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Jade

Jade

A term covering minerals of varied color and chemical composition, credited with occult properties. Jade may be jadeite, nephrite, or chloromelanite, with a range of colorsblack, brown, red, lavender, blue, green, yellow, or white. The mineral is found mainly in New Zealand, Mexico, Central America, and China. In prehistoric times jade was used for utensils and weapons, but in Mexico, Egypt, and China it was employed in burial rites. In China, Burma, and India, jade is used for amulets.

Jade is chiefly associated with China, where it has been carved into ornaments for thousands of years. The blue variety of jade was traditionally associated with the heavens, and Chinese emperors were said to have made contact with heaven through a disk of white jade. There was a Chinese superstition that rubbing a piece of jade in the hand would bring good fortune to any decision or business venture. The Chinese word for jade is yü, indicating beauty, nobility, and purity. Because of its yang (masculine, hot, active) qualities, jade is believed to prolong life. It is taken medicinally in water or wine, and is believed to protect against heat and cold, hunger and thirst. Powdered jade is taken to strengthen the heart, lungs, and voice. It is also considered an indicator of health and fortune, becoming dull and lusterless when its owner experiences ill health or misfortune.

In Burma, Tibet, and India, jade is considered a cure for heart trouble and a means of deflecting lightning. It has the property of bringing rain, mist, or snow when thrown into water. In Scotland it has been used as a touchstone to cure illness. The carving of jade into beautiful ornaments reached its peak in China, where even a small carving involved skilled and patient work over several months. There is still a large jade market in Hong Kong.

Sources:

Laufer, Berthold, Jade: A Study in Chinese Archeology and Religion. 2nd edition. South Pasadena, Calif.: Perkin, 1946.

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jade

jade, common name for either of two minerals used as gems. The rarer variety of jade is jadeite, a sodium aluminum silicate, NaAl(SiO3)2, usually white or green in color; the green variety is the more valuable. The commoner and less costly variety of jade is nephrite, a calcium magnesium iron silicate of varying composition, white to dark green in color. Jade has been prized by the Chinese and Japanese, as well as by pre-Colombian Mesoamerican peoples, as the most precious of all gems. The Chinese in particular are known for the objets d'art they carve from it, and they traditionally associated it with the five cardinal virtues: charity, modesty, courage, justice, and wisdom; they also attributed healing powers to it. It was much used for implements by ancient peoples, especially in Mexico, Switzerland, France, Greece, Egypt, Asia Minor, and New Zealand. Jadeite is found in upper Myanmar, in Japan, and in Guatemala; nephrite in New Zealand, Turkistan, Siberia, China, Silesia, Wyoming, California, and British Columbia.

See S. C. Nott, Chinese Jade throughout the Ages (2d ed. 1962); R. Gump, Jade (1962); J. M. Hartman, Chinese Jade of Five Centuries (1969, repr. 1987); G. Wills, Jade of the East (1972); A. Levy and C. Scott-Clark, The Stone of Heaven (2002).

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jade

jade1 / jād/ • n. a hard, typically green stone used for ornaments and implements and consisting of the minerals jadeite or nephrite. ∎  an ornament made of this. ∎  (also jade green) a light bluish-green: [as adj.] a baggy jade T-shirt. jade2 • n. archaic 1. a bad-tempered or disreputable woman. 2. an inferior or worn-out horse.

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jade

jade a hard, typically green stone used for ornaments and implements and consisting of the minerals jadeite or nephrite. The word is recorded from the late 16th century, and comes via French from Spanish piedra de ijada ‘stone of the flank’ (i.e., stone for colic, which it was believed to cure).

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jade

jade Semi-precious silicate mineral of two major types: jadeite, which is often translucent; and nephrite, which has a waxy quality. Both types are extremely hard. Jade is found mainly in Burma and comes in many colours, most commonly green and white. Hardness 5–6; r.d. 3–3.4.

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jade

jade2 hard mineral. XVIII. — F.; le jade was for earlier l'ejade — Sp. ijada (in piedra de ijada ‘colic stone’) :- Rom. *iliata, f. L. ilia flanks.

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jade

jade1 poor or worn-out horse XIV; reprehensible woman or girl XVI. of unkn. orig.

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jade

jade See JADEITE.

