzles, and explain at least one long-standing mystery.
The texts have occasional references to jade cases/boxes/covers associated with the corpse, but until the grave of Prince Liu Sheng and his wife was opened, no one fully realized that the term might allude to a complete suit of jade placques fitted to the body.
As a matter of fact, it was probably a lack of imagination on the part of the researchers that prolonged the mystery because one of the first Western scholars, J. J. M. de Groot, in his Religious Systems of China published in 1894, translates a description of the jade boxes as looking like coats of mail. And another text (Han chiu yi), given by Bielenstein in Bulletin Museum Far Eastern Art (BMFEA) #48, says very clearly, “One makes a tunic from jades resembling the appearance of armour. In joining them, one uses threads of real gold. From the waist down one uses jade as slips, 1 ch’ih long and 2 1 /2 tsun wide. They are plates and reach down to the feet.”
Jade shrouds were the prerogative of royalty and imperial tombs were always the target for looters. Han histories report several instances such as the pillaging of the royal graves of Ch’ang-an in All 26, or the robbery of Emperor Wu’s and Emperor Wen Hsüan’s tombs. After the gold and obvious valuables had been removed, the grave might be forgotten for centuries, and when re-found would probably contain little but some pottery and a shapeless mass of jade placques. Many of these small pieces have found their way into Western collections and, with no clue to their use except the perforations at each corner, have been given the label “appliqué,” one of those handy terms, like “finial,” in every curator’s vocabulary.
The object in Figure 6 was always called a shoe sole by its Philadelphia owner, merely because it looked like one, but without the slightest belief that it actually did come from a jade boot.
The names of the important jade ceremonial objects as given in the classic texts are: the kuei, an oblong flat blade, the ts’ung, a tube within a cube, the chang, which is a half kuei, the pi, a ring with an open center, a huang, a half pi, and the hu described as being in the design of a tiger.
Also of a ritualistic nature are the jade weapons: axes, daggers, knives, spearheads, either in miniature form or so thin and finely worked that their purpose is obviously symbolic, not functional,
Jade Crystal Meaning
While all crystals promote harmony between the mind, body and spirit, the Jade crystal is a superstar in the world of crystal healing thanks to its powerful connection to the heart chakra and its varying degrees of intense, piercing shades of green. When it comes to bringing prosperity and abundance into your life, the Jade crystal meaning is the ultimate good luck charm. But not just for wealth intentions, working with Jade can support every area of your life. Whether you are looking for a flourishing love life, thriving health, or financial success, Jade has you covered.
Linked with good fortune, ancient wisdom, and the energy of abundance, the Jade crystal stone meaning is an essential component of every crystal collection.
Living a Prosperous Life
When it comes to prosperity, the Jade crystal is your key to success. Although the stone itself has a lucky energy and an air of abundance, connecting with the Jade crystal meaning does far more than boost your luck. As a stone of wisdom, the Jade crystal healing properties guide you to make smart choices and decisions along your life’s journey that will support your goals and aspirations.
Jade is a stone of longevity—it isn’t a quick fix, but rather a tool for long-term planning. With a “plan-ahead” mentality that the Jade crystal stone meaning inspires, you will be on the path to overflowing success. It also helps to alleviate the self-doubt or self-limiting beliefs that can come with a negative mind-set. By shifting your perspective, you can open yourself up to a world of possibility.
This stone helps you to achieve your goals and attract new opportunities—both of which lead you toward prosperity. If you want to reach a state of prosperity, connect with Jade.
Although the Jade crystal meaning can support prosperity across all areas of your life, this green stone is especially well-suited to support intentions related to wealth, financial abundance, and success. Its lucky energy and vibrant color both empower you to attract new financial possibilities and take action toward achieving your goals. Whether you are calling in wealth in the form of money or a new career opportunity, the Jade crystal stone has the energy you need to manifest your intentions and turn your dreams into reality.
What jade articles had been used in grand worship ceremonies in ancient China?
In ancient China, six types of jade articles were used to worship heaven, earth, and four directions, based on ancient Chinese cosmology and astrology: the sky is round, the earth is square, and four mythical animals are guarding in four directions (Azure Dragon in East represents spring, Vermillion Bird in South as summer, White Tiger in West symbolizes autumn, and Black Tortoise in North as winter).
