DETAIL: A hand carved jade pendant about 2,000 years old attributable to the Han Dynasty of ancient China, about 1st century B.C. What lapis lazuli, carnelian, and turquoise was to the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean and Mesopotamia, including the Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Sumerians, and Babylonians; jade was to the ancient Chinese. It was the gemstone of gemstones, it’s name synonymous with “gold” in other languages. “Good as gold”; “the golden age”, such expressions would have used the word “yu”, for jade, rather than the word gold. This pendant seems to have two “faces” to it. With the point (the narrow end) on the bottom it seems to be a stylized face. But with the point at the top, as it seemingly would have intended to be worn, it seems to depict two figures, back to back, sitting beneath a tree. It might be a reference to the male and female personification of “Yin and Yang”. The symbolism of Yin-Yang, also known as “Tai-Chi”, refers to the I-Ching concept of the cycles of life, the balance between them, sometimes equated with the cyclical relationship between the sun and the moon or the “opposite” but complimentary characteristics of male and female. This extraordinary pendant has been mounted onto a twenty-four inch 14kt gold electroplated chain. If you would prefer, we also have available sterling silver and solid 14kt gold chains.
JADE HISTORY: The highest quality and rarest form of jade is known as “jadeite”, and is found almost exclusively in Burma (as was this), Tibet and southern China (and in small amounts in Japan and Guatemala). Jadeite ranges in color from dark green to nearly white, but can also be found in shades of pink, purple, blue, yellow, orange, red, gray, brown and black. The highest grade of jadeite is known as “imperial jade”, because in ancient China, all imperial jade was owned by the emperor. What differentiates imperial jade from ordinary jadeite is its light to medium “emerald” green color, the homogeneity of its color, and its translucent to transparent character. Nephrite, the more common and less valuable form of jade is found in many parts of the world from California to Siberia. Nephrite is creamier in color and less translucent than Jadeite and possesses an oily luster. Jade was used in ancient times for weapons, utensils, and ornaments, and has always been especially valued by the Chinese and Japanese as the most precious of all stones. Many beautiful hand carved jadeite vases, bowls, tablets, and statues produced in ancient China now reside in museums world-wide.
The less valuable form of jade, “nephrite” was widely used by primitive peoples as tools and weapons in the Neolithic, especially in Europe, Mexico, Asia, New Zealand, and North Africa (including ancient Egypt). Both nephrite as well as the more valuable jadeite were worked into implements by Neolithic peoples in many parts of the world, however nephrite was most often used for tools and weapons. The best-known finds are from the lake dwellings of Switzerland, western France, and China. The source for Neolithic jade in Europe remains undiscovered, but it was probably from a deposit in the Alps. Nephrite is very hard and was prized for keeping a sharp edge. One such variety was used by the natives of the South Sea Islands for making hatchets.
Jade was mined in China since at least as far back as 6,000 B.C. Records of its use in China as jewelry goes back at least 5,000 years. Jade jewelry can be found in emperor’s tombs dating back to the fourth millennium B.C. Jade bangles date backward at least 4,000 years. Jade was extremely valuable in ancient China, there are records of an entire city being traded for a carved ornamental jade piece. The Chinese have valued this gem more than any other, using it for currency, ceremonial vessels, and marriage bowls. Since at least 2950 B.C., jade has been treasured in China as the imperial gemstone, "yu". The word "yu" is used in Chinese to call something precious, as in English we use the term "golden". Indeed the cost of jade in ancient China exceeded that of gold. In addition to their own sources of jade, from the Kingdom of Khotan, on the southern leg of the Silk Road (present-day Turkestan), yearly tribute payments consisting of the most precious white jade (a creamy white form of nephrite known in China as "mutton fat" jade) were made to the Chinese Imperial court.
