A term covering minerals of varied color and chemical composition,
credited with occult properties. Jade may be jadeite,
nephrite, or chloromelanite, with a range of colors—black,
brown, red, lavender, blue, green, yellow, or white. The mineral
is found mainly in New Zealand, Mexico, Central America,
and China. In prehistoric times jade was used for utensils and
weapons, but in Mexico, Egypt, and China it was employed in
burial rites. In China, Burma, and India, jade is used for amulets.
Jade is chiefly associated with China, where it has been
carved into ornaments for thousands of years. The blue variety
of jade was traditionally associated with the heavens, and Chinese
emperors were said to have made contact with heaven
through a disk of white jade. There was a Chinese superstition
that rubbing a piece of jade in the hand would bring good fortune
to any decision or business venture. The Chinese word for
jade is yü, indicating beauty, nobility, and purity. Because of its
yang (masculine, hot, active) qualities, jade is believed to prolong
life. It is taken medicinally in water or wine, and is believed
to protect against heat and cold, hunger and thirst. Powdered
jade is taken to strengthen the heart, lungs, and voice.
It is also considered an indicator of health and fortune, becoming
dull and lusterless when its owner experiences ill health or
In Burma, Tibet, and India, jade is considered a cure for
heart trouble and a means of deflecting lightning. It has the
property of bringing rain, mist, or snow when thrown into
water. In Scotland it has been used as a touchstone to cure illness.
The carving of jade into beautiful ornaments reached its
peak in China, where even a small carving involved skilled and
patient work over several months. There is still a large jade
market in Hong Kong.
Laufer, Berthold, Jade A Study in Chinese Archeology and Religion.
2nd edition. South Pasadena, Calif. Perkin, 1946.