China Arts and Crafts Museum is located on the north- eastem side of the Fuxingmen Overpass on the Second Ring Road in west Beijing. Covering an area of 43, 000 square metres, the museum is the biggest of its kind ever built in China. Construction of the museum started in 1987 and was completed in October 1989. The Treasure Hall is on the Fifth Floor. China Arts & Crafts Trading Company is on the First and Sec-ond Floors. Everyday more than 10, 000 people visit the museum to purchase arts and crafts made in China or see the four jadeite carvings-a miniature Taishan Mountain (Mount Tai in Shandong Province), a relief screen of dragons, a chained vase and a perfumer. Those four giant jadeite ornaments are commonly known as the national arts and crafts treasures in China.
The miniature Mt. Taishan is made of a 363.8-kilogram jadeite stone, the largest ever known in China. It shows the majestic frame of Taishan, a sacred mountain in East China. The craftsmen followed the stone’ s natural shape, veining and bands of colour to create the peak, trees, temple hous-es, bridges, waterfalls, brooks, 64 figures and 21 animals. The most in-tricate part of this carving is a glowing sun on the side of the cliff. The sun traced with thin cloud was originally an impurity in the jade. The thought-ful craftsmen carved it into a thin, translucent plaque to reflect its orange colour. Another flaw was turned into a pair of gliding cranes to evoke a famous Tang Dynasty(618-907) poem about Mt. Taishan. “The stone’ s original height was 81 centimetres, while the finished work is 80 centime-tres high, indicating the designers’ effort to save every modicum of this phenomenal jadeite.
The relief screen of dragons is the most brilliant of the four. It is carved with nine coiling dragons. The jadeite is stunningly beautiful in texture, streaked with dark green, apple green and opal white. To exaggerate the stone’ s fine quality, the craftsmen sawed the block into four l. 8 centime-tre thick slabs and assembled them into one large screen, 146 by 73.5 centimetres. The designers incorporated the stone’s nuances of colour to depict the rolling dragons, churning clouds and the turbulent sea. They achieved a vivid, three dimensional picture on a slab. There are four brownish streaks in the screen, which the designers cleverly turned into assets.
The chained vase is a glossy and filled with a dozen species of flowers. The craftsmen succeeded in conjuring up a marvelous vase by hiding the stone’s flaws in the complexity of flowers. It is 64 centimetres high, 28 centimetres taller than the original jade. The added height was created by carving 36 interlocked rings out of the same jade piece, thus elongating the jade by hanging the chain on a wooden stand. The craftsmen searched for a pure area of jadeite in which to carve the long chain twisting in and out of the jadeite stone four times. Chain carving is the most challenging part of this work. You must be extremely careful to avoid flaws in the jadeite; otherwise the chain will break and you can never repair it. Using adhesives to fix broken jade is considered dishonest by jade carvers.
E fourth incredible creation is the extravagant looking perfumer in the shape of a two eared cup. The jadeite piece is the second largest of the four, weighing 274.4 kilograms. Because of its enormous size, the designers decided to make it into perfumer, the state of the art product of the Beijing Jade Carving Factory, the largest in China. The factory is advanced in cutting layers of bowls out of jade, but was nervous with this su-perb jadeite, so a special rotating cutter machine was built to cut three bowls out of it. The bowls form the base, cup-and cover of the perfumer and are screwed together with carved spiral ridges. The 71 centimetre high perfumer is carved with dragons, phoenix, turtles, white tigers, and other significant creatures in Chinese mythology. It also has l0 rings that dangle from carved decorations. Jadeite (imperial jade) is the hard variety of jade. Soft jade is called nephrite, or “mutton fat.” Jadeite is finer and rarer than nephrite and mainly comes from northern Myanmar. The four giant jadeite stones, all brought from Myanmar at an unknown date, had been stored at the government treasury since 1949. In 1982, the State Council entrusted the factory to turn the stones into art works. During the next two years, 78 designs were made, involving 32 well-known artists and jade connoisseurs. The carving began in June 1985 and involved some 40 craftsmen working for nearly four years. Polishing took another six months, and the perfumer took even longer.
To the ancient Chinese, jade was the most precious of stones, a sacred material containing the quitessence of virtue, and its use was confined to ceremonial and religious objects, often decorated with elaborately carved designs. The jade pendants and belt buckles of early times were symbolic of the religious and political power of the nobility. In later times, jade came to be used for purely decorative purposes, but the Chinese people have never lost their special reverence for articles made of it．
In his great dictionary, the Shuo Wen Jie Zi, the Han scholar, Xu Shen (c. AD 58-AD 147), described that: “Jade is the fairest of stones. It is endowed with five virtues.
Charity is typified by its luster, bright yet warm; rectitude by its translucency, revealing the colour and markings within; wisdom by the purity and penetrating quality of its note when the stone is struct; courage in that it may be broken, but cannot be bent; equity, in that it has sharp angles, which yet injure none.”
While this definition applies essentially to true jade, a word in whose meaning you may include nephrite and jadeite, but it also applies other fine stones such as serpentine, tremolite, hornblende and even marble.