The essence of immortality—6,000 years of jade on view

The Chinese appreciate jade for its beauty, but also as a symbol of five human virtues: kindness, integrity, wisdom, courage, and purity. Jade is also believed to provide protection from harm and to preserve immortality. “Chinese Jades from the Hartman Collection” displays 207 jade objects on loan from New York collectors Alan and Simone Hartman. As Simone Hartman writes, jade “evokes magic, mystery, and romance to even the uninitiated.”

The Hartman Collection is distinguished by its quality and variety, giving viewers a sense of jade’s changing form and meaning through the centuries. One of the earliest objects, dating to the Neolithic period between the fourth and third millennia B.C., is a cong, a ritual implement painstakingly hollowed from hard jade without the use of bronze or steel tools. The pendants, vessels, animals, and scholar’s objects on view encompass six thousand years of Chinese culture and history, illustrating the change in the use of jade from shaman objects to symbols of status and luxury. Most are from the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), particularly imperial jades from the eighteenth century, when jade production reached its zenith. Advances in production techniques and carving skills made it possible to create intricate shapes and complex decorations. Imperial favor and patronage encouraged the development of jade production as well; many of the pieces in the exhibition bear imperial marks.