The earliest jadeware found in China was a
piece of serpentine stoneware unearthed in the site
of the lmmortal Cave in Haicheng of Liaoning
Province dating back to the New Stone Age, more than 12,000 years ago. The
second was a small hanging jade article excavated
in the site of Hemudu in Zhejiang Province dating back more than 7,000 years. Jadeware in that
period was mainly used for personal decoration. A
large number of exquisite jade objects were
produced 4,000 years ago. Jadeware at that time was
mainly used for witchcraft and as an emblem of
During the Shang Dynasty (B.C 1600--B.C 1066,) craftsmen used metal tools to
make new progress in jadeware models
and sculpture. Round jade articles
increased in number and jadeware was often given as gifts.
The jade-carving technique developed fast in the
Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (B.C 770--B.C 221.)
The Spring and Autumn period was known for its well-
carved and exquisite jadeware. The coherent and
undulating patterns of dragon, phoenix and Panli (a figure of Chinese folklore) on
the jade decorations are still treasured today.
In the periods of the Qin and Han dynasties (B.C221--A.D220),
jadeware became more practical and objects such as
jade tablets fell out of use. At that time, people began to believe in the power of jadeware to increase longevity. They
thought they would live forever like gods if they
had jadeware. Therefore, the practice of burying the
dead with jadeware became common. Invaluable
jade figures and clothes sewn with gold threads
have been found in tombs dating back to the Han dynasty.
During the periods of the Three Kingdoms (A.D220--280) to Song
and Yuan dynasties (A.D 960--1368), there was no great
development in the jade-carving technique. This changed in the Ming Dynasty when many still famous craftsmen emerged.
White jade vessels with gold holders and white jade
bowls with gold covers, which were unearthed in
the Ming Tombs, reflected the dynasty's peak level
in jade carving. The jadeware technique peaked in the Qing
Dynasty ( A.D 1644--1911) under the advocacy of Emperor Qianlong .
The patterns of China's jadeware have rich connotations showing strong auspicious colours. Bats and
gourds were often used as a basis for more than 100 patterns because the Chinese words (bat and gord) sound like "good
fortune" in the Chinese language. When a bat was carved on an
ancient coin with a hole, it meant fortune was at
hand. When many bats were put with birthday
peaches, they referred to fortune and longevity. If
bats were mixed with sika, birthday peaches and
magpies, they also had a good meaning. All these
reflected the ancient Chinese people's yearning for a happy life
and revealed the essence of China's traditional
Jade in China is varied and can be divided into
two categories: hard and soft. Good materials provide strong basics
for jadeware carving, but the value of a jade object
depends on the skills and reputation of craftsmen, the
dates of carving, peculiar modelling and the
owner's status. Certainly, different people will have
various views on the value of the same jade object.
It is difficult to have a unanimous standard. Due to
the high value of ancient jadeware, there is an equally long tradition of fake jadeware, which looks much like the real thing. Jadeware collectors should be careful and seek the opinions of professionals before making any major purchases.