Six Ritual Jade Wares in Ancient Sacrificial Ceremonies, Photo by Dongmaiying:
Found in large numbers in burials, these Chinese carvings constitutes an enormous effort by skilled craftsman.
Jade Cong, c. 2500 B.C.E., Liangzhu culture, Neolithic period, China (The British Museum). Speakers: Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris
Jade Cong, c. 2500 B.C.E., Liangzhu culture, 3.4 x 12.7 cm, China © 2003 Private Collection © Trustees of the British Museum
Ancient China includes the Neolithic period (10,000 -2,000 B.C.E.), the Shang dynasty (c. 1500-1050 B.C.E.) and the Zhou dynasty (1050-221 B.C.E.). Each age was distinct, but common to each period were grand burials for the elite from which a wealth of objects have been excavated.
The Neolithic Period, defined as the age before the use of metal, witnessed a transition from a nomadic existence to one of settled farming. People made different pottery and stone tools in their regional communities. Stone workers employed jade to make prestigious, beautifully polished versions of utilitarian stone tools, such as axes, and also to make implements with possible ceremonial or protective functions. The status of jade continues throughout Chinese history. Pottery also reached a high level with the introduction of the potter’s wheel.
Neolithic Liangzhu culture
A group of Neolithic peoples grouped today as the Liangzhu culture lived in the Jiangsu province of China during the third millennium B.C.E. Their jades, ceramics and stone tools were highly sophisticated.
They used two distinct types of ritual jade objects: a disc, later known as a bi, and a tube, later known as a cong. The main types of cong have a square outer section around a circular inner part, and a circular hole, though jades of a bracelet shape also display some of the characteristics of cong. They clearly had great significance, but despite the many theories the meaning and purpose of bi and cong remain a mystery. They were buried in large numbers: one tomb alone had 25 bi and 33 cong. Spectacular examples have been found at all the major archaeological sites.
Jade Cong, c. 2500 B.C.E., 49 cm high, China © Private Collection © Trustees of the British Museum
The principal decoration on cong of the Liangzhu period was the face pattern, which may refer to spirits or deities. On the square-sectioned pieces, like the examples here, the face pattern is placed across the corners, whereas on the bracelet form it appears in square panels. These faces are derived from a combination of a man-like figure and a mysterious beast.
Cong are among the most impressive yet most enigmatic of all ancient Chinese jade artifacts. Their function and meaning are completely unknown. Although they were made at many stages of the Neolithic and early historic period, the origin of the cong in the Neolithic cultures of south-east China has only been recognized in the last thirty years.
Cong were extremely difficult and time-consuming to produce. As jade cannot be split like other stones, it must be worked with a hard abrasive sand. This one is exceptionally long and may have been particularly important in its time.
Jade disc, or bi, Liangzhu culture, c. 2500 B.C.E., 18 cm in diameter © Private Collection, © Trustees of the British Museum
Stone rings were being made by the peoples of eastern China as early as the fifth millennium B.C.E. Jade discs have been found carefully laid on the bodies of the dead in tombs of the Hongshan culture (about 3800-2700 B.C.E.), a practice which was continued by later Neolithic cultures. Large and heavy jade discs such as this example, appear to have been an innovation of the Liangzhu culture (about 3000-2000 B.C.E.), although they are not found in all major Liangzhu tombs. The term bi is applied to wide discs with proportionately small central holes.
The most finely carved discs or bi of the best stone (like the example above) were placed in prominent positions, often near the stomach and the chest of the deceased. Other bi were aligned with the body. Where large numbers of discs are found, usually in small piles, they tend to be rather coarse, made of stone of inferior quality that has been worked in a cursory way.
We do not know what the true significance of these discs was, but they must have had an important ritual function as part of the burial. This is an exceptionally fine example, because the two faces are very highly polished.
J. Rawson, Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing (London, The British Museum Press, 1995, reprinted 2002).
J. Rawson (ed.), The British Museum book of Chinese Art (London, The British Museum Press, 1992).
Why We Wrote This
The search for one’s identity is universal. For this essayist, a traditional piece of jewelry has been an ever-shifting reflection of how she sees herself.
I pondered ways to remove the bracelet – even as I pondered my identity.
When my grandparents died, the bangle became a memento of lost opportunity, of all the questions I hadn’t asked them.
