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HOME : Decorative Arts : Sculptures : Lavender Jade Sculpture of an Elephant
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Lavender Jade Sculpture of an Elephant - CK.0516
Origin: China
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 9" (22.9cm) high x 16" (40.6cm) wide
Collection: Decorative
Medium: Jade

Location: United States
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Jade (pronounced "yu" in Chinese, and meaning "the most beautiful stone") was considered a royal gem in Ancient China from the earliest dynasties up until present times, and is inextricably woven into ancient and modern Chinese culture. The use of jade (nephrite) in China dates beck some 8,000 to 12,000 years, and was an integral part of commercial, religious and ceremonial life throughout this region. Although the finest jade was reserved for the Imperial courts, the use of jade in everyday life crossed all socioeconomic boundaries.

Most of the "jade" used in China prior to the 17th and 18th centuries was nephrite - also known as "Ming Jade." Although most westerners don't consider jade to be a "precious" gemstone, jade was invaluable to the Chinese people of ancient times. In ancient China, jade was held in much higher esteem than other precious gemstones or metals such as gold and silver. There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says: "gold is estimable, but jade is priceless."

So revered was jade that during the Han Dynasty (206 BC—220 AD) Chinese nobility was buried in a ceremonial suit made of pieces of jade, called appropriately a "Jade burial suit" (yu yi, or "jade suit"). According to the Book of Later Han, the type of wire used was dependent on the station of the person buried, with the emperors using gold thread; princes, princesses, silver thread; sons or daughters of those given silver thread, copper thread; and lesser aristocrats, silk thread. Ordinary citizens were forbidden to be buried in jade suits.

Early Chinese jade carving motifs were influenced by Buddhism and Taoism, with each representation having a unique meaning. Popular motifs were the deer symbolizing high official ranking, a duck symbolizing 'love,' bamboo for 'lofty conduct,' the fan indicating 'benevolence,' and lotus 'holiness.' The cabbage is a popular motif even today, used to bring wealth or prosperity into the home. - (CK.0516)


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