ArtExhibitionsSilk and Jade: Chinese Aristocratic Treasures
Special Exhibition

Silk and Jade: Chinese Aristocratic Treasures

Saturday, August 3, 2019 - Sunday, November 17, 2019 Located in Art of Asia galleries: Coleman and Way Gallery

Silk was first developed in ancient China. The earliest example of silk has been found in tombs at a Neolithic site and dates back 8,500 years.



Legend gives credit for developing silk to a Chinese empress. Silks were originally reserved for the emperors of China for their own use and gifts to others but spread gradually through trade both geographically and socially to many regions of Asia and the rest of the world. Because of its texture and luster, silk rapidly became a popular luxury fabric in the many areas accessible to Chinese merchants. In addition to being used to make clothes and other textiles, silk was also used for traditional paintings.


Image credit (detail): Unknown, Chrysanthemum bowl with handles in the form of bats, 18th century, nephrite jade, Museum purchase with funds provided by Asian Arts Council in honor of Marilyn and Roy Papp in recognition of their many years of contributions to Asian Art at the Museum.



Jade refers to an ornamental mineral, mostly known for its green varieties.   It can refer to either of two different minerals: nephrite, a silicate of calcium and magnesium, or jadeite, a silicate of sodium and aluminium.  Nephrite jade has been mined and worked in China since Neolithic times.  Jade was used to create many utilitarian and ceremonial objects, from indoor decorative items to jade burial suits.  “Anciently superior men found the likeness of all excellent qualities in jade.  Soft, smooth, glossy, it appeared to them like benevolence; fine, compact, and strong, like intelligence; angular but not sharp and cutting, like righteousness; its flaws not concealing its beauty, nor its beauty concealing its flaws, like loyalty.” In these words the sage Confucius captured how the Chinese have felt about jade for thousands of years.


Unknown, Celadon jade magnolia vase, Qing dynasty, 1644-1911, nephrite jade, Museum purchase with funds provided by Asian Arts Council in honor of the museum’s 50th anniversary

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