Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Jade Adventure

Years ago my grandmother took me to the “Jade Room” at the original Gump’s in San Francisco on Union Square. I remember marveling at the incredible collection of beautiful jade carvings. Gump’s, which began in 1861, still exists a few blocks east on Post Street where they have just opened a new “Jade Room” filled with wonderful treasures of Asian art.

While in Beijing in November, Marla & I booked an all day “shopping tour.” “The China Guide” is an American managed company that allows you to customize the tour to where you want to visit instead of high priced touristy places that give kickbacks to the guide. We went to Beijing’s Panjiayuan Weekend Antiques Market, one of the largest in all of China. Jerry shows Marla a fine specimen of creamy white nephrite jade. Notice that he turned his backpack around to the front to protect from pickpockets!

Hundreds of sellers and buyers arrive very early to start the day’s trading. The bargaining was exhausting! I often started at one tenth of the asking price. By the end of the day I was an expert at the art of the “walk-away” bargaining technique. Sometimes it works and you can obtain your target price.

Serious jade collectors sit on small stools to inspect and bargain. Fakes and treated jade abound so a little knowledge and patience is called for.

We found some great pieces from this dealer!

Panjiayuan has a number of permanent jade and antique galleries. This one had large jade boulders all over their floor!

Look at the size of this jade carving! Beijing’s incredible Forbidden City has amazing jade on display from the Qianlong era.

This Jade “mountain” is taller than I am!

Inveterate shoppers always seem to find interesting markets during their travels. While in Suzhou I found a jade disc that I had to have! The circular disc, or “bi”, is a common jade motif signifying heaven, sky, and eternal life; a circle without a beginning and without end.

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