Sun, Jan 16, 2000 - Page 18 News List

The ancient attraction of jade

Whether in the museum or in the market, jade is one of the most treasured stoned in the Chinese world. What's the fuss about?

By Mark Caltonhill , SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

Most commonly seen are the bi, a round, flat disc with a circular hole in the center and the cong, an oblong tube of jade with a circular central cavity. These two represent circular heaven and square earth and, placed together on an altar, they acted as a conduit bringing spirits to earth and creating harmonious relations in society. Until recently cong were coveted as brush holders.

Gui are pointed tablets with a flat base which developed from end-bladed implements such as axes and spades. Different gui represented the insignia of various ranks of nobility who could participate in civil or sacred rites. Huang, semicircular jade ornaments worn as pendants, are often decorated with animals including dragons, birds, fish, and pig-dragons, many of which had totemic or religious significance. Zhang were used in ancient ceremonies and hu were held by officials during an audience with the monarch.

"Is it genuine?" is the most frequent question asked by Western visitors wishing to purchase a souvenir.

"Yes. And very ancient." is a frequent answer.

Bearing in mind that the Chinese word yu is used to refer to any beautiful stone not just to the nephrite and jadeite (silicates of calcium, magnesium, sodium or aluminum) encompassed by the English word "jade," they are not wrong -- all stone is ancient, even if unearthed and carved last week.

Perhaps Mrs Li's advice is best, "Just choose a piece you like. The only way to know if your jade is genuine or not, is to buy a cheap one. Then you may be sure it is not genuine."

For your information

The Weekend Jade Market is open beneath the Chienkuo S. Rd. overpass between Jenai and Chinan roads on Saturdays and Sundays.

The National Palace Museum at 221 Chihshan Rd. has a special

exhibition of Archaic Chinese Jades until April 10 in addition to its permanent exhibition of Chinese Jades.

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