FYI SOUTH Magazine, December 2004.

The Myths Behind Imperial Jade Shrouds From Ancient China

An Exquisite Exhibition at Macrocosm Merryland in Hualie

Compiled and translated by Iva Huang

Jade shrouds were regarded as the most noble funeral coverings for people in Han Dynasty. People were obsessed with the belief that jade could preserve corpses, and so jade shrouds were invaluable items for the elite.

Emperors and aristocrats were buried in this kind of semi-precious clothing, which was also described as Yu Xia (Jade Casket). Each shroud was composed of many jade plates; each plate had a hole in each of the four corners through which threads made of gold, silver or copper could go though. By sewing together the plates with those threads, craftsmen would make the Gold-Lined Jade Shroud, the Silver-Lined Jade Shroud, and the Copper-Lined Jade Shroud.

According to HouHanShu, the classic historical record of the post-Han period, tradition divided jade shrouds for royalty into three categories:

--the Gold-Lined Jade Shroud was for emperors.

--the Silver-Lined Jade Shroud was for vassals, the privileged, and princesses.

--the Copper-Lined Jade Shroud was for late emperors' concubines and sisters of the incumbent ruler.

Jade shrouds usually had two parts: the head and the vestment. The head part consists of the mask and the hood. Eye sockets, a nose, and a mouth are carved out of the mask. The components are all small rectangle jade panels. Eyes and mouths come out of bigger jade panels while noses are formed by thin layers of tile-shaped jade. The image closely resembles real people.

The vestment contains the front, the rear, and the sleeves. Each part is separate. The pants have left and right leg-huggers. Hands are closed in fists, holding a semi-circular jade ornament in each symbolizing holding onto wealth. The feet are crafted to look like they already have shoes on.

This exhibition is located at the China Jadeware Museum within Macrocosm Merryland. It's long been a hot spot for school field trips. Moreover, many foreign visitors have been astonished by the rich storage of jade artifacts and the unrivaled stockpile of precious stones, animal and plant fossils, and ores.

* 1-2, JiaWan, KangLe Village, SinChern Town, Hualien County
* TEL: (03) 826-8688
* Open 7 days a week
* NT$530 for anyone above 15 years old; NT$490 for 14-year-olds and younger, physically challenged, and those older than 64 years old; NT$450 for elementary school kids and younger as well as Hualien residents
* Admission Fee: Adults NT$380; students and children NT$340
* http://www.klmm.com.tw