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A mountain scene carved in white jade from Ge'ermu

In 2005 I have been able to secure about 5Kg piece of white jade from Ge’ermu from my supplier of jade roughs. This piece was a split-off fragment about 350mm high, 320mm wide and 60mm thick showing a nice translucency with some opaque portions at one edge.

It was my intention to finally get me a mountain scene carved in white jade. As in Hangzhou jade carving of this type is not current, I was quite hesitant to confer this rough to a local carver without credentials in this field.

In summer 2006 I met Mr. Ni Guo Dong of www. Senphrite.com of Nanjing at the Jade seminar in Hotien/Xinjiang and he offered me to put his renowned jade carving master to work.

I visited the Senphrite facilities in Nanjing in winter 2006 and we discussed with master Mr. Ma Qing Hua from Suzhou, the possibilities offered by the layout of the jade piece, the defects present and my wish for a simple mountain scene involving a lone pine, a sage and a poem inscribed in seal script on the backside.

Not with some hesitation I conferred him my jade rough and hoped that in his hands this whitish rock would become a gleaming example of Chinese jade carving skills.

I have not been disappointed and 8 months later is was able to hold a true masterpiece in my hands.

I want to share below with you some views of Mr. Ma's new workshop in Nanjing and details of the carved jade mountain.


Taking possession in 2005 in Hangzhou of the Ge'ermu white jade rough from my supplier Mr. Li.


The detailed view of the  rough jade piece weighting approximately 5kg with opaque portions at the bottom corner


View of the finished jade mountain on a carved wood stand now  220mm high, 270mm wide , 60mm thick and weighting 4.1Kg


Front view of the scene showing a sage playing a guqin, the Chinese seven string zither, under a pine tree in front of a cave.
The carving is illuminated from the back to better show all the decorative elements such the incense burner, stairs, smaller trees, a cloud and the roof of a pavilion higher up in the mountain.


View of the backside of the mountain showing another lone pine and the Tang Dynasty poem, written in seal script, pertinent to the depicted scenery.


The backside of the mountain with the engraved poem and the lone pine, all with illumination from the back.


The sage playing the guqin with an incense burner in the back all carved in high relief from the body of the jade piece. This delicate relief carving is one of the specialties of Master Ma from Suzhou and is very time and material consuming. The "cave" entrance is about 30mm deep into the jade mountain.


The classical representation of a swirl of fog and cloud near the mountain top as seen often in Chinese paintings.

The details of the pine tree with branches and needles.

The hidden pavilion near the top of the mountain.

The poem “Playing the music instrument” is one of the famous 300 surviving from Tang Dynasty times (618 – 907 AD) and has been written by Liu Chang Qing (text in vertical rows starting from the right).

Jin Gu Jing Ling
Ren Diao Zuo Ling
Duo Sui Song Qi
Bu Zi Feng Xuan
Tan Ai Huan Shang

Ling ling is the nice sound of the music
Under the pine tree playing music, I feel the cold wind blowing
Playing ancient music on an old instrument makes my happy
But I am sorrow as the new generation will not play this music anymore

The Tang Dynasty period was the golden age of Chinese poetry. Virtually all China’s great poets are from this period and nearly 3000 are known by name. Unlike the Han prose poems describing official splendor, Tang poets dealt with personal experience – the beauty of a fleeting experience or a single flower - and of social comment – witty characterization or bitter reflections on the contrast between rich and poor, war or peace, being with his loved ones or posted to distant provinces on the order of the Emperor.

The lone pine on the backside.


Details of the carved branches and pine needle tufts.

A visibly proud Master Ma Qing Hua explaining to me the details of one and half months of carving and as much polishing time he needed for this masterpiece.

Master Ma specializes in first class carvings of ancient vases and vessels in jade such as that above. His perfection is recognized and it happened to him that one of his master works was dated to be from the Qian Long workshops when it was presented at an auction.


Master Ma explaining his upcoming projects, a vase in the form of an ancient bronze vessel in white jade and a brush pot in black Karakax jade. Asked about  the hollowing out of the brush pot, he mentioned that he has a "secret" method which, at difference to multiple coring, allows him to get most of the material out in a single piece.
The ink black Karakax jade reveals its attractive green color under flash light illumination.

