Immortal Jade

Harder than steel, translucent, a greenish-white hue. These are the characteristics that made jade so valuable to the ancient Chinese. It was placed in their tombs to indicate their belief in eternity.

“Dreams of the Kings: A Jade Suit for Eternity”, an exhibit of jade objects excavated from a group of tombs of the Kings of Chu is now on display at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. This picture of the excavation site impressed me because on the right are ordinary-looking modern houses sitting right next to an ancient royal burial grounds. Imagine living in an ordinary village and one day finding out that your house sits right next to an ancient royal burial site.

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The star of the show is this magnificent, 2,000-year-old, life-sized jade and gold burial suit that is the finest to have survived from ancient China.

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A jade mask.

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Exquisite jade pendants like this were worn by Chinese leaders at court to indicate status and moral character.

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A jade pillow ornament.

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Jade cylindrical wine vessel and chalice.

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These earthenware tomb figures stand guard near the jade to remind us of the strong belief in the afterlife of the Chinese.

 

In galleries adjacent to the exhibit, a selection of pieces from the museum’s celebrated collection of early Chinese art are on display.

 

The Minneapolis Institute of Art in Minneapolis has its own impressive collection of Chinese art. Pictured here is “Jade Mountain”, the largest piece of jade carving outside of China. It celebrates a gathering of scholars that took place in 353 AD.

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“Anciently superior men found the likeness of all excellent qualities in Jade” – Confucius

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