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Jade News - A look behind the curtains - March 2005

By Herbert Giess

A look behind the curtains

I have already reported, in December 2004, about Mr. Wu of PingYao (Hangzhou China) and his expert carving of Liangzhu Style Bi’s and Cong’s.

Few weeks ago I had the possibility to visit him again in his work shop and ask him about material and manufacturing choices.

Over cups of local Long Jin (Dragon Well) Tea and Sun Flower seeds, he started to reveal a little of his Jade carving art.

First of all he showed me his actual stock of ready to sell Neolithic Bi’s and Cong’s nicely displayed for me on carved wooden supports. These items are sold at quite steep prices either directly or through middle-men as far away as Singapore or Taipei where his perfect copies of Neolithic Liangzhu Jade Culture seem to have found the interest of amateurs of Chinese art.

I asked him how he proceeds to make these items and he mentioned that he gets his inspiration from the book: Jades of the Liangzhu Culture published for the exposition The Dawn of Chinese Civilization held in Hong Kong in 1998. This book is an extremely valuable source of information for him as next to clear and close-up pictures also detailed dimensions and cross-section sketches are shown. He is constantly on the lookout for appropriate Nephrite Jade which either already in nature or with some additional treatments reproduces the color hues and texture of the original Liangzhu items.

Already during my preceding visit he mentioned that Nephrite Jade, found in the Chinese Province of Liaoning in North Eastern China, is the best suited to reproduce the color and structural nuances of Liangzhu Jade items.

Examples of Liangzhu Jade Items reproduced by Mr. Wu with Liaoning Nephrite Jade

Mr. Wu has, next to his small house, a small but chaotic workshop where he, his wife and an female employee produce these Liangzhu Jade copies.

Mr. Wu in his workshop amidst semi finished articles and heaps of Liaoning boulders

Typical structure and color pattern of the interior of Liaoning Nephrite Jade River boulders

Uncut Liaoning River Jade and interior structure showing strong natural aging resulting in the transformation of greenish translucent Jade into a “tomb” or “chicken bone“ colored material associated with the formation of manganese dioxide “trees”

When Mr. Wu encounters particular attractive structures and color hues, as found in “real” Liangzhu items, he carefully selects the sections of the boulder so to ideally reproduce the ancient pieces. The next two pictures show the reproduction of two awl-shaped ornaments where the natural weathering crust of the original boulder has been used to adroitly simulate the look of an ancients Liangzhu Jade item.

The shaping of straight surfaces of Cong’s is carried out the “old fashioned” way with plenty of muscle power, water and oil stone grinding which ties these items at least in this way to their Neolithic ancestors

Semi finished Cong’s and pieces of custom shaped Oil-stone profiles

For certain copies, especially those made in a softer non Nephrite material, a chemical treatment is carried out so to impart a whitish and weathered surface look. Although I have not witnessed directly such a treatment, the key ingredients consisting of concentrated phosphoric acid, an electric hot plate and a steel pan where visible in the corner of the workshop.

The Milennium Making Ingredients

The Liaoning Material is brought to PinYao and Hangzhou, about 2000Km from the Jade Boulder carrying rivers in Liaoning, by Jade Miners and Retailers on the back of small trucks. The local Jade carvers are then informed by telephone and come to inspect the available boulders into which a so called window is cut. From this polished section the buyer has to guess the quality of the interior not unlikely what is happening at the Jadeite auctions in Myanmar/Burma. I had the chance to meet such a flying seller which just had stopped at mayor intersection in PingYao. He has been quite astonished that a “Long Nose” or Westerner was interested in the stuff on his truck. But he quickly opened up when I showed him Jade items just purchased from Mr.Wu few moments before and by pointing out the small Jade charm hanging from his belt contained Siberian White Nephrite pieces probably from the Kavokte Mine.

Flying Jade seller just down from Anshan, Liaoning Province waiting for customers and a river boulder with a polished window

A piece of greenish Liaoning Nephrite Jade at about 150$ per Kg price and parting as friends!

Herbert Giess
FOJ March 2005

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Reader Comments (1)


Your various articles on Liangzhu fakes are very informative. This particular article gives an indication of the 'raw' material cost. i.e.USD150/kg. So assuming the King of Cong weighs 20Kg - the raw material cost alone will be USD3000. Am I reasonably correct ?
December 2, 2006 | Registered CommenterY.F. Lau

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