In the Neolithic the Chinese were carving jade into tools and simple cult objects (amulets). By about 1800 B.C., they began making small carved ornamental plaques with decorative designs of animals. The introduction of iron tools (about 500 B.C.) made more intricate carvings possible, and jade began to be made into a wide variety of utilitarian and luxury objects, such as belt hooks and ornaments, sword and scabbard accoutrements, hollow vessels, and, most importantly, sculpture in the round. The craft of jade carving in China attained maturity toward the close of the Chou dynasty in 255 B.C., with designs of unsurpassed excellence and beauty. The ancient Chinese was believed to preserve the body after death. One royal tomb contained an entire suit made out of jade, to assure the physical immortality of its owner. Emperors slept upon pillows of jade believing that it preserved vitality and youth. In Chinese mythology the Moon Hare made an elixir of immortality from crushed Jade. So of course jade was ground up and drunken as an “elixir of immortality”, believed to preserve vitality and youth. Even merely eating from Jade dishes was believed to ensure a long and fortunate life. It was also believed that jade could predict the stages of the wearer’s life. If a jade ornament appeared more brilliant and transparent, good fortune lay ahead. If it became dull, then bad luck was inevitable. In Chinese athletic competitions, ivory was given for third place and gold for second. Jade was reserved solely for the winners, including high officials in the imperial court.
For thousands of years, up through the middle of the second millennium, the Chinese only had access to nephrite jade. Occasionally a piece of two of fine Burmese jadeite tantalized ancient China, but for 500 years the actual source of jadeite proved elusive. According to legend sometime in the thirteenth century a Chinese trader traveling through northern Burma picked up a boulder to balance the load on his mule. Much later when it happened to break open, the brown-skinned rock revealed a vivid, “emerald” green jade. The Chinese were captivated by this stone, and sent expeditions to find the source the 13th and 14th centuries, but they were unsuccessful. Although occasional small pieces of green jadeite would appear in China over the next 500 years, their origin remained a mystery until the late 18th century. Finally in the eighteenth century Chinese adventurers discovered the source of the green stone. From that time onwards considerable amounts of jadeite were transported to Beijing and the workshops of China’s foremost jade carvers.
Both Japanese and Chinese cultures traditionally associated jade with the five cardinal virtues; charity, modesty, courage, justice, and wisdom. Jade was also popular in other regions of ancient Asia. A temple in Andhra Pradesh, India is home to a 5-foot high sculpture of an especially revered sage that is carved entirely out of jade, the largest sculpture made from a single jade rock in the world. The ancient East Indians called jade the “divine stone” and used it to treat asthma, epilepsy and heartburn. The Emerald Buddha, enshrined in a temple in Bangkok, Thailand’s Grand Palace, said to have been created in 43 B.C., is also actually made of emerald-green jadeite. Jade is found in ancient Korean burials dating back to about 1,000 B.C. The ancient Turks and Mongols considered jade to be the “stone of victory”, and used it to decorate swords and belts. In ancient Egypt, jade was admired as the stone of love, inner peace, harmony and balance.
The Aztecs, Mayas, Olmecs, Toltecs, and other Pre-Columbian peoples of Mexico and Central America carved jadeite for use as ornaments, amulets, badges of rank, plaques, figurines, small masks, pendants, and of course tools and weapons. Nearly all of these Meso-American jades are of various shades of green, with emerald green the most highly prized color among the Aztecs. Archaeologists believe that all ancient Meso-American jade came from deposits in Guatemala. Its cost and rarity dictated that its use was confined to the elite elements of society. As was the case with the Chinese, the Aztecs placed a higher value on jade than on gold. Medieval Europe was unfamiliar with jade as a gemstone for jewelry use until the sixteenth century when jade objects were imported from China and, later, Central America. The Portuguese imported jade from their colony at Canton, China. The Portuguese called jade "piedre de ilharga", or stone of the loins, because they believed it to be strong medicine for kidney ailments and to relieve back pain. Jade jewelry was regarded as symbolic of perfection and purity, and was also a favorite of Medieval Alchemists.
