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Search for Jade in the Yurung-Kash River

October 2004

A short note

The most valued white Jade (Nephrite) is found in the rivers flowing northward from the Kuen-Lun Mountains in the vicinity of the town of Hotan , Xinjiang, China or the ancient Khotan. and the related trade activities have been described recently in Jade and the Silk Road: Trade and Tribute in the First Millennium by C.Michaelson and published in 2004 in the Silk Road – Trade, Travel, War and Faith (The British Library Publication ISBN 0 7123 4848 1).
The two most known rivers for Jade are the Kara-Kash (Black Jade) and the Yurung-Kash (White Jade) river flowing northwards in vicinity of Khotan/Hotan.

Fig. 1 Map of the Khotan region as drawn 1908 by the Surveyors Singh accompanying the famous Aurel. Stein during his expeditions into the region.

Fig. 2 View of the Hotan oasis and the Yurung-Kash and Kara-Kash rivers coming down from the snow-capped Kuen-Lun Mountains.

A view from the Space shuttle south over the Tibet Plateau toward India in 1994.
The gathering of Jade from these rivers has a very old tradition and has been described 1637 by Song Yingxing in the Chinese Encyclopaedia Tiangong Kaiwu as follows: “…..When the river is full in the summer months, the jade follows the currents down for one, two, or three hundred li, when it can be taken from the river. Jade reflects moonlight. So when the native jade hunter of the river region search the river on moonlight nights in autumn, as they mostly do, they scrutinize those places where jade collects for an intensified glow of the quality on moonlight” (See also C.Michaelson above)

It was also reported that the search of Jade is carried out also by women which are capable to detect the smooth Jade pebbles under water with their feet.

Such a scene is reproduced in above encyclopaedia.

Fig. 3 and 4 The gathering of Jade from a Xinjiang river (from Tiangong Kaiwu) and some recently acquired Kg size white-grey Jade pebbles.

During August of this year a modern Silk Road traveller, Mr. H.Schumacher, has visited Hotan and has been so kind to share few of his pictures on actual Jade gathering with me.

He has visited the Yurung-Kash river just south of Hotan town were the main East-West road crosses the river and noticed quite a few “modern” Jade gatherers. As a freshman on Jade he was not able to evaluate the bounty of these gatherers but looking at the pictures of “pebbles” offered for sale on the Hotan Market, the locally offered output of Jade was not terrific.

From my contact in Urumqui I hear that the best mutton-fat Jade is sold at about 1000$ US per Kg when available. The Class 2 Jade pebbles, as shown above, can be purchased for about 50 to 100$ US per Kg.

Fig. 5 Glacier silt carrying Yurung-Kash River coming down from the Karango-Tak Mountains of the Kuen-Lun’s and transporting the sough-after white Jade pebbles to Hotan.

Fig. 6 The Uighurs (with their white Doppisi hats) search in the river gravel and the Han watch (to buy?) – A motor pump and fire hose is ready to assist in the sorting of the gravel.

Fig.7 Where is the bonanza? – Heaps of sorted-through pebbles in the Yurung-Kash river bed

Fig. 8 Finally a “female” Jade gatherer as reported by Song Yingxing in 1637.

Fig. 9 About 25Km south of Hotan on the Yurung-Kash River bank and with the Kuen-Lun snow peaks in the background. Here mechanized gravel extraction and sorting is carried out.

Fig. 10 Waiting for buyers on the 珂 (precious stone) and a little 玉 (real Jade) market in Hotan

Fig. 11 Some new and older views of the Jade market in Hotan
Nice stones but little real Jade.

Visit to Hotan and search for Jade?
In case of anyone is planning to visit the area I would be interested to have his feedback and pictures or maybe join him/her in this endeavour.

I wish to thank Mr. H.Schumacher for giving me access to his pictures.

October 2004

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Reader Comments (1)

thank you so much for all your posts mr giess-they warm my heart on these cold winter nights and i can reach out and touch mystery and beauty through your posts. you are a treasure to me.
December 11, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterdan beck

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