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Chinese Jade (Yu) is special to the Chinese; they love it. A Chinese saying goes "Gold has value; jade is invaluable." Because jade stands for beauty, grace and purity, it has been used in many Chinese idioms or phrases to denote beautiful things or people, such as Yu Jie Bing Qing (pure and noble), Ting Ting Yu Li (fair, slim and graceful) and Yu Nv (beautiful girl). The Chinese character Yu is often used in Chinese names.
Ancient Chinese likened the natural qualities of jade to human morality. Confucius claimed that jade had the qualities of benevolence, wisdom, justice, courtesy, loyalty, happiness, trustworthiness, heaven, earth, virtue and truth. Wearing jade became very popular among the Chinese, and it was worn by people of all classes.
The history of jade is as old as the Chinese civilization. Archaeologists have found jade objects from the early Neolithic period (about 5000 BC). Abundant jade deposits have been found in the country and China is known for its special art of jade carving.
Anciently jade was made into sacrificial vessel, tools, ornaments, utensils and many other items. There were music instruments made out of jade, such as jade flute, yuxiao (a vertical jade flute) and jade chime. Jade was used to make vessels that were buried with the dead. Jade pieces were sometimes put in the mouth, hands and nose of the dead upon burial. To preserve his body, Liu Sheng, the ruler of the Zhongshan State (113 BC) was buried in a jade burial suit composed of 2,498 pieces of jade, sewn together with gold thread.
Today there are jade workshops or factories in most major Chinese cities. Work which used to be done purely by hand has been partially mechanized. Although some operations have become faster with the use of simple machines, Chinese jade carving remains basically a handicraft art.
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