In Chinese, jade, pronounced as 'Yu', means "the royal gemstone" or "something precious." Jade is believed to be the expression of a most beautiful stone, the ultimate symbol of perfection, nature's perfect marriage of steel-like qualities and unmatched natural beauty.
Equally important is the concept that jade has been "perfected." First, jade is formed by fire, by the intense heat and pressure deep within the earth. Then, jade is perfected by water, that is, rounded and polished by the gentle action of streams and rivers. Therefore, Jade has the strength, hardness, and flexibility of steel, in addition to being the most beautiful of all natural stones.
The Chinese character for jade, shown blew, is a five-stroke character that represents, physically, three pancake-shaped of pieces of jade connected with a string and suspended, perhaps as a wind chime.
Each brushstroke represents not only the physical components of the wind chime (the upper, middle, and lower pieces of jade and the string that connects them), but also the element that each component represents, namely, the heavens, the earth and its people, the underworld, and the emperor who is the connection between them.
The uppermost piece of jade, shown as the near-horizontal brush stroke at the top of the character, represents heaven or "the heavens."
The middle piece of jade—the middle near-horizontal brush stroke—represents the earth and its people.
The bottom piece of jade—the near-horizontal brush stroke at the bottom of the character—represents the underworld, where jade is first formed.
The vertical brush stroke that connects the three near-horizontal brush strokes represents not only the string that holds the three pieces of jade together, but also the connection between the physical world and the spiritual worlds—and that connection, in ancient China, was the emperor.
The fifth and smallest brush stroke is the "dot" that makes this character "jade" instead of the character for "emperor." Some people wonder if the addition of this dot was a clerical error but, in either case, jade is associated with the best attributes of the greatest emperors.
Jade, represented by this five-stroke character, is the symbol of the Five Human Virtues: kindness (benevolence), integrity (justice), wisdom, courage (valor), and purity (or courtesy). Confucius (551 BC - 479 BC) saw jade not only as a symbol of justice and intelligence, but also of harmony and humanity.
Jade is often used as a material to be carved for ornaments, which include pieces for display (such as brush holders, brush washers, water cups, armrests and etc) and items for personal use (such as necklace, earrings, hairpins, bracelets, and pendants). Jade ornaments are also set in walking sticks, waist sashes, garments, and caps.
When polished and carved into various articles, jade is frequently attributed with certain symbols, figures, animals, plants, flowers, and Chinese characters, all of which contain cultural and religious connotations.
Many girls in ancient times were also named with jade to reflect the love of their parents. One of the Four Beauties in Chinese history, Yang Yuhuan, the beloved concubine of Emperor Xuanzong in the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907), was their representative. Yang is her surname and her given name Yuhuan means simply 'jade ring'
Learn more About Jade:
History of Jade
How Jade Differs
How to Make Jade Jewelry
How to Identify Jade Quality
How to Care For Jade Jewelry