Jade articles have played a very important part in the ancient Chinese civilization and the Chinese jade culture has a splendid history which is more than seven thousand years.
Jade wares from the Han Dynasty nowadays have attracted people’s attention because of the numerous excavations of jade burial suits sewn with fine gold or silver wires, as well as the large quantities of other kinds of jade wares used in daily life from the Han Dynasty. From the 3rd century AD until the beginning of the 10th century AD during the Three Kingdom Period, Jin Dynasty, the Northern and Southern Dynasties, and the Sui and Tang Dynasties, the styles of jade wares generally followed those of the Han Dynasty and excavations from these periods are in quite small quantities. Then from the Song Dynasty(960AD-1284AD) to the Ming Dynasty(1368-1644), the jade wares were dominated by jade utensils used in daily life and the technique of copying the ancient jade wares was very much advanced. Then in the Qing Dynasty(1644AD-1911AD), it was the reviving period of the jade art, as a result of the prosperous economy, the techniques of jade jewelryproduction were tremendously developed both in the royal court and the folk workshops.
The pattern and design of a piece of jade article could vividly reflect the customs and spirits of the period when it was made. For example, the bronze wares made in the primitive period are in very simple styles, while those from the Shang Dynasty all look solemn and mysterious, with peculiar structures and exaggerated moulds those from the Warring States Period have been produced in exquisite techniques, delicate decorative patterns, and rich art values, and those from the Han Dynasty look solemn and simple as well as conservative. In other words, in each of the period of the Chinese history there were its unique and special art styles and decorative patterns, and one must learn about the detailed information of the characteristics of the jade wares from different periods before identifying and appreciating the history, culture and art values embodied in the Chinese jade articles.
The techniques in the process of the production of the Chinese jade articles are very complicated. There are altogether four procedures which include choosing materials, making designs, grinding the jade stones, and the polishing process. Of all the jade articles, the jade artwork has the highest art value and they could be divided into several kinds, such as jade figures, jade birds, jade beasts, jade utensils and so on.
The Chinese jade articles are mainly produced in cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou,Yangzhou of Jiangsu Province, etc. The different jade articles made in different places are characterized by different art styles. Those made in Beijing are in very solemn, elegant, and graceful styles, while those made in Shanghai are mainly imitations of the ancient bronze wares, with very ancient and exquisite styles, those from the city of Guangzhou have absorbed the characteristics of western art, as a result looking quite attractive and novel, and those from Yangzhou city are mainly characterized by flowing lines and delicate designs. Different jade-making techniques from different places have all been handed down from generation to generation, with their own specific and unique local characteristics.
After the long history of development from different dynasties , the jade wares have been deeply absorbed into the traditional Chinese culture and rituals as well as playing a special and irreplaceable role in them, and jade culture has become an inevitable part in the ideology and spirit of the Chinese people. The Chinese jade wares have also been branded with the ancient Chinese political, religious, and moral elements.