With contact between Spain and Meso-America established, jade objects brought back to Spain from the New World were called by the Spanish version of this phrase, "piedra de hijada". This became to the French ejade, and then, finally, "jade". With respect to the name "nephrite" jade, the word nephrite comes from the Greek word for kidney, "nephros". The widespread use of jade died out in Meso-America after the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Whether simply folklore or not, it’s still indicative of the high regard for gold in Meso-America: as Cortez cut his swath through the Aztec empire, pillaging gold, silver and emeralds, Montezuma is said to have remarked to his followers: “Thank god they don’t know about the jade.” Jade remains today, particularly in Asia, a highly valued gemstone used in the manufacture of jewelry.
Throughout the history of the ancient world, gemstones were believed capable of curing illness, possessed of valuable metaphysical properties, and to provide protection. Found in Egypt dated 1500 B. C., the "Papyrus Ebers" offered one of most complete therapeutic manuscripts containing prescriptions using gemstones and minerals. Gemstones were not only valued for their medicinal and protective properties, but also for educational and spiritual enhancement. In ancient Asia cultures jade was believed to help one access the spiritual world, and was perceived as a sacred substance. Jade was known as the "dream stone". The ancient Chinese believe that the secret virtue of jade was absorbed into the body. It was also believed to provide self-confidence, to enhance fertility, and to re-energize the love between married couples. Jade was said to contain the concentrated essence of love, to relieve thirst, bring rain, and to protect against lightning. Jade drove off evil beasts, helped warriors, strengthened the wearer, enhanced the immune system, and prolonged life. Jade bangles were of particular significance to the ancient Chinese. It was widely believed in ancient China that a bangle would protect its wearer from disaster by absorbing negative influences. For example, if the wearer were caught in an accident, the bangle would break so that its owner would remain unharmed. Another common belief was that a spot of fine color in a bangle would spread across the entire stone, depending upon the good fortune of the owner. Bangles and rings were often made in pairs, in the belief that good things always come in twos.
In addition to its use in the production of jewelry and great works of art, Jade was also used as well for medicinal purposes. It was used to ease pain from the kidneys and groin area, and aided in childbirth. In addition to the association with long-life, jade is also regarded as a "lucky charm", and jade charms are a favorite accessory for gamblers to this day. Even Confucius expounded on the virtues of jade. "Like Intelligence, it is smooth and shining. Like Justice, its edges seem sharp but do not cut. Like Humility, it hangs down toward the ground as a pendant. Like Music, it gives a clear ringing sound. Like Truthfulness, it does not hide its faults, and this only adds to its beauty. Like the Earth, its firmness is born of the mountain and the water." Modern practitioners recommend jade as a talisman for those who are trying to change or redirect their lives. As a “stone of change”, it is believed to empower the wearer to break through deadlocks. Jade is also believed to promote family unity, and still believed to prolong long as well. Wearing a jade talisman is believed to attract wealth and prosperity, and to increases the wearer’s sense of self worth and confidence. Meditating with jade is said to sharpen concentration, increase comprehension, and aid in absorbing and retaining intellectual knowledge. The wearing of a talisman by gardening enthusiasts is said to benefit their plants as well as the wearer.
Some believe that jade can helps to control the content of our dreams or their focus. Jade is also thought by some to be a very protective stone, particularly good for protecting children against illness or for protection on long journeys. In present-day Asia jade is believed effective in regulating high blood pressure, and in calming emotional outbursts. It is believed an effective treatment for infertility, heart disease, and various disorders of the eye. Contemporary crystal healers believe that jade protects the kidneys, liver, spleen, heart and thyroid gland. Mystics hold that jade is associated with the elemental power of Dragons, and can be used in magic to attract and communicate with them. They believe that jade can help bring visions of Dragons when scrying (with a crystal ball), and that sleeping with the stone can bring magical dreams and help subconscious, intuitive messages rise to the forefront of the user’s mind.
