Elizabeth Hubert Malott Hall of Jades

Category: Exhibitions

Exhibition Summary

Included with Basic admission

All ages

Included with Basic admission

All ages

About the Exhibit

When a stone is not just a stone.

In Chinese culture, jade is more than an ornamental mineral. For millennia, jade has been described as possessing five virtues: benevolence, loyalty, wisdom, courage, and integrity. 

In the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Hall of Jades, more than 450 jade objects from our collection tell the story of jade’s enduring importance to Chinese cultural traditions. Jade was a symbol of wealth, influence, and power throughout China’s history. In Neolithic China, the stone was used in burial rituals, and artists today create arresting jade pieces honoring the past, using intricate new techniques.

Tour this permanent exhibition to learn more about jade’s iconic role in Chinese society.
 

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Close-up view of a jade vessel carved with repeating spiral and curvilinear patterns.

Jade can be carved with detailed patterns. This design from the Qing period (AD 1644–1911) takes inspiration from ancient Bronze Age vessels. 

Morgan Anderson

Learn about the history and importance of jade in Chinese culture, and see its role change over time.

Exhibition highlights:

  • Ceremonial jade objects used in Neolithic burials
  • Status symbols displayed by Bronze Age kings and warriors
  • Qing dynasty pieces commissioned by imperial patronage
  • Modern jade pieces inspired by traditional forms

In the Qing period (AD 1644–1911), decorated snuff bottles emerged as a new art form. Snuff, a powdered form of tobacco, became popular in China during the 1600s.

Jade animals were buried in tombs of wealthy Chinese people for many centuries. By the Six Dynasties period (AD 265–589), this practice was disappearing, but jade animals like this tiny horse from the Qing dynasty (AD 1644–1911) remained popular as objects simply to be enjoyed.

What is jade?

What we call jade is actually, geologically speaking, two different types of stone: nephrite and jadeite. They have similar characteristics—including incredible durability—but are structurally different. 

The stone is found all over the world, from China to New Zealand, from Europe to the Americas. 

And although we immediately associate jade with the color green, this stone naturally occurs in many colors, including yellow, brown, lavender, light blue, and red-orange. 
 

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