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Yangzhou Jade Carving

Yangzhou Jade Carving

Yangzhou is the primary production area and jade carving has had a long history. In the east of Yangtze River and Huai River, jade pendant and jade pipe were excavated from Neolithic site, Longqiu County. In the graves of Han Dynasty in Yangzhou city, different types of jades were excavated were beautifully created and used various types of techniques like Toudiao (hollow out the picture background), intaglio and low relief. Yangzhou jade technique reached to a new peak in Tang Dynasty. In Song Dynasty, Yangzhou jade technique created Lou carving hollow out the picture background ), and Liantiao techniques which laid foundation for future special techniques. In the years of QianlLong, Qing Dynasty, it entered into the heyday. Salt government of Jiangsu and Anhui provinces set up a jade bureau in the Jainlong Temple of Yangzhou and operated jade articles of royal court and sent to the imperial court according to yearly quantity. Since 1840, Yangzhou jade carving was declining and draining to Shanghai, Hong Kong, etc. Most crafts men that stayed  local were engaged in carving jades and some changed to other industries. In 1950s, Yangzhou jade factory was founded and Yangzhou jade techniques again got inherited. 

Jade is rigid and dense in texture, rigidity of which is Mohs 4 to 8 degrees. The manual technique is very complex. It is of the technical characteristics of “jade carving” and “jade milling.” The jade materials of Yangzhou jade carving are from different places  as follows: white jade, gray jade and jasper of Xinjiang, Xiu jade, agate and topaz of Liaoning, crystal of Jiangsu, Lvmiao and Song’er jade of Hubei, Southern jade of Guangdong, Spanish jade, Burmese jade, Afghan lapis lazuli, Canadian jasper and Japanese coral. In the thousands of course of inheritance, Yangzhou traditional local cultural characteristics were kept in the production operation that combined intaglio, light and hard embossment, three-dimensional statue, Lou carving (hollow out the picture background) together. They later formed the characteristics vigorousness, mellowness, elegance, beauty and exquisiteness and artistic elegant, dainty and exquisite styles. The Yangzhou jade carving of past generations respectively maintained artistic features of different periods. For instance, Baiyuchan of the Western Han Dynasty, used a kind of technique called “Han Ba Diao” was carved by nephrite. Its carving lines are refined and shape and easy to see the crafts man’s ability. Another rare treasure called Da Yu Controlled the Waters (大禹治水) was finished by taking use of various means. It used Xingjiang greenish white jade as material and finally shaped with 6 years. Its height is 224 centimeters. It was finally done with 150,000 work forces and over 15,000 silver dollars. 

Nowadays, Yangzhou jade crafts men inherit traditional excellent techniques and obey the rule of taking jade quantity into account and showing their techniques in accordance to materials in the practice, together with the era requirements. They are improving their ability of “evaluating jade” and jade-carving techniques and created a large amount of novel, beautifully shaped and exquisite products. They are unique in “Shanzi sculpture” and “Lianzi technique”, reflecting the exquisite crafts of Yangzhou jade carving. At present, the major inheritors of Yangzhou jade carving are Huang Yongshun, Gu Yongjun, Jiao Yiming, Liu Xiaohua, Li Xiaowei, Xia Linbao and Jiang Dehai.

Nowadays, it is quite hard for corporations who are running Yangzhou jade carvings because of high cost (as prices of jade are increasing), high carving cost and high taxes. In the meantime, due the manual operation, crafts men have spent time, physical and mental labor on jade carving but do not receive something in return. The above two reasons result in the drain of present craft men and the young wouldn’t like to study and get engaged in this craftsmanship.