An ambitious book that not only presents outstanding examples from Harvard’s esteemed Winthrop Collection of ancient Chinese jades, but also tells the sweeping history of this revered stone.
By Jenny F. So
Available February 2019
360 pages; 8 x 10 1/2 in.
311 color & b/w illustrations
Published by Harvard Art Museums
Distributed by Yale University Press
Jade has long played a major role in Chinese social, cultural, and political life. From personal ornamentation to funerary practice, from palace decoration to private devotion, this exquisite material has been revered by commoners and rulers alike. This book charts that vast story, beginning with an in-depth exploration of the stone itself—its unique material qualities and the challenges they raise for workmanship—and then moving chronologically to reveal exactly how jade developed its special moral, ritual, and political significance over millennia in China. The book draws particular attention to the peoples and the communities who quarried and worked the material, passing on their knowledge in a tradition that now spans Neolithic times to the present day.
This sweeping narrative is told in part through high-quality examples selected from Harvard’s Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, which includes some of the finest examples of ancient or archaizing jades outside China. The volume highlights around one hundred of these jades, carefully chosen for the ways in which they help advance the broader historical narrative the book provides. Interwoven through the book’s main chapters, the Winthrop objects are further explored through engaging catalogue entries that detail the latest available information based on conservation analysis and archaeological finds.
Jenny F. So is professor emerita in the Department of Fine Arts at The Chinese University of Hong Kong; she previously served as senior curator of ancient Chinese art at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.
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