Yu Yuan 豫园
Exquisite Jade 玉玲珑

Stones like the Exquisite Jade are highly valued because of their texture, shape, and naturalness. It is one form of a Chinese scholar's stone, meant to be contemplated and explored. A large stone such as this must be submerged in flowing water for generations before it takes shape. Usually examples of this size are only found in the gardens of the highest nobility.

The story of this stone goes back to the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD). The Huizong Emperor (徽宗, 1082–1135) ordered the stone from what is now Jiangsu Province. The stones are created in Taihu Lake (太湖) by the water's action on natural limestone. They are found in a number of different lakes, but each has a distinctive color or characteristic textrue.

Taihu Lake is near the Yangtze and the stone was to be shipped via the Grand Canal to Kaifeng, the capital. There was a shipwreck on the Huangpu River and the stone was lost. Perhaps a fisherman found it, perhaps some boys playing -- the details of the story are lost but it came into the possession of another Shanghai family and was given as part of their daughter's dowry when she married Pan Yunduan's younger brother.

The stones are sufficient in themselves but from time to time they may be appreciated in other ways. Water poured properly over a stone makes hundreds of natural waterfalls. People will also burn incense within the stone and it will make its way through the labrynth to create wispy trails on all sides.

The companion stones on either side are valued for their own characteristics. Both have strong shapes that change with each aspect. They create a well-balanced composition, which is very important in Chinese art.

China Index >> History of Shanghai and Suzhou Region >> Yu Yuan

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Last update: February 2007
© Marilyn Shea 1996, 1999, 2002, 2007