Jade History and Modern Significance

Jade in China has a significant meaning, valued for its beauty, purity and rarity. In ancient China, jade was only purchased by the royals and highest ranks of the imperial court who can afford such treasure. In literature and culture, jade symbolizes beautiful women who are held at highest esteem and many families name their child – female or male – with the word “jade” in it to show how much they loved their child. The highest quality of jade,the jadeite, is a rich and beautiful shade of green. It has appeared frequently in history, appearing as gifts for women, especially for women who are getting married as part of their dowry. Nowadays, jadeite resources have been so depleted that we can no longer see jadeite in our nearest markets. Even nephrite, which was not desired highly, costs exponentially more than it used to because there are so few left. Jadeite and nephrite are made into necklaces, jade bangles, and earrings. However, jade was not only used as jewelry, but also served as symbolism of royalty in court. The gui is an object held as early as Tang Dynasty officials in their hands at court to indicate their station. Prior, court officials held bamboo forms of the same shape in order to jot down notes while they speak to the emperor; however this was replaced to jade in the name of formalities. The highest esteemed form of jade was the yu xi seals, the mark of the emperor. Once a document is marked with the xi seal, the document becomes the official document of the emperor. A jade suit was also common among the nobility. After a noble died, they are honored with the jade suit to wear for burial, a privilege given only to the imperial family. Unfortunately, more than 90 percent of what we see in the market is fake jade that can be made by painting a special kind of paint onto hard stones. When I was little, my family often gave me jade necklaces which were in the form of a dog (my year of birth). These presents symbolized how much they loved and cared for me, which was all great until I lost three jades in my lifetime. Back then, those jade pieces were real and very expensive so my last jade present now sits at home on a bookshelf so that I would never lose such a precious gift.