I use two criteria to judge art. If it looks exactly like what it’s
supposed to be. then it’s art. If it looks nothing like what it’s
supposed to be. then it’s art. There is of course. a third criteria.
If it only looks something like what it’s supposed to be. then it is
That said. I bring you a jade praying mantis. Using the criteria set
above. it is art. Definitely! Not only that. but it’s rather pretty
too. Now here’s the thing of it. jade–as it turns out–is one of
the most difficult stones to carve. On the Mohs scale of material
hardness. nephrite and jadeite are 6.5 and 6.75 respectively. You can
not carve jade with steel. It’s not hard enough.?
But the Chinese craftsmen of the Neolithic era–around 1200 BC or
so–managed it with great skill. They used abrasive sands. They used
quartzite (7-7.5) and maybe even garnets (7.5) and they may even
have used diamond tipped tools (10). It is said they may also have
used sharks’ teeth. How did they do that back then? Hey…
let’s go fishing. I hear the sharks are abitin’. And so they popped
into their sampans and began their chants.
Here sharkie sharkie sharkie. It gets the Great Whites every time I
hear. And when Monstro reared up in front of their toothpick of a
boat. how did they kill it? Hey. Wu. Who me? Yeah. you, Wu. Punch it
in the nose. You punch it in the nose Chen.
But these are all technical details not worth delving into. What’s
important here is that they did catch the shark. pulled its teeth.
and used them to carve jade.
Jade played an important part in Chinese ornamentation. One quick
example is used in nuptial feasts. It is a cup having the form of a
cock (I assume they’re talking rooster here) from which both bride
and groom drank. This honor is due to a myth depicting the bird as
being so faithful to its mistress that it decided to die rather than
live without her should she happen to die first.
This has nothing to do with my mantis. it’s just a little lore I
thought I’d throw in gratuitously for the education of those who
strive for knowledge for knowledge’s sake.
Our mantis was found as part of a magnificent collection? of goods
found in the grave of queen Fu Hao. She had a collected of 755 jades.
of which our little beastie was but one. Jade work reached its
highest artistic levels during the period starting from 3600BC and
going forward to 2000BC. After that I guess it went somewhat
So here it is. everything you ever wanted to know about jade but
didn’t ever really give enough of a rat’s tail to bother to ask. It
is this gap that I live to fill. So. you want to see? Hmm. You know
the routine by now. Go. Enjoy. Knock yourselves out.
For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits. may I
direct you to my home page at http://www.tyler-adam.com where you
will scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that
says Current Tidbits. click it. and you will see represented on our
pages an image of a jade mantis which may or may not look like what
And there ya have it. That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.