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Home > Display > Gallery of Chinese Ancient Jade
Gallery of Chinese Ancient Jade
Well known for the reputation of "the Country of Jade" around the world, China has a 7,000-year history of jade production. In ancient times, Chinese favored jade not only for its intrinsic beauty but also for its mystical allure. It was used either as the symbol of wealth and power by rulers or as personal ornaments by ordinary people. It was also widely used as a ritual implements and burial objects. Therefore, the nature of jade was endowed with the significance of humanity and moral. Using specially designed stands and fiber optics for illumination, the exhibits provide audience a sparkling and smooth appearance. Even the details of fine design are perfectly exposed. The exhibits reveal elegant jade culture and its consummate skill in ancient China.
Jades during the Neolithic period
Various unique jade implements either for ritual use or personal ornaments were produced by local cultures on the vast land of China during the Neolithic period. The most distinguished ones were animal -shaped ornaments of the Hongshan Culture along the Liao River Valley; Bi (disc), Cong, Fu (axe), and Yue (axe) of the Liangzhu Culture around Lake Taihu and jade knives, scepters of the Longshan Culture along the Yellow River Valley.The uniformity of their shapes and the delicacy of their designs represent the climax of prehistoric jade production.
Jades during the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties
In order to consolidate their power and privilege, rulers of the three dynasties established a set of jade usage system, leading to the appearance of a series of jade artifacts for ceremonial use, such as Gui (ceremonial blade), Qi (notched axe) and Ge (halberd) in addition to traditional ones such as Bi and Cong.Meanwhile,elites wear jade on their garments to show their social status,which stimulated further development of jade ornaments. These ornaments were commonly taken in the shape of animals and mythic deities.
Development of jades after the mid Western Zhou dynasty
The mid-Western Zhou period witnessed significant changes in jade ornaments. In addition to those for ceremonial use, jade pendants became diversified in style and form. Jade phoenix, a bird with a feathery crown, a hooked bill and sharp claws, became a common motif. This phoenix was sometimes associated with other creatures to make a complex design. During the early Spring and Autumn, jade production followed the tradition of the late Western Zhou, showing a random style in linear carving.
Jades from the mid Spring and Autumn period to the Western Han dynasty
This period witnessed the second flourish of jade carving in ancient China. Jade production showed its diversity in form. Jade ornaments replaced ritual jades to represent the mainstream. Jades were widely used for elite burials due to lavish funeral habit. During the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States periods, one of main decorative designs was dragon or dragon-like beasts. The workmanship was extremely delicate and gorgeous. From the Western Han dynasty, however, jade designs were getting simplified and smooth. Animal motifs became more vivid.
Jades during the Tang, Song, Liao and Jin dynasties
During this period,a new trend of jade production and a series of toys and items for daily use appeared. Jade sculptures became popular. Animal, bird, flower and landscape were common decorative designs and portrait themes were distinct. Jade ornaments taken in the shape of bird, flower and a boy holding flowers reflected flavor of social lifestyle and fashion during the Song dynasty. On the basis of their own ethnic characteristics, jades of the Liao and Jin mixed the impact of the Tang and Song to form a distinctive style.
Jades during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties
The scale of jade production was increasingly expanding during this period. Variety and quantity of jades for daily use, furnishing, wearing and appreciation reached a level never seen before. Jade collection was very popular in various communities. Each dynasty had their own styles. Jades of the Yuan exhibited a style of simple and plain. Jades of the Ming were vigorous and sturdy, often imitating antique jades. Jade of the Qing seemed to be more elaborate and delicate in style.
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