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Jade has always been very important to the Chinese, at least for 4000 years. It symbolises virtues like merit, morality, grace and dignity. The Chinese said that jade was the expression of the most beautiful stone and could be worth more than 15 cities and a man’s life. In line with this, jade was treasured and used in different contexts. For instance there are cases where dead people were buried in a jade garment held together with gold wire covering the whole body. It was also important for the upper class to have rooms decorated with jade carved in symbolic shapes as peach meaning longevity, fish meaning affluence and so on.
Jade comes in different colours and the most valued and treasured was the white, only found in a river by Hutan. The river is called Yorungkash, meaning White Jade River east of the city. To the west of the city is the river Karakash, meaning Black Jade River.
So it has been important for the Chinese to trade with Hutan for a long, long time, so that part of th Silk Road could be called Jade Road.
Today it is difficult to find jade in the riverbed, but they try. The output is only some kilograms per year but you can still buy jewelry and I bought a pendant to Talia.
Most of the pieces are small and we visited a shop where they formed the stones to pendants. White jade is so hard it scratches glass and therefore hard to shape. To me it looked as they used dentist drill bits driven by pressurized air. But the lighting was not good and goggles were not used so my guess is that their eye-sight must get worse fast.
Of course I liked the history of white jade and the importance of it in China. But having worked in the industry where worker’s protection and safety are important, I did not like the working conditions for those who made the end product. Again it is a different world with different standards, even if it is called a worker’s paradise.