HISTORY OF THE HAN DYNASTY: The History of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.) actually begins in 221 B.C. when the western frontier state of Qin (Ch’in), the most aggressive of the Warring States, subjugated the last of its rival states, bringing the era of the Warring States to an end. For the first time most of what eventually came to be “China” was unified. The new Qin (Chin) King proclaimed himself a deity, and ruthlessly imposed a centralized nonhereditary bureaucratic system throughout the empire, establishing standardized legal codes, bureaucratic procedures, written language, and coinage. In an effort to even standardize thought and scholarship many dissenting Confucian scholars were banished or executed; their books confiscated and burned. To fend off barbarian intrusion, the fortification walls built by the various warring states were connected to make a 5,000-kilometer-long great wall. When the powerful emperor of Ch’in died, he was entombed in a massive burial mound. Recently excavated the royal grave revealed an army of more than 6,000 terra-cotta human figures and horses intended to protect the emperor's final resting place.
In ancient China his death was followed by a short civil war and the emergence of the Han Dynasty. The new empire retained much of the Qin administrative structure but retreated from the harsh and centralized rule by establishing vassal principalities in many areas. Confucian ideals of government were reinstated, and once again Confucian scholars gained prominent status as the core of the civil service. Intellectual, literary, and artistic endeavors revived and flourished. Technological advances included the invention of paper and porcelain. The Han Empire expanded westward, making possible relatively secure caravan traffic across Central Asia to Antioch, Baghdad, and Alexandria. Often called the “silk route”, it enabled the export of Chinese silk to the Roman Empire. The Earlier Han reached the zenith of its power under Emperor Wu Ti, who reigned from 140 to 87 BC. Almost all of what today constitutes China was under imperial rule.
HISTORY OF CHINESE CIVILIZATION: Remains of Homo erectus, found near Beijing, have been dated back 460,000 years. Recent archaeological studies in the Yangtse River area have provided evidence of ancient cultures (and rice cultivation) flourishing more than 11,500 years ago, contrary to the conventional belief that the Yellow River area was the cradle of the Chinese civilization. The Neolithic period flourished with a multiplicity of cultures in different regions dating back to around 5000 B.C. There is strong evidence of two so-called pottery cultures, the Yang-shao culture (3950-1700 B.C.) and the Lung-shan culture (2000-1850 B.C). Written records go back more than 3,500 years, and the written history is (as is the case with Ancient Egypt) divided into dynasties, families of kings or emperors. The voluminous records kept by the ancient Chinese provide us with knowledge into their strong sense of their real and mythological origins – as well as of their neighbors.
By about 2500 B.C. the Chinese knew how to cultivate and weave silk and were trading the luxurious fabric with other nations by about 1000 B.C. The production and value of silk tell much about the advanced state of early Chinese civilization. Cultivation of silkworms required mulberry tree orchards, temperature controls and periodic feedings around the clock. More than 2,000 silkworms were required to produce one pound of silk. The Chinese also mastered spinning, dyeing and weaving silk threads into fabric. Bodies were buried with food containers and other possessions, presumably to assist the smooth passage of the dead to the next world. The relative success of ancient China can be attributed to the superiority of their ideographic written language, their technology, and their political institutions; the refinement of their artistic and intellectual creativity; and the sheer weight of their numbers.
A recurrent historical theme has been the unceasing struggle of the sedentary Chinese against the threats posed by non-Chinese peoples on the margins of their territory in the north, northeast, and northwest. China saw itself surrounded on all sides by so-called barbarian peoples whose cultures were demonstrably inferior by Chinese standards. This China-centered ("sinocentric") view of the world was still undisturbed in the nineteenth century, at the time of the first serious confrontation with the West. Of course the ancient Chinese showed a remarkable ability to absorb the people of surrounding areas into their own civilization. The process of assimilation continued over the centuries through conquest and colonization until what is now known as China Proper was brought under unified rule.
SHIPPING: These antiquities come from a number of collections which by and large originated here in Eastern Europe. As well, additional specimens are occasionally acquired from other institutions and dealers, principally in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. All of these artifacts are now in the United States and are available for immediate delivery via U.S. Mail. All purchases are backed by an unlimited guarantee of satisfaction and authenticity. If for any reason you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a complete and immediate refund of your entire purchase price. A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request.
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