The word 'jade' conjures up an image of strange carvings in a smooth green stone. In fact jade comes in many different colours, but all the various types have a delicate beauty which has always appealed to connoisseur and craftsman alike.
In China jade was being carved as far back as Neolithic times, even before the discoveries of metal. To cut and shape such a hard material using only bone or bamboo with an abrasive must have demanded extraordinary patience. No wonder the Chinese regarded it as more precious than gold. The objects made were often symbolic, since jade was thought to have magical properties, and shapes represent deities such as the Earth or the Sun. Owing to the hardness of jade it was frequently used to make knives, daggers and small axes, generally with carved decoration. Later, cups and vases, sometimes of immense size, were laboriously hollowed out, and in contrast, in the 17th century when snuff became fashionable, tiny snuff bottles appeared. Figures of animals and mythical beasts were popular, and there are many finely observed tortoises, horses and birds. The illustrations include examples from all these periods and the expert text, by Oscar Luzzatto-Blitz, gives a fascinating account of the background of jade carving, not only in China but also in Pre-Columbian America and New Zealand.
Published by Casell Publishers, London, 1987
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