An inconspicuous stone called nephrite since the Neolithic times of the Yangshao culture has been very important in the Chinese culture. Even though nephrite and jadeite belong to one family called 'jade', they differ in hardness. Nephrite performed many functions in the Chinese culture, the most important among them are: symbolic and protective. Polishing the hard stone for the Confucianists was like teaching a person. As a symbol of immortality, nephrite had ceremonial and connected with burial functions. Different shapes of bi discs were made and placed on the heart of the deceased. Some cong tubes were presumably placed in the tomb and burned, whereas others close to the body. Nephrite objects were important during the burial and supposed to cause body conservation and immortality. Beside cong and bi, there were other objects placed on the bodies, such as: cicadas, pieces of polished stone placed in the hands, nephrite clothes and plugs or covers for the nine body cavities. There are also useful and decorative functions of nephrite. Objects made of nephrite served for everyday use as well as for decoration. Some pieces of armament and arms were made of this stone. Due to its special place in the Chinese culture and the increasing demand for objects made of it, nephrite soon began to be imitated in the celadon glaze.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.