A Glow-in-the-Dark Jade


In class we learned about a certain kind of jade that is so translucent in material that it appears to glows in the dark. This famous jade first appeared in history during the Zhou Dynasty when the Emperor Zhou Mu Wang was given this gift from a neighboring kingdom. The luminous jade came in the form of a cup, called the 夜光杯。

I have encountered this luminous cup in one of my favorite novels when the title character, an alcohol connoisseur, was taught by an alcohol expert how to match the right alcohol to the right cup. When they spoke of wine, the alcohol expert referred to a poem written by Wang Han, a famous Tang Dynasty poet. This poem in Chinese as follows:


In the poem, the speaker has just brought a cup of red wine held in the luminous jade cup to his lips when he was reported to fight for his country. In the last couplet, he compares the aimless feeling on the battlefield to drunkenness, wondering how long he will have to fight. The poem describes the speaker’s sadness from being far from home and luxuries like a small cup of wine. In the novel that I read, drinking red wine juxtaposed against the green glow of the luminous jade cup was a classy thing to do – the act comes from this poet.

Jade has been a long-time precious treasure of China. With such stories that appear in history, it makes sense that people are fascinated by jade and the beautiful qualities of it, giving way to romance and poetry. I, for one, wanted a luminous jade cup the minute I read about it.

Professor Shao, then, told us how he has one.

“It doesn’t work,” he told us.

Ah, if only history wasn’t dotted with all these myths.