Now my jade bangle has seen me through graduations, my first job, romance, my wedding, and now a pandemic and a long-distance marriage. I still can’t take off the bracelet. But I no longer want to. Today when I look at it, I remember my grandparents and the languid, humid holidays of my childhood spent at their house. Now the jade bangle recalls the traditions that help define me – traditions that remind me where I come from.
Sometimes I forget it’s there, its weight one with my hand now: a solid, seamless piece of pale green stone, smooth and cold. I have worn this jade bangle on my wrist for 20 years.
I was 11 when I got it. Jade bracelets are usually worn by older Chinese women who may or may not believe they provide positive energy and protection from evil spirits. Highly prized in Chinese culture, jade jewelry is commonly given by mothers to daughters. My grandmother had a jade bracelet. My mother has one, given to her by my grandmother on my mother’s wedding day.
A Brief History of Jade
When most people hear the word “jade”, they imagine a beautiful green stone, and might know that it (mostly) comes from Eastern Asia. But beyond that, many folks know little else about the precious stone.
We think the history behind jade, its trade and how it became popular in a global market is fascinating, though! So, in honor of our favorite stone, here are some fun facts about how it made the journey to becoming what it is today:
Jade in Ancient Culture
Stemming as far back as approximately 5000 BCE, jade was known to be used in Chinese ritual ceremonies. The people who lived there in those days cherished and respected it for its strength and beauty, among many other reasons. They used jade for spiritual purposes and believed that they could communicate with various deities through possessing it. Because of such a strong connection to the stones among early dwellers of China, it’s no surprise that it has become engrained in modern culture there.
Jade and the Xia and Yin Dynasties
While jade dated back to before 1700 BCE was discovered near the Yangtze River, it was around then, during the Xia Dynasty, that Chinese culture saw a major uptick in crafts made from the stone. During those days, most of the jade objects created were relics for the Emperor.
But it was during Yin Dynasty (C. 1550 BCE) that jade began to be used for other purposes—most relevantly to us, to create jewelry. In other words, our jade rings are the product of an over 3,000-year-old history!
Qing Dynasty: the Shift to Green
Most people imagine green when they think of jade, but it wasn’t until relatively recently, during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE) that it surpassed white in general popularity. Until then, China hadn’t much ventured into mining the stone in other territories, and a bright green color was hard to be found. But during the 18th and 19th centuries, the Chinese began mining it in neighboring Myanmar (also known as Burma), and green was readily abundant there. Once jade became widely available, it quickly dominated as the preferred color, which holds true to this day.
Jade’s rich legacy in China continues to live on and thrive. It is still one of the most carved hardstones there, and modern Chinese people relate it to beauty and longevity (much like their ancestors did). It also remains popular because of its overall versatility to be used for different functions, and its availability in a multitude of colors (unlike most other precious stones).
When you’re perusing our online store, fully stocked with discount jade jewelry, we hope this information helps you better understand the stone behind the jewelry that you’re considering purchasing. We think its history is beautiful and important, and if nothing else, we’re glad to share the fascinating legacy of the thing we love with you!
What Is Nephrite Jade Used For?
We talked about its healing properties, but what else is the material used for? Excellent question! Let’s explore.
Thanks to its beautiful coloring, Nephrite jade is commonly incorporated into jewelry designs. Nephrite jewelry includes rings, beaded bracelets, tumbled pendants, raw stones, anklets, earrings, and necklaces.
The most popular style of Nephrite jewelry is beaded, but there are also intricate carvings. Some designs feature other gemstones like pearls. Often, nephrite is set against sterling silver metal, or earthy designs featuring leather rope.
Nephrite jade carvings are a popular style of decor, trinkets, and religious talismans. For thousands of years, jade carvings have adorned Chinese culture and heritage. In Chinese, the character “Yu” directly translates to the English word, “Jade.”
Nephrite Jade is embedded in Chinese history and culture, and the medals for the 2008 Beijing Olympics were mounted with Nephrite.
Because this material is integral to Chinese heritage, it’s commonly present in home decor. Intricate nephrite carvings depict Chinese themes of life, history, culture, and religion, including Buddha, horses, and fish.
