Anciently superior men found the likeness of all excellent qualities in jade
Soft, smooth, and glossy, it appeared to them like benevolence
Fine, compact, and strong-- like intelligence
Angular, but not sharp and cutting-- like righteousness
Hanging down (in beads) as if it would fall to the ground-- like (the humility of) propriety
When struck, yielding a note, clear and prolonged, yet terminating abruptly-- like music
Its flaws not concealing its beauty, nor its beauty concealing its flaws-- like loyalty
With an internal radiance issuing from it on every side-- like good faith
Bright as a brilliant rainbow-- like heaven
Exquisite and mysterious, appearing in the hills and streams-- like the earth
Standing out conspicuous in the symbols of rank-- like virtue
Esteemed by all under the sky-- like the path of truth and duty
Confucius (traditional dates 551-479 BCE)
Li Chi, Book XLV:13
After James Legge translation (New Hyde Park,
New York: University Books, Inc., 1967) 2:464
The essays written for From Heaven and Earth: Chinese Jade in Context are intended to provide general information related to the objects in the exhibition, and to address some of the subjects and values that have both fascinated and perplexed Western audiences for generations. Like most installations, Chinese Jade in Context was inevitably limited by institutional scheduling, space, and funding, while the scope was determined principally by the types of objects made available to the Columbus Museum of Art from local collections. Many of the objects rank among the finest examples known to the particular category in which they belong. Many have not been published previously, some held in family collections for extended periods of time. Beyond authentication and dating through scientific and art historical methods of analysis, most works have not been researched. Dating remains problematic, especially for jade. After decades of research, experts in the field of Asian Art continue to find many points for which no common assessment can be found. It is anticipated that this new effort will provide opportunities for increased understanding and appreciation for one of the world's most enduring and remarkable traditions.
From Heaven and Earth: Chinese Jade in Context is a unique presentation of Chinese antiquities from the collections of a small group of central Ohio connoisseurs. This presentation provides insight into the history and development of one East Asia's most vibrant and enduring cultures. Prior to giving consideration to the individual works of art in the exhibition, it is of value to consider the world in which we presently find ourselves, a world ever shrinking through systems of transportation and communication, and one where our well-being is increasingly bound to the well-being of others, with Pacific-rim societies being among the most influential. Like many nations, China is largely viewed by members of our own society through the limited Western lens of contemporary political controversy. It is difficult to overestimate the value of the exhibition to the greater Columbus community as it has contributed immeasurably to an increased understanding and appreciation of the richness and complexity of the Chinese tradition.
Clearly, whether the forum is international, national, or regional, in this very complex and rapidly transforming world, it is increasingly difficult to achieve success without the assistance of others. One of the most significant ways individuals, privileged by education, opportunity, and position, can contribute and assist in cross-cultural dialogue is through service to and support for our public institutions -- our universities, libraries, and museums. These institutions, funded by both public and private moneys, preserve and transmit knowledge, and foster international understanding and an educated decision-making process.
Many of the Columbus Museum's most valuable assets, including a number of works from Asia, directly reflect its patrons' efforts over an extended period of time. Their monetary support and generous contributions of volunteer hours have been central to the success of the institution. The unique opportunities provided by From Heaven and Earth: Chinese Jade in Context are a direct result of long-term patron support for the Museum, but could not have been accomplished without the interest of Irvin Lippman, the Museum's director, and a current willingness of private individuals to loan works from their collections. Chinese Jade in Context is a very complicated exhibition. The process of determining its organization and content, and the steps required to bring it to fruition, make one ever mindful of the efforts of others. Connoisseurship, well-developed aesthetic sensibilities, and the scholarly dispositions of the collectors and others involved also contributed to the success.
The Museum and I have a special debt of gratitude to the family whose collection of Chinese jade served as the initial inspiration and focus of the installation, and to the other four families who so generously loaned their treasured works of Chinese art to the Columbus Museum. These contributing families generously loaned their art without fees for almost a full year. Additionally, the community also owes its gratitude to a private collector in Youngstown, Ohio, who provided a number of beautifully carved, modern pieces of jadeite for the gemological component of the installation. For the educational loans from private and public collections of mineral specimens and small gemstones, which composed the scientific section of the exhibition, I am indebted to Daniel Hall and Thaddeus Smith as well as Dale Gnidovec of the Orton Geological Museum, The Ohio State University.
The considerable resources of Ohio State and of other individual members in the University community also made highly valued contributions; gratitude is owed respectively: for assistance with the Chinese language and the calligraphic title, to Mark Bender of Chinese Language Department and Rita Chu, a graduate student in College of the Arts, and, for bibliographical information, to Susan Wyngaard of the Fine Arts Library. For copies of the film Jade Carving by Wan-go Weng, which greatly enhanced the educational program, I am most grateful to Collin Cowels, China Institute of America, New York. Thomas Ryan produced silicone impressions of a number of jade objects in order that their finely cut and beautiful ornamental details, which are obscured by the mottled tonalities of the stones, might be fully appreciated. Additionally, the successful presentation of the objects in the exhibition, beautifully designed and installed by Greg Jones and his staff at the Museum, is directly reflective of a sensitive approach to subject, style, size, and color.
It seems, in fact, that throughout the entire project, no matter where assistance was sought, I found myself overwhelmed by the interest expressed and support extended. This was certainly true of both Annick Van der Moer and Charles Kleibacker, who helped in innumerable ways, but most especially of my family whose considerable efforts contributed immeasurably to the success of the project.
Carolyn Woodford Schmidt