Chinese Jade Flows Like Water Thru the Kunlun Mountains (Home of Daoist Immortals)

September 23, 2010

September 23, 2010

Over the past few days, in REL 2036 Religions of East Asia, we've been discussing the ultimate goal of Daoist sages - returning to the Dao, and the acquisition of immortality. Tradition maintains that those xian-ren ("transcendents") who have refined away the ego-born delusions of mundane materiality and have forgotten the "ten thousand things" (the key to immortality), have radically transformed their bodies into a jade-like substance. As mentioned in a recent NYTimes.com article titled "Jade From China's West Surpasses Gold in Value," "According to an age-old belief, jade provides a link between the physical and spiritual worlds." Those celestial transcendents / immortals who stood at the boundary between these realms of existence were thought to reside in one of the Daoist heavens, which were deemed to be in the Kunlun mountains of western China.

Well, apparently not only does jade play a role in matters of immortality, but it can also make a person rich. The aforementioned article, by Andrew Jacobs, notes that "Ounce for ounce, the finest jade has become more valuable than gold, with the most prized nuggets of 'mutton fat' jade - so-named for its marbled white consistency - fetching $3,000 an ounce, a tenfold increase from a decade ago." And where has the "motherlode" of this white jade been recently discovered? In the Kunlun Mountains, between Xinjiang and Tibet (near Khotan), in the western ranges of China. Perhaps the Daoist heaven isn't that far away after all.

Discussing the jade immortals of the Kunlun mountains in class - the appearance of a New Times article on jade in the Kunlun mountains - all in the same week... Priceless! (Special thanks to Allison Hogshead for bringing this confluence to our attention.) The Dao works in mysterious ways.

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