Jade, known as ‘yu’ in China, is a gemstone that is used as both an ornament and as jewelry. There are two types of jade stone that exist – jadeite and nephrite, they are composed of different minerals, while jadeite has a harder quality and is rarer than nephrite. At present, Burma is the country that supplies 95% of gem quality jadeite to the world.
Jadeite and its attractive array of colors were brought in from Burma to China in the 19th century, and is soon highly regarded among the wealthy families of the Qing Dynasty. The vivid green shade of jade stone is known as “Feicui”, which is derived from a type of bird that has vibrant and beautiful feather. The male birds carry red feather is known as “Fei”, while the female birds have green feather is called “Cui”. Using the name of this bird for jadeite is to say the color of the stone is as beautiful and lustrous as the feathers. Apart from red and green, jadeite actually comes in a wide range of colours including purple, yellow, white, icy and black. Due to the nature of jadeite, there can never be two of the same piece. This is one of the reasons why jadeite is so unique and valuable.
In the same manner that gold and diamonds are highly treasured in the West, the Chinese regard jade with a special significance. Jade was used in adorning expensive and sophisticated objects and religious figures. It was also used extensively in furnishings for prominent members of the imperial family.
The importance of jade in Chinese culture is reflected in its status as a symbol of goodness, preciousness and beauty. To the Chinese, jade is also the embodiment of the Confucian virtues of courage, wisdom, modesty, justice and compassion. The polish and brilliance of jade is considered to be representative of purity while its compactness and hardness reflect intelligence. The Chinese also value jade because of its brightness; representing heaven, while its substance is representative of the earth.