China has the world’s oldest living civilization. It’s written history
goes back almost 3,500 years, and the history told by it’s artifacts and
artwork goes back much farther. The oldest known works of Chinese art
include pottery and jade carvings from the time of 5000 BC.
Jade is a general term used to describe either jadeite or nephrite, known
as true jade. It’s composed of several minerals. It’s smooth and rich in
texture, but it’s also extremely tough. It can be off-white, or dark
green, and sometimes has a reddish tint. Authentic jade is cool and never
translucent. The philosopher Confucius described jade perfectly when he
“It is soft, smooth and shining- like intelligence. It’s edges seem sharp
but do not cut- like justice. It hangs down to the ground- like humility.
When struckm, it gives clear, ringing sounds- like music. The strains in
it are not hidden and add to it’s beauty- like truthfulness. It has
brightness- like heaven. It’s firm substance is born of the mountains and
the waters- like the earth.”
The material has been used since the Shang dynasty, which lasted from
1766-1022 B.C. They see it as a sign of wealth and authority and also as
an object of beauty. The chinese word for jade is yu. During the Ming
dynasty, the Chinese people thought that only green or white stones were
true jade, and the other colors were called fu yu, or false jade. It was
classified into nine different colors during the Tsin dynasty, and has more
recently been classified into many different categories.
Jade is one of the touchest stones in the world, near the diamond because
of overlapping fibers within the stone. Tons of pressure are needed to
crush some of the larger pieces of jade. A single cut through a one foot
cube of jade would take several weeks.
The ancient chinese people thought that jade had special powers, and they
used it in rituals and ceremonies. It was also beleived to have medical
uses, but the most common use is for decoration. Jade is not mined in
China, but China is still considered the “home” of jade because the artists
from China have learned to carve the stone better than the artists from any
other country. The ancient artists would stare at rough pieces of jade,
and then decide what they wanted to carve it into.
Chinese pottery is also an ancient form of art in China. It was first
created in the pre-dynastic neolithic era. Some fragments of pottery are
from 3,000 B.C. 4,000 years
after that, the porcelain from the Sung and
Ming dynasty, the most famous and beautiful porcelain in the world, was
created. Although other countries also created China, the pottery
originated in Asia. French porcelain was inspired by the delicate white
work from the Ting dynasty, and Clue and white Dutch Delft porcelain was
modeled after pottery from the Ming dynasty.
Pottery started out as functional, but became more ornamental as the
centires continued. the themes of the painted and carved porcelain were
mostly nature scenes, but they were also from folklore. Artrists originaly
molded the clay with their hands and set it in the sun to try. Eventualy
they began to use a potter’s wheel, and they used a glaze at the same time
as the romans.