2014 No.4
Event: 2014 ICS Luncheon V – On the Research and the Upcoming Exhibition of Hindustan Jades
At the ICS Luncheon on 3 November 2014, Professor Xu Xiaodong, Associate Director of the Art Museum, presented her recent research on Hindustan jades and shared with us the planning of a forthcoming Hindustan jades exhibition.

Xu Xiaodong

Associate Director of the Art Museum, Associate Professor (by courtesy) of the Fine Arts Department, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Professor Xu Xiaodong completed her B.A. at the Chinese Department in Peking University and received her MPhil. and PhD degrees from the Department of Fine Arts at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. She worked as an editor at the Cultural Relics Publication House, Beijing, from 1990 to 1999, as a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Art Museum from 2005 to 2007 and as an Associate Researcher and Researcher at the Palace Museum, Beijing, from 2007 to 2013. She is currently an Associate Director of the Art Museum, Associate Professor (by courtesy) of the Fine Arts Department at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and a council member of the Chinese Cultural Society of Relics (Jade).  

In her talk, Professor Xu first explained the term of 'Hindustan'. In ancient Chinese texts, Hindustan was referred to as 痕都斯坦 or 溫都斯坦, and scholars usually considered it a region that covered the Indus River valley and Northern India. In China, the term 'Hindustan jades' first appeared in documents during the Qing dynasty. However, judging from the actual Hindustan jades kept in the Palace Museum in Beijing and the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Hindustan jades included not only jades produced in Northern India, but also in Southern India, the Deccan Plateau, Central Asia, Turkey and Iran. As the Hindustan jades recorded in the Qing dynasty documents did not match the actual Hindustan jades collected in the Palace Museum and the National Palace Museum, Chinese scholars tended to call these jades 'Islamic jades'. This term was also used among Western scholars. Islamic jades thus represented all of the jades produced in the vast region of Central, West, South and East Asia, including jades from the Ottoman, Safavid, Timurid and Mughal empires, and other jades produced in Xinjiang or other parts of Central Asia.

Previous studies on Hindustan jades were mainly carried out by Western scholars from the 1970s to the early twenty-first century. Their studies mainly involved investigations of relevant jades kept by Western or Indian museums. Other studies examined the features of Ottoman, Safavid, Timurid or Mughal jades and the relations between these various jades. Some studies explored the relationship between Islamic jades and Chinese jades during the Qing dynasty. Other studies surveyed jade carving traditions in Central, West and South Asia before the fifteenth century, prior to the time when Islamic jades became popular. In addition, some scholars sorted out the records of jades and jadewares in Islamic documents. In Taiwan, major research on Hindustan jades was carried out by Deng Shupin, who held an exhibition of Hindustan jades in 1983, displaying 82 relevant jades selected from the National Palace Museum. Later, Deng published the Catalogue of a Special Exhibition of Hindustan Jade in the National Palