Permanent Exhibition --- The Hidden Treasures of China
The Gemstone of China – Jade
Jade is a tough, compact gemstone that comes in varying shades of green and takes a high polish. Very popular throughout East Asia and treasured since ancient times, jade has on occasion been more highly valued than gold. The alluring pale translucent stone used in this sculpture is considered to be of the highest value.
Jade is a kind of metamorphic rock formed by heat and tectonic forces over the course of millions of years, and that worthy to be called gemstone is produced in only a limited number of places. In Japan, jade is produced at the Himekawa river basin in Itoigawa, Niigata Prefecture. Jade in the region was discovered more than 5,000 years ago.
- Garden of Good Fortune
This jade masterpiece was created by a pair of Chinese craftsmen and took over two years to complete. Using the openwork technique, the artisans used an entire block of jade and carved into that several creatures and plants. A rural scene and a sense of good fortune (see below) are created in the most beautiful green. The piece is known as the Garden of Good Fortune, and the elements that appear in it symbolize happiness and good fortune.
Pheasant: symbol of wealth and luxury, was believed to hold Confucian virtues and was the favorite bird of the Huizong emperor
Magpie: bringer of good news and omen of good fortune
Peony: the national flower of China, symbolizing good fortune, happiness, prosperity and well-being
Loofah: connected vines represent beneficial alliances
Grasshopper: symbolizes fertility
Since ancient times, sculptures in ivory have been treasured ornaments in many cultures, and this art form has a venerable history in China also. Ivory is moist, glossy and fine in texture, these qualities distinguishing it as a precious material for craftwork. However, after signing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, China imposed import restrictions on ivory in 1989. Since then, large ivory sculptures have rarely been produced. Ivory is also very popular as a material for the chop in high-grade seals.
- Huaxia Civilization
China’s ancient history is expressed in this exceptional delicate ivory masterpiece, sculpted using the openwork technique. Topped by a dragon head, different historical scenes of China are carved into the sculpture: Pangu, creator of the universe; Yu the Great conquering the flood; the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods; and the rise of the dynasty of Three Kingdoms.
A mineral intergrowth of cinnabar and pyrophyllite, chicken-blood stone derives its name from the brilliant-red coloring of the cinnabar. Greatly valued due to its rarity and utility as an ideal seal stone, premium prices are paid by its many collectors. Chicken-blood stone has been prized since ancient times and was known to have been favored by the Kangxi and Qianlong emperors. In recent years, the raw stone has become even scarcer, and an example of this size is very rarely seen.
- Dragons Playing with a Ball
This is a masterpiece of traditional Chinese openwork technique using the distinctive color gradations of chicken-blood stone. A magnificent scene of dragons fighting to catch the ball over the cloud and mist is depicted, while the wave pattern signifies the dragons’ palace deep beneath the ocean.
Pagoda Tower Incense Burner
Xiu jade (serpentine jade), Huanan jade
The history of incense burners dates back over 2,000 years. Sculpted from a single block of jade, the openwork technique employed in this superbly crafted piece allows fragrances to disperse gradually from the burner. Though hard to believe, the rings that appear to be hanging were carved out of the same block and are not separate pieces attached to the main structure. It is rare to find a jade sculpture of this considerable size in China today.