We briefly discussed the healing properties of Nephrite jade, but let’s explore how you can use it. If you need help realizing your dreams, you can use the healing stone to minimize negative energy. This will alleviate space for you to welcome inspirational and uplifting energy in your life. When you feel positive, you’ll gain the motivation to approach your destiny.
Additionally, Nephrite jade invites calmness by stilling the mind and all the noise of life around you. In this quiet space, you’ll gain clarity, confidence, and sensory capabilities to tap into a deeper level of self-awareness.
Mythistory: The Legend of the Jade Rabbit
Cute, fluffy, and white, the Jade Rabbit is no ordinary bunny. Calling the moon its home, the Jade Rabbit is a mystical and enchanting Eastern legend. When the bunny isn&rsquot busy making immortality elixirs, it keeps the beautiful goddess Chang&rsquoe company in the Moon Palace. Out of the various legends explaining the origin of the Mid-Autumn Festival, the tale of Chang&rsquoe tends to be better known, but what&rsquos the story behind her tailed companion?
In East Asia, the Jade Rabbit is a widespread cultural symbol, and the various legends associated with this Eastern bunny differ from country to country. This is how one Chinese legend, an ancient Buddhist story, goes&hellip
The Jade Emperor disguised himself into a poor, starving old man and begged for food from monkey, otter, jackal, and rabbit. Monkey gathered fruit from the trees, and otter gathered fish from the river. Jackal stole a lizard and a pot of milk curds. Rabbit though, could only gather grass. Knowing well enough that grass can&rsquot be offered as food to humans, rabbit decided to offer its own body, sacrificing itself in the fire the man had started. Somehow, though, rabbit wasn&rsquot burned. The old man suddenly revealed himself to be the great Jade Emperor! Touched deeply by rabbit's selfless sacrifice, he sent it to the moon to become the immortal Jade Rabbit.
This mystical Jade Rabbit made its Shen Yun debut in the 2014 dance Monkey King Thwarts the Evil Toad. In this story, a big, bad toad wants to devour the Tang Monk. But after Monkey King comes to the rescue, toad flies off to hide in the Moon Palace. There, it finds the Jade Rabbit busy at work&mdashpounding herbal medicine into magical elixir with its mortar and pestle.
When the Moon Goddess Chang&rsquoe appears and summons bunny away, the toad, which had been lurking the entire time, shape shifts into the likeness of the Jade Rabbit. It then swipes some elixir to heal its injured leg and runs off with bunny&rsquos pestle as a weapon. With a malicious, armed meta-toad on the loose things get pretty hectic. Luckily, Monkey King&rsquos golden gaze sees through every demonic guise. He thwarts the toad and saves the day, returns the magic pestle to the Jade Rabbit, and all ends well.
It is said that if you look up at the moon, you can see an outline of the Jade Rabbit pounding with a pestle. More than just cute, fluffy, and white, the Jade Rabbit is a sign of selflessness, piety, and sacrifice. Maybe that&rsquos why the Jade Rabbit is on the moon&mdashso that no matter where we are on Earth, we always have the ethics of righteousness and self-sacrifice to look up to.
So, the next time you look up at the moon, recall the Jade Rabbit who has nothing to give but himself&mdashfor others.
Ancient China was a land where gods and mortals lived in tandem and created a divinely inspired culture. And so it became that early Chinese history and mythology are wholly intertwined. Our new &ldquoMythistory&rdquo series introduces you to the main characters of the marvelous legends of China.
Historically, Ch'an Chu is also associated with the Chinese moon goddess, Heng O, according to “Myths and Legends of China” by E.T.C. Werner, a Fellow at the Royal Anthropological Institute and author of several noted studies of Chinese culture and folklore. In Chinese mythology, the moon is associated with immortality and the feminine principle of “Yin,” as opposed to the masculine principle of “Yang.” Because Ch'an Chu dwells with the moon goddess, the sitting frog is able to use "Yin" energy to drive out negative energy and welcome positive “Qi” energy, according to Werner's studies.
Ch'an Chu also plays a part in the ancient annual Dragon Boat Festival in southern China, according to Amy Horwitz. This festival still takes place on May 5 every year, in accordance with the Chinese lunar calendar. Five powerful guardians--the spider, snake, scorpion, bee and Ch'an Chu, the sitting frog--are still used in this festival to help drive evil, illness and bad fortune away.