HISTORY: In the Orient today jade is highly valued in the production of jewelry, the most common colors being white and green. However jade has always been prized by the Chinese and Japanese as the most precious of all stones. The most beautiful specimens of carved jade in the form of ornamental pieces, such as vases, bowls, tablets, amulets and statues, many of which are now museum pieces, were made in China. Both cultures traditionally associated jade with the five cardinal virtues; charity, modesty, courage, justice, and wisdom. Since at least 2950 B.C., jade has been treasured in China as the royal gemstone, "yu". The word "yu" is used in Chinese to call something precious, as in English we use the term "golden". Jade was believed to preserve the body after death and can be found in emperors' tombs from thousands of years ago. One tomb contained an entire suit made out of jade, to assure the physical immortality of its owner. The Chinese have valued this gemstone more than any other, using it for currency, ceremonial vessels, and marriage bowls. Besides the fact that jade was used to produce great works of art, it was used as well as for medicinal purposes.
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 jade carving traditions that sprang out of the Late Stone Age were continued in the Shang Dynasty (1600-1027 B.C.). Peoples of the Shang Dynasty collected carvings from previous ages as well. Jade carvings of past centuries are among the personal possessions found in graves and tombs. The older jade probably came from the looting of Stone Age graves. The artisans of the Shang Dynasty produced jade carvings of high quality, mostly traditional-style carvings used in ceremonies and funerary rituals. In addition, many people began to wear jade jewelry and other decorations in everyday life. Some carvings of the Shang Kingdom were three-dimensional animal and human forms that do not appear to have a ceremonial purpose. Most of the animal and human carvings of the Yin period (1400-1027 B.C.) were primitive. Ritual carvings of Late Stone Age cultures, like the pig and dragon, developed in more variety and detail as the role of the dragon myth became firmly established in the culture.
Jade carving technology improved as carvers developed tools like the lathe in bronze to produce large numbers of detailed carvings. Despite the advances in technology, the standards of quality set by the jade carvers of the Late Stone Age were never surpassed during the Shang and Zhou (1027 to 221 B.C.) Dynasties, and even declined in the later Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.). Nonetheless the quality of the jade carvings in the Zhou Dynasty was generally very good to excellent. Elaborate jewelry and animal carvings were created, with the best animal carvings reserved for ornaments, decorations, and amulets. Masks and body suits made from jade or jade-like stones were first used in the Zhou Dynasty and continued throughout the Han. As jade increased in influence, the hunt began for new sources. The first documented use of nephrite jade from the Kunlun mountains of Xinjiang Province occurs during the Yin Period. The use of jade from China's far western frontier reflects the existence of a sophisticated system of trade that may have earlier roots. The Jade Road to the west set the foundation for the later development of what is called the Silk Road in the Han Dynasty.
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. Jade was extremely valuable in ancient China. A particularly valuable piece owned by one ruler might be coveted by another, and entire cities were often exchanged for possession of a single jade carving. 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. 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." Ageless, beautiful jade, truly fulfills the definition of one of mankind's most ancient of treasures. Join the procession of 5,000 years, own a piece for yourself today!
Aside from its well-known historical popularity in Asia, jade was widely used for tools and weapons by primitive people, especially in Mexico, Switzerland, France, Greece, Egypt, Asia Minor, and New Zealand. Jade was worked into implements by Neolithic peoples in many parts of the world. 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. Jade is very hard and was prized for keeping a sharp edge. The Aztecs, Mayas, and other Pre-Columbian peoples of Mexico and Central America carved jadeite for use as ornaments, amulets, and badges of rank. Nearly all of these Meso-American jades are of various shades of green, with emerald green the most highly prized color among the Aztecs. The jade carvings range from plaques, figurines, small masks, pendants, to of course, tools and weapons.
HISTORY OF THE SHANG DYNASTY: Thousands of archaeological finds in the Yellow River Valley provide evidence about the Shang (Yin) dynasty (1700-1027 B.C.). Founded by the rebel leader who overthrew the last Xia emperor, the civilization was based on agriculture, hunting and animal husbandry. Millet, wheat, barley, and, possibly, some rice were grown. Silkworms were cultivated, and pigs, dogs, sheep, and oxen were raised. Two significant developments during the Shang Dynasty were the development of a writing system, as revealed in archaic Chinese inscriptions found on tortoise shells and flat cattle bones (oracle bones), and the use of bronze metallurgy.
The written language developed contained over 2,000 written characters, many of which remain in use today. The bronze castings, often ceremonial vessels, were amongst the best in the world. Bronze weapons and other tools found indicate a high level of metallurgy and craftsmanship. A line of hereditary Shang emperors ruled over much of northern China, and engaged neighboring settlements and nomadic steppes herdsmen in frequent warfare. The principal cities were centers of glittering court life, punctuated with rituals to honor both the spirits as well as the sacred ancestors. The Shang rulers who were also the “high priest” of the prevalent form of ancestor worship, were buried with many valuables as well as domestic articles, presumably for use in the afterlife. Hundreds of commoners (perhaps slaves) were buried alive with the royal corpse.
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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