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Wednesday
Oct132004

Why Jade?



Dze Kung asked Confucius, saying, ʻAllow me to ask the reason why the superior man sets a high value on jade, and but little on soapstone? Is it because jade is rare, and the soapstone plentiful?ʼ Confucius replied, ʻIt is not because the soapstone is plentiful that he thinks but little of it, and because jade is rare that he sets a high value on it. Anciently superior men found the likeness of all excellent qualities in jade. Soft, smooth, and glossy, it appeared to them like benevolence; fine, compact, and strong,--like intelligence; angular, but not sharp and cutting,--like righteousness; hanging down (in beads) as if it would fall to the ground,-like (the humility of) propriety; when struck, yielding a note, clear and prolonged, yet terminating abruptly,-like music; its flaws not concealing its beauty, nor its beauty concealing its flaws,--like loyalty; with an internal radiance issuing from it on every side,--like good faith; bright as a brilliant rainbow,--like heaven; exquisite and mysterious, appearing in the hills and streams,--like the earth; standing out conspicuous in the symbols of rank,-like virtue; esteemed by all under the sky,--like the path of truth and duty. As is said in the ode (I, xi, ode 3, 1), “Such my lordʼs caracter. He rises in my mind, Lovely and bland, like jade of richest kind.”

Text on Jade in the Li Ki, Book of Rites, Section XLV Phing I
Translated by James Legge 1885
Engraved in seal script into a piece of Canadian Nephrite by a Chinese Artist in Hangzhou/China.

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