Workers in Master Ma's workshop inspecting a freshly sawed Khotan River jade boulder and getting a nasty surprise in the form of a penetrating fracture.

The traditional way of Chinese jade carving "carrying the work to the spindle". The jade mountain piece was to heavy to be carved in this way and a small hand-held carving tool was used instead.

A white jade bangle with cloud patterns in the polishing stage.

The three stages of polishing: sand stone files in different grades and water cooling, custom shaped resin tips with incorporated abrasives and fine alumina powder on a felt wheel.

The custom shaping of polishing tips. The tip is made out of a resin with incorporated abrasive powder which is softened with an alcohol lamp, molded onto the spindle and shaped with tweezers as needed for the particular part or area of the object.


Archaic vase in black Xinjiang mountain jade in the carving stage. The surface is painted white to be able to follow the progress when grinding away excessive material.

The removal of material from the interior of the cover of the black jade vase with modern diamond tooling.jm27w.jpg

Master Ma Qing Hua jade workshop sign in his new location in Nanjing working for the Senphrite Corporation.






















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Reader Comments (6)

What many FoJ members dream of doing, Herb Geiss manages to actually go ahead and do. And fortunately for the rest of us, he records the event on camera and keyboard so we can all share the experience. Thanks, Herb, for a geat story.

p.s. Checking Google Earth shows Ge'ermu located in flatland; fine for an airport, but not at first glance a promising location for jade. Has there been any informed speculation about the origin of the deposit?
Alan White
September 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAlan White
Dear Alan!
Thanks for the nice feedback. In order to get to the white mountain you just need to be patient and
humble and try to understand the Chinese soul!
The Ge'ermu mine(s) lies probably in the mountains south of Ge'ermu close to the Kun Lun fault which is similar to the Altyn Tagh fault south of Hotien. Both are probaly the orginators of the jade deposits at both sites.
September 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterHerbert Giess
Dear Herbert,

Thank you so much for the 5 recent entries. Each was interesting and informative.

How wonderful for you to have this piece in your collection; it is truly wonderful in all aspects.

As a cutter I was curious about the availability of this Ge'ermu Nephrite. The prices on the finished pieces in the associated article indicate it may be not inexpensive.

The information I've recently received from a Russian Supplier here at the Denver Mineral and Fossil Show was that the Chinese are primarily interested in the white Siberian Jade. My estimation is that you were only able to procure your piece due to being in China and your established connections. The only piece of white (Siberian) I was able to purchase was in the form of an anatomically complete phalus. Somewhat embarassing but very nice white and still only about US $120/kilo.

The carving arbor in the photos was also of interest to me. I realise you had no reason to enquire but should you ever, I would be curious to know of their origin of manufacture.

The archaic pieces, especially the Jin(M1) photos were another favorite of mine in this series.

Again, Thank You!


Tom Finneran
September 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTom Finneran
Dear Tom!
Ge'ermu White jade is available now at about 1300$ the Kg (cut to size ) especially after the back of the Beijing Olympic Medals will be made from this material.
I got my piece in 2005, ahead of this craze for much much much less. White Russian Jade is now also found but in Hangzhou as finsihed objects only.

The carving spindels are all of Chinese make and run very quietly. Such an set may cost less than 1000$ complete but running on 220V AC!
September 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterHerbert Giess
Did anybody know where I can find Master Ma Qing Hua,because I HAVE SOMETHING TO CUT.

Hans Kok
January 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhans kok
Hello Herbert
I am the editor of Philagems International, a Newsletter for collectors of gems and minerals on stamps. A Chinese friend has just written an article on the Beijing Olympics jade inlaid medals. I would like to complement his story with one that you wrote in Friend of Jade in 2005.
Our group has a membership of only 100, scattered all over the world.
This message is a request to allow me to reproduce your article, including some of the illustrations, in our newsletter?

I thank you in advance for this courtesy
François Brisse
Chemistry professor
Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada
October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFrançois Brisse

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