The problem of jadeite in China
Dr. Chunyun WANG
Hong Kong Jewellery, Vo.4, No.64, pp.104-106, 1994
Chinese nation is one of the earliest and most well-known nations to recognize, identify, appreciate and utilize fei-tsui in the world. The history of utilization of fei-tsui can be traced backed to the Zhou Dynasty in ancient China. Although in ancient Chinese literature there are many records about "fei-tsui", in particular the record about the "fei-tsui" occurrence in Khotan, Xinjiang, as early as A.D.1071, the "fei-tsui" mentioned here is in fact green nephrite jade or just jasper through textual research by the author. The unequivocal historical record is that, during the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, the sphere of influence of China has come to cover the upper region of Burma, which did in fact help to stimulate the development and trade of the local fei-tsui resources, and facilitate its influx into China proper on a large scale. In the Qing Dynasty and thereafter, the Burmese fei-tsui has been continuing to be imported incessantly to China on a still larger scale. It is true that the Uru River valley, where most fei-tsui deposits occur, was subject to the Yongchang Prefecture of Yunnan Province, China during the Qing Dynasty, and the custom of peoples in the two adjacent regions, i.e. the western part of Yunnan province and the upper part of Burma, are very similar to each other. In consideration of these facts, it is easy to understand that fei-tsui or jadeite jade may be added to the traditional yu culture in China. However, it seems that the fei-tsui materials used in ancient Chinese yu culture came solely from the Uru River valley in Burma.
One may raise such kind of questions: does fei-tsui deposits also occur in China proper? or, did part of the fei-tsui materials used in Chinese history originate in China proper? There are various opinions about these problems, some affirmative, while others against them. And these arguments constitute the so-called problem of fei-tsui or jadeite jade in China.
Here the first problem is that, the author thinks, fei-tsui is not equal to the constituent pyroxene mineral that comprises fei-tsui. Though there were reports that a lot of occurrences of jadeite minerals have been discovered in various parts of China, the jadeite minerals themselves do not comprise jadeitites of "virtues of yu" or "jade virtues", which the author calls them "jadeite-type fei-tsui" or just "jadeite jade"*. The reported occurrences of jadeite or jadeitic minerals are cited as following.
1. Jadeite minerals occur in the garnetiferous jadeite quartzite in the eclogite belt of high temperature and high pressure metamorphic origin in the Dabie Mountains.
2. Jadeite minerals occur in the meta-nepheline syenite in the Tongbai region of Hubei province.
3. Jadeite and jadeitic pyroxene minerals occur in the chlorite glaucophane schist, glaucophane-bearing dolomite chlorite schist and albite glaucophane chlorite schist in the southern part of the Lancang River tectonic belt.
4. Departments of geology and mineral deposits in Yunnan Province have recently discovered the so-called "oily-green fei-tsui" or as the locals there called it, "Longmen Jade", in the high pressure and low temperature metamorphic belt. The metamorphic belt a part of the Yunnan-Burma double metamorphic belt, is located in the west part of Yingjiang county, Yunnan Province. The chemical analysis yielded following results: SiO2, 68.96%, higher than that of Burmese jadeite jade (23.21%); Fe2O3, 34.46%, FeO, 1.61%, both higher than those of Burmese jadeite jade (Fe2O3, 31.07%, FeO 0.73%); Na2O, 0.25%, lower than that of Burmese jadeite jade (13.13%). But its exact composition and properties, the author think, need still further study.
5. Jadeitic pyroxene and chloromelanite** (Chloromelanite mineral has been divided into two mineral species omphacite and aegirine-augite by the International Mineralogical association) minerals occur in the glaucophane eclogite in Beijingsi, Qingshuigou, etc. in the north part of Qilian Mountains in Qinghai, and form a complete isomorphous series. There are also other minerals such as glaucophane, garnet, quartz, epidote, muscovite, rutile, etc., which are paragenetic with these two pyroxenes, occurring in the glaucophane eclogite in the northern Qilian Mountains. Chloromelanite is a kind of Na-Ca pyroxenes, short column-like and of vivid green colour.
6. It was reported that a kind of so-called "Qaidam Jade" had been discovered in the Mangya region in the northwestern part of Qaidam Basin in Qinghai Province. It occurs in the contact zone between the north side of the west part of Mangya II rock mass of the Altun Mountains ultrabasic rock belt and the gabbro, obviously a product resulting from contact metasomatism between ultrabasic rock and gabbro. The jade ore body takes the forms of lens, intestinal and nodules, and covers only a very limited area. The jade consists mainly of pyroxene, diopside, garnet, idocrase, uralite, tremolite, actinolite, etc., which also comprises various kinds of skarns. Therefore, it can be deduced that among the jades discovered there are some "pyroxene jade" comprising mainly pyroxene minerals (which was called "hard jade" by the locals there), and some "amphibole jade" comprising mainly amphiboles (which was called "soft jade" by the locals there). The "hard jade" exhibits greyish white, yellowish white and light purple colours, and glassy lustre. It is compact, massive, of a hardness 6-7 on Mohs scale, and can be divided further into three categories flowery piebald jade, hard white jade and pink jade. The "flowery piebald jade" displays green patterns, or spots, or cloud among the white background, so it can be said to be a kind of fei-tsui of good quality. Nonetheless, its composition still needs further study so that it could be established as fei-tsui. As to the "soft jade", it is of yellowish green, greyish green and dark greyish green colour, displays greasy lustre and waxy lustre, massive and of compact structure, of a hardness 4-6 on Mohs scale. It can also be further divided into species such as flowery greenish jade, piebald greenish jade, striped greenish jade, etc.