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jade

jadeabrade, afraid, aid, aide, ambuscade, arcade, balustrade, barricade, Belgrade, blade, blockade, braid, brigade, brocade, cannonade, carronade, cascade, cavalcade, cockade, colonnade, crusade, dissuade, downgrade, enfilade, esplanade, evade, fade, fusillade, glade, grade, grenade, grillade, handmade, harlequinade, homemade, invade, jade, lade, laid, lemonade, limeade, made, maid, man-made, marinade, masquerade, newlaid, orangeade, paid, palisade, parade, pasquinade, persuade, pervade, raid, serenade, shade, Sinéad, spade, staid, stockade, stock-in-trade, suede, tailor-made, they'd, tirade, trade, Ubaid, underpaid, undismayed, unplayed, unsprayed, unswayed, upbraid, upgrade, wade •nightshade • renegade • decade •Medicaid • motorcade • switchblade •Adelaide • accolade • rollerblade •marmalade • razor blade • handmaid •barmaid • Teasmade • milkmaid •dairymaid • bridesmaid • housemaid •chambermaid •parlourmaid (US parlormaid) •mermaid • nursemaid • escapade •ram raid • centigrade • multigrade •comrade • retrograde • lampshade •eyeshade • sunshade

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Jade

JADE

JADE . The term jade readily evokes the concept of a hard and precious, semitranslucent green stone. However, not only does jade appear in a wide variety of colors, such as white, brown, black, green, and even purple, but the term also describes two quite distinct stones, nephrite and jadeite. Nephrite, the stone of ancient China, is a silicate of calcium and magnesium and exhibits a felted, fibrous structure resembling wood grain as well as a soft, waxy luster. Jadeite, on the other hand, a pyroxene silicate of aluminum and sodium, has a cryptocrystalline structure, giving it an often grainy appearance. It is not only harder than nephrite, polishing to a glasslike finish, but it also appears in a wider variety of colors, including emerald green as well as rich blues and purples. Jade is universally admired for its beauty and durability as a precious stone, for its inexhaustible riches of color, and for its variety of grain and texture. In earlier times, however, in cultures as diverse as those of ancient China, Mesoamerica, and Polynesia, jade also had a religious value.

By the fifth millennium bce various Chinese Neolithic peoples were working nephrite jade into beads, pendants, and other simple ornaments in both northern and southern China. To the north the Hongshan people (c. 47002920 bce) created jade sculptures of cloudlike forms as well as early examples of the venerated dragon identified with rainmaking and rulership in traditional Chinese thought. Often termed pig dragons because of their blunt snouts, these Hongshan creatures typically appear as pendants, with the tightly coiled tail almost touching the mouth. Other jade carvings feature cicadas, creatures widely identified with resurrection in Chinese religion. The cicada is among the most frequently depicted creatures in traditional Chinese jade carving, as such objects were commonly placed in the mouths of the dead. Aside from Hongshan, there is the slightly later Liangzhu culture situated in the lower Yangtze River Basin to the south (c. 32002000 bce). Excavations have revealed lavish Liangzhu graves containing massive amounts of jade. One of the most noteworthy forms is a hollow jade tube, squared on the outside. Series of finely incised, superimposed heads often appear on the corners of these remarkable objects, and it is quite possible that they refer to the four directions, thereby relating these jades to the concept of the four cosmic quarters and world center. Another jade type found in these graves is a flat disk with a large central perforation.

Both of these jade forms were commonly used in rituals during the later Zhou dynasty (1122256 bce). The Zhou li (Rites of Zhou) mentions six jade tablets that the ta-tsung po (master of religious ceremonies) used in paying homage to heaven, earth, and the four cardinal points. Aside from the jades of the four directions, heaven was worshiped by a blue flat jade disk called bi, while earth was represented by a yellow jade cong, a tube with four squared exterior sides. Whereas the cong was no longer used after the Han dynasty (206 bce220 ce), the jade bi has remained one of the most important symbols in the Chinese religious tradition. Jade was also used as a sacrificial substance. Round blue pieces of jade were offered to the Lord on High, and square yellow pieces were offered to Sovereign Earth. Several stories recount the offering of a jade ring to the god of the river to assure a safe crossing.

During the Zhou dynasty a large variety of jade objects played important symbolic roles in a religious and political system focused on sacred kingship. As symbols of political sovereignty, the jade insignia worn by the emperor and his officials were equally symbols of religious sanction. Ruling as the Son of Heaven, the emperor stood at the head of an elaborate ritual system, a sacral economy that found symbolic embodiment in a whole series of jade emblems. The emperor himself had the privilege of wearing ornaments of white jade, in particular the "large tablet" and the "tablet of power" that he wore as he offered the annual spring sacrifice to the Lord on High (Shangdi). His officials were given jade emblems that varied in size, shape, and color according to their rank.

Jade played a particularly important role in funeral practices. This was undoubtedly due to the belief that jade, as the embodiment of the power of heaven, would prevent the decay of the body after death. Accordingly one finds all manner of jade objects in the coffins of the deceased, often blocking the nine natural openings of the body. Especially common were jade tablets placed upon the tongue and carved in the likeness of cicadas, perhaps as symbols of renewed life. During the Han dynasty one also finds body-sized funeral suits made of jade.

Among the Daoists the religious symbolism of jade was given a more precise focus. The Daoists believed that jade embodied the principle of cosmic life and could thus ensure immortality if used in connection with certain alchemical practices. These practices included the actual ingestion of jade, because it was believed that jade could not only prevent the decay of the body after death but could actually regenerate it while alive. The importance of jade in Daoist thought is reflected in the name of the Daoist supreme being, the Jade Emperor.

In the New World, jade working is best known in connection with ancient Mesoamerica. Although nephrite does occur in this region, the material used was almost exclusively jadeite, a material that derived from the Motagua River region of eastern Guatemala. As early as 1500 bce, beautifully polished jade celts were offered to a sacred spring at El Manati, Veracruz. The ritual context of these celts indicate that at this early date jade was already identified with water and agricultural symbolism. The later Olmec of the same region were the first Mesoamerican people to extensively work jade, and Olmec jade carvings constitute some of the finest jades known from Mesoamerica. The apogee of Olmec jade working occurred during the Middle Formative period (c. 900500 bce), during which fine translucent blue and green jades were fashioned into statues, pendants, and even life-size masks. In addition, jade celts continued to be worked, and at times these objects bear incised images of the Olmec maize god framed by four elements marking the world quarters. These images are schematic portrayals of the cosmos, with the maize god as the pivotal axis mundi at the world center. A number of Middle Formative Olmec caches feature jade celts oriented to the four directions, a pattern strikingly similar to the Chinese use of jades to mark the cardinal points. Among the later Classic Maya, jade was also identified with the maize god as the central world axis. A number of caches from Copán, Honduras, contain jade images of the maize god framed by other jades placed at the four directions.

Aside from being identified with verdant, life-giving maize, jade was also a basic symbol of life and the breath soul in ancient Mesoamerica. Among both the Formative Olmec and the later Classic Maya (c. 250900 ce), breath is commonly portrayed as a bead floating before the face. The sixteenth-century chronicler Fray Bartolome de las Casas mentions that at the death of Pokom Maya kings, the expiring breath soul was captured in a precious bead. The common Mesoamerican funerary tradition of placing jade beads in the mouth probably concerned this breath soul, and this is probably also the case of the mosaic jade masks placed over the faces of Classic Maya kings. One example from Calakmul, Campeche, portrays breath volutes emerging from the nostrils and the corners of the mouth, much as if the jade mask constituted the breathing, living visage of the king. In Classic Maya art, jade beads and ear flares of floral form are often portrayed as exhaling breath. At times this breath or wind is embodied by a serpent that emerges from the cavelike opening of the ear flare, a convention also used by the later Aztec (c. 12501521 ce). In fact, the sixteenth-century Florentine Codex mentions that, according to Aztec belief, jade sources are surrounded by verdant growth due to the moist breath of the stone: "And thus do they know that this precious stone is there: [the herbs] always grow fresh; they grow green. They say that this is the breath of the green stone, and its breath is very fresh" (Sahagun, 19501982, 11:222).

Aside from identifying jade with breath and rain-bringing wind, the Aztec also compared jade to life-giving water. The Aztec referred to their goddess of terrestrial water as Chalchiuhtlicue, meaning She of the Jade Skirt. In Aztec art, water is commonly portrayed with jade discs interspersed with shells.

The Aztec appear to have shared with the Chinese a belief in the medicinal properties of jade. In particular jade seems to have been prescribed for relief from gastric painthe term jade, in fact, derives from the early Spanish term for this purportedly medicinal stone, piedra de ijada, or "stone of the loins."

Aside from China and Mesoamerica, jade was also an esteemed ritual item in areas of Oceania. In New Caledonia, ceremonial nephrite axes of circular form denoted the rain-making powers of high chiefs. Nephrite jade, or pounamu, also attained a certain religious significance among the Maori of New Zealand, whose neck pendants, called hei-tiki, are made of jade. These are passed down from generation to generation, in the process becoming symbols of the ancestors. Many of these pendants appear to have been recarved from ceremonial adzes, which are in themselves symbols of chiefly status and power. Especially esteemed were jade hand clubs, or patu pounamu. Many of these were granted personal names and, with the hei-tiki, continue to be valued heirlooms in the early twenty-first century.

See Also

Breath and Breathing; Dragons; Funeral Rites, overview article and article on Mesoamerican Funeral Rites; Symbol and Symbolism.

Bibliography

The classic study of jade in ancient China remains that of Berthold Laufer, Jade: A Study in Chinese Archaeology and Religion (Chicago, 1912). To this may be added the more wide-ranging and less technical works of Louis Zara, Jade (New York, 1969), and Adrian Digby, Maya Jades (London, 1964). Roger Keverne, ed., Jade (London, 1991), contains many useful articles and excellent photographs. Frederick W. Lange, ed., Precolumbian Jade (Salt Lake City, Utah, 1993), discusses the geology and archaeology of ancient jadeite from Mexico and Central America. See also, Bernardino de Sahagun, Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain, translated by Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble (Santa Fe, N.Mex., 19501982).

David Carpenter (1987)

Karl Taube (2005)

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