Symbolism and History of Jade

Symbolism and History of Jade

Jade is traditionally revered in many Asian cultures, where it's considered more precious than gold or diamonds. Legend has it that it protects the wearer from misfortune — if your bangle breaks, that's because it was absorbing the evil intentions directed towards you.Feb 11, 2022

But it is also known to be musical.

Artisans have created chimes, xylophones, and gongs from melodically resonant jade. They're not only meant for pleasant listening. Some also use these instruments to produce "heavenly" tones for ritual practices. Chinese poets have compared jade's melodious sound to the voice of a loved one. They've called jade "the concentrated essence of love."

jade symbolism - Chinese chime

Nephrite and gold chime, from an Imperial Chinese set, 1764 CE, from the collection of the Walters Art Museum. Public Domain.

The Virtues of Jade

A medicinal cult arose around jade in Ancient China. People believed mixing powdered jade with water produced a panacea to strengthen the body and prolong life. If ingested just prior to death, this mixture supposedly even delayed the decomposition of the body.

Confucius described the Chinese love of jade by comparing its qualities to the virtues of a gentleman, "esteemed by all under the Sun." Xu Shen, an ancient Han scholar, listed the five virtues of jade in his Great Dictionary as "charity, rectitude, wisdom, courage, and equity."

Jade use and reverence in China dates back to Neolithic times. For example, one of the earliest forms of the ideograph for "king" appears to be the symbol for a string of jade beads. Suffice to say that one of the gates in the Great Wall of China is named the Jade Gate. Caravans of camels bearing jade trekked two-thousand miles, over as many years, bringing jade to Chinese artisans. They worked this stone into huge sculptures as well as tiny, delicate ornaments. However, so great was the demand that jade carving became very specialized. Finding someone who could create both large and small carvings was difficult.

International Gem Society 


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