7. There are many reports about occurrences of jadeite or jadeitic minerals in serpentinized ultrabasic rocks in Rongjiaoxishan, Yinduniuchang, Longxindong in Batang County, in Xumai in Derong County, in Nasunshan in Baiyu County, in Maisukaigong in Dege County, in Xiaba in Litang County and in Dengchigou in Baoxing County in Sichuan Province. As minor components, these pyroxenes, together with other minerals, do constitute rocks of some kind of "jade virtues" together with other minerals. Since such kind of rocks can be used as carving materials for some low-grade crafts, they were called "like-jadeite-jade", "like-fei-tsui" and "like-chloromelanite-jade" by some people among the craft circles.
8. The Northwestern sichuan Geological Brigade (1984) reported that "jadeite" was discovered in the ultrabasic rock belt in Batang County (It should be noted that this discovery refers to only jadeite mineral rather than not jadeite jade. --- the author), and "near-chloromelanite-jade" (It is actually a kind of ink-green, intensely altered diopside garnetite inclusion. --- the author) was discovered in the shistose serpentinized rocks in the north and south ore districts of the asbestos mine in Shimian County, Sichuan Province. As a matter of fact, the above-mentioned "jadeite" and "chloromelanite" are just two kinds of pyroxene minerals, i.e. jadeite and chloromelanite. Since in Chinese language, the names "jadeite" and "chloromelanite" always refer incorrectly to two kinds of jades rather than minerals, and the two jade names jadeite jade and chloromelanite jade are always incorrectly simplified as just jadeite and chloromelanite, therefore, the problem of nomenclature of jadeite jade aroused.
9. Wu, Zhaoqian (1988) also reported that "chloromelanite" of poor quality was discovered in the glaucophane eclogite in the northern Qilian Mountains in Gansu province (It actually refers to chloromelanite mineral, not jade. - the author). It did constitute a kind of jadestone (not pure chloromelanite jade) with other minerals. The chloromelanite-bearing jadestone in Gansu Province occurs near Maxianshan which is east to Lintao. The outcropping strata there belong to the Maxianshan Series of Pre-Sinian System, where folding and faulting activities and extensive magmatic activities develop. The jadestone ore is a kind of placers, so it was ground to some extent, but generally has sizes greater than 0.5X0.5X0.5 m3. There is a shell of about 1-10 mm thickness on the surface of the jadestone, which consists mainly of jadeite, uralite, and minor sphene. The newly-exposed jadestone exhibits vivid green, yellowish green colours, it is semi-transparent, of compact and fine texture, tough and with a hardness of 6.5-7 on Mohs scale.
As a result, it is clear now that the so-called "jadeite", "near-jadeite", "chloromelanite" and "near-chloromelanite" discovered recently in China proper are in fact just some pyroxene minerals. This is due to the fact that jade is always incorrectly named after its main constituent mineral (Jade is a monominerallic rock, a mineral aggregate, it is different from its main constituent mineral, thus jade nomenclature cannot be confused with its main constituent mineral name. --- the author). However, these pyroxene minerals, together with other rock-forming minerals, do comprise rocks of some "jade virtues", which can, nonetheless, be termed "near-jade" or "like-jade" depending on the content of pyroxene minerals among it. Up to now, none of these "near-jades" or "like-jades" has been effectively utilized, neither were they recognized to have been developed in Chinese history.
Therefore, though there are many occurrences of jadeite, chloromelanite and other pyroxene minerals in China proper, though these pyroxene minerals together with other minerals could constitute rocks which are very similar to fei-tsui, It can be affirmatively concluded that there is no genuine fei-tsui occurrence in China proper.
Then, Where did the vast amount of material of fei-tsui used in Chinese history come from? The answer is that they all came from the friendly neighbour of China --- Burma. Then why did so many people mistook the Burmese fei-tsui for the Chinese fei-tsui?
The author thinks that the following information may be the reasons.
1. The Myitkyina region of Burma , where fei-tsui resources occur, is adjacent to the Yunnan frontier area of China. The custom of the two regions are very similar, and the two regions have never been separated from each other in the long history.
2. The upper Burma region was subject to the Yongchang Prefecture of Yunnan Province in the Ming Dynasty, and was also subject to the Central Imperial Court in the Qing Dynasty. Burmese there paid tribute to the imperial court every year, and peoples of the two regions also contacted with each other every year. All these led to the version that Yunnan Province abounds in fei-tsui. As a result, fei-tsui was also called "yunnan Jade".
3. It is the Chinese traditional yu culture that lead to peoples love of this new type of beautiful jade material, that facilitate the large-scale development and application of Burmese fei-tsui.
*Authors note 1: The author here translates the mineral species name "jadeite" into "stone of loins" in Chinese according to its etymology, thus distinguishes it from the jade species name "jadeite jade" or its Chinese counterpart, "fei-tsui". As a matter of fact, jadeite jade as only one kind of fei-tsui, is a kind of jadeitite comprising mainly dominant jadeite minerals, and should be termed appropriately "jadeite jade" in English by using binomial method.
** Authors note 2: The author here translates the mineral species name "chloromelanite" into "dark green (pyroxene) stone" in Chinese, and thus distinguishes it from the jade species name "chloromelanite jade", which comprises mainly dominant mineral chloromelanite. In fact, "dark green jade" should be called "chloromelanite jade" in English by using binomial method.
英文题录：Wang, Chunyun, 1994, The problem of jadeite in China. Hong Kong Jewellery, Vo.4, No.64, pp.104-106, 1994.