It has been cherished for millennia, heralded as a ubiquitous symbol of beauty, luxury and royalty in China: Jade. Without question, this stone has surpassed every other with its enduring importance and rich history. Valued for its beauty and symbolic powers, jade is pervasive throughout Chinese decorative arts, considered the most valuable of all precious stones. Today, Asian and non-Asian buyers alike are drawn to jade as never before. And in this Chinese New Year, jade holds a special importance as a symbol of prosperity, success, and good luck.
The use of jade extends to ancient times, with jade objects having been found as early as 5000 BC. The stone is deeply rooted in Chinese culture – the longevity of its value stems both from its beauty and remarkable symbolism. More than 2000 years ago, Confucius wrote a thesis on the eleven virtues of jade, which came to serve as a metaphorical standard of living well. Its polish and brilliance symbolize purity, its soft angles justice, its compactness intelligence, its flaws sincerity – thanks to Confucius, jade became extolled for its virtue.
Because of this virtuosity of character, jade was at first used to form only the most important of objects. Special designs executed in jade were used in ceremonial pieces and furnishings, as well as in jewelry for the Imperial family. Funerary statuary and incense censors were carved from the stone, as well as important gifts to bring good fortune.
With the advancement of society, the economics and the functions of jade began to change. Symbolic meaning combined with a more practical utility – jade was no longer seen just in the spiritual and Imperial realms, but also in everyday objects, including inkwells, vases, archer’s rings, and belt hooks, among others. Truly the stone of both emperors and men, jade pervaded Chinese culture, and persists yet today.
As sumptuous ornamental objets d’art or functional domestic pieces, the creation and design of jade in China fully mirrored the pure and superior qualities of the material and its association with clarity of mind and purity of spirit.