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The Ultimate Treasure of Ancient China

September 28, 2000 - September 28, 2000

Jade is no ordinary stone to the Chinese. It has been worked and revered in China for use as sacred objects, for treasure, and for decoration and ornament since Neolithic times. Chinese emperors valued jade even more than Western kings did gold and silver. For the rulers of China, it became not only a reflection of beauty but also a symbol of wealth and authority truly it was the ultimate treasure of ancient China.

Jade was given many mythical powers including that it was a protective agent against decay. Complete jade suits were made to fit the corpses of high-ranking aristocrats. The jade suits were sewn together with gold, silver, or bronze thread depending on the rank. The 2nd century BCE mortuary jade suit of Princess Dou Wan, which is in this exhibition, is composed of 2,156 plates of jade sewn with 703 grammes of gold thread. It has been estimated that it would take an expert jadesmith of the Han dynasty more than ten years to complete a single suit.

This exhibition is comprised of 120 pieces and sets of jade from the People’s Republic of China. Most pieces are from important archaeological digs. The jade items date from Neolithic times (3rd millennium BCE) to the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). This exhibition is the finest jade collection to ever go on tour from China.

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