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Book traces the history of Xinjiang Hotan jade

  A craft of Hotan jade. [Photo provided to China Daily]

  Xinjiang Hotan jade, named after the place it comes from, is renowned for being fine-textured and shiny. And prices for the precious stone have gone through the roof in recent years.

  Meanwhile, as collectors and investors have busied themselves buying and selling wares made of the precious stone, Yu Ming, head of the Hotan Jade Trading Association of Xinjiang, has taken a different path with his just released book, A History of Xinjiang Hotan Jade Mining.

  In his work, which took him a decade to complete, the jade connoisseur has traced the history of jade mining and its trade since the Neolithic period.

  According to Yu, the jade falls into two major categories-block-shaped mountain material mainly exploited in northwestern China's Kunlun Mountains and pebble-shaped ziliao (seed material) mainly found in the Yurungqash River in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

  The ziliao is derived from the mountain material debris that is carried down into the river.

  

Yu Ming (left) joins workers in mining jade during one of his trips to the Kunlun Mountains in northwestern China. [Photo provided to China Daily]

  As part of his research for the book, the 60-year-old author studied historical records, jade ware found at archeological sites and visited almost all the jade mines in the Kunlun Mountains over six years.

  "I went into the mountains several times, and sometimes I had to stay there for a week at a time," says Yu. "Every trip was a real adventure."

  In October 2014, when he was about to return from a pithead named Qijiakeng, it began to snow heavily. The rugged cliff path then quickly disappeared under a blanket of snow.

  "The path was around 4,600 meters above sea level," says Yu.

  With a sheer cliff on one side and an abyss on the other, Yu was nervous. And, at one point, he lost his footing and began to slide. But fortunately he was rescued by his companions.

  "Such risks were quite common during my trips to the mines. We had to wade through rivers, climb cliffs and sleep in the open," says Yu.

  In his book, he says that ziliao was not transported to the central plains until the middle of the Han Dynasty (202BC-220AD), as he did not find any jade ware made before that time from the Hotan material.

  He also believes that Chinese did not mine jade in the Kunlun Mountains until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

  He also says that Zhang Qian (164-114BC), a man credited today with opening China's terrestrial Silk Road, was the pioneer when it came to bringing Xinjiang Hotan jade to the central plains.

Commenting on the book, Xu Lin, a researcher at the Palace Museum who specializes in jade ware, says: "From my perspective, the merit of this book is that it has listed different historical periods of jade mining, and presented almost all the historical records we can find today about Hotan jade," adding that Yu's book is a milestone in the complicated research on the particular jade.

  But she has some reservations about his claim that it was Zhang Qian who discovered and introduced the jade to the central plains.

  Responding to her doubts, Yu says he welcomes a discussion on his work.

  Speaking of his motivation to write the book, the author, who has been obsessed with jade since 1974, says the history of jade is part of Chinese civilization.

  "We must care more about the history and cultural value of jade rather than just its price. The stone, which is beautiful, should be cut and chiseled to continue serving as the carrier of Chinese civilization."

A craft of Hotan jade. [Photo provided to China Daily]

  Commenting on the book, Xu Lin, a researcher at the Palace Museum who specializes in jade ware, says: "From my perspective, the merit of this book is that it has listed different historical periods of jade mining, and presented almost all the historical records we can find today about Hotan jade," adding that Yu's book is a milestone in the complicated research on the particular jade.

  But she has some reservations about his claim that it was Zhang Qian who discovered and introduced the jade to the central plains.

  Responding to her doubts, Yu says he welcomes a discussion on his work.

  Speaking of his motivation to write the book, the author, who has been obsessed with jade since 1974, says the history of jade is part of Chinese civilization.

  "We must care more about the history and cultural value of jade rather than just its price. The stone, which is beautiful, should be cut and chiseled to continue serving as the carrier of Chinese civilization."