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Jade ornament, Hubei Provincial Museum, Wuhan

A fine stone with dense texture, mild color and delicate carving, jade has been highly prized by the Chinese since ancient times. It symbolizes nobility, perfection, faith, and immortality. The ancient Chinese believed that the sky is round and the earth is square, so they carved round and square jade objects to offer sacrifices to heaven and earth; dragon and phoenix were the divine animals and honored as the source of the life in ancient China, so people carved jade dragons and phoenix as the ornaments, as an expression of their noble gifts., Jade was also used for sacrifice to the ancestors in the form of funeral objects, to exorcise evils, to prevent disasters, and to purify one's heart, in the form of wearing it as decorations or displaying it in a person's house. Nowadays, jade objects are mostly used as presents, engagement objects between lovers as well as for noble and elegant ornaments.

Presumably jade was discovered when the Chinese ancestors were making and using stone tools. They found that jade was harder than the common stones, so they used jade to process other stone objects. Later, people gradually used jade as decorations for it has special colors and lustre, being glittering and translucent. Since it was scarce and its availability was limited by technical difficulties of manufacture, only the leaders of the tribes were permitted to wear and use jade objects. Thus, jade was made into ritual vessels, sacrificial utensils and totems, representing power, position and wealth.

From the Qin (221 BC – 206 BC) and Han (206 BC – 24 AD) Dynasties to the Sui(581 - 618) and Tang(618 - 907) Dynasties, jade was always the exclusive decorations of the royal families. Since the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279), jade has enjoyed a prosperous time. A large number of jade objects were produced, with fine workmanship and fantastic designs. To the Ming (1368 - 1644) and Qing (1644 - 1911) Dynasties, jade reached its peak. Various jade objects appeared even in common people's life, from hairpins and fasteners to folding screens and boats. The royal and noble families even used jade bowls, cups and pots.

According to mineralogy, jade is mainly divided into two categories, one is jadeite, and the other is nephrite which has been named as 'China jade' by a chemist of the Soviet Union.

Jadeite is mainly produced in Burma, with green, yellow, red, purple, white and orchid colors. In Chinese, the red ones are named 'fei', the green ones are named 'cui', and they are generally called 'feicui' (emerald). Emerald is of hard structure and dense texture, with a vitreous lustre.

In a narrow sense, nephrite is a kind of mineral mainly containing tremolite and actinolite materials, while in a broad sense, it is a mineral combination including all the recognized jade in traditional culture. The pure nephrite is creamy white and feels glossy, while those containing a small quantity of oxidized metal-ions are in blue, green, yellow and other colors.

 Four Well-known Jade Stones in China
As one of the important jade producing countrries in the world, China is rich in jade resources. There are four well-known jade stones in China: Hetian jade in Xinjiang Province, Dushan jade in Henan Province, Xiuyan jade in Liaoning Province and turquoise in Hubei Province.

Hetian jade
produced in the jade capital, Hetian County of Xinjiang province, it is well-known all over the world and is the best jade in China and, one could say, even in the world. It is semi-transparent in white, turquoise, black, yellow and other colors, including lamb fat white jade, white jade, grey-white jade, grey jade, yellow jade, black jade and brown sugar jade, whose inner part is white or grey jade, with a border of brown sugar colored jade on the surface. It is hard to sculpture, so most of it is made into vessels with inlaid purl.

Dushan jade
also named Nanyang jade because of being produced in Nayang City, Henan Province. It is pure and fine of texture, with a greasy and vitreous luster. The main categories are white jade, green jade, green-white jade, purple jade, yellow jade, black jade, lotus red jade and variegated jade. Most of it is made into decorations.

Xiuyan jade
it is in blue-green, yellow-green, and light white colors, semi-transparent and is softer of texture than other jade, showing a waxy lustre after polishing. It is good jade material for large-sized jade carving and small-sized jade furniture.

one of the oldest jade stones, it is in blue and green colors of various shades, with iron lines and is made into eardrops, chest-drops or carved into figures of Buddha, fairy, landscape and flowers.

Additionally, crystal, agate, malachite, wood alexandrite, aventurine, mixian county jade and plum jade are also famous jade stones in China.

Jade sculptures of fruit, China Jade Vessels
Ritual and musical instruments
jade cong, jade zhang, jade bi, jade huang, jade gui, jade hu and other jade objects for sacrifices, worship, palaces and armies.

Funeral objects
jade mask, jade clothes, jade daily utensils like bowls, pots, brush holders, livestock and so on.

jade objects for decorating houses like jade folding screens, jade vases, jade boats, and the jade jewellery people wear such as hairpins, earrings, necklaces and all shapes of jade pendants.

Production tools
they are the axe, arrow, arrowhead, chisel, knife, and were mainly used in the Neolithic Age and Bronze Age.

jade dagger, jade axe and jade sword mainly appeared in the Shang (16th – 11th century BC) and Zhou (11th century BC – 221 BC) Dynasties.

Daily utensils
the number and quantity of jade gui, jade light, jade cup, jade bowl, jade drinking vessels, jade bottle and other daily utensils came to the peak in the Qing Dynasty.

jade holding screen, jade animals, jade fan, jade brush holder, jade bookshelf

In addition to all of the foregoing, there are many other objects fashioned out of jade such as hooks, belts, baldrics and Ruyi (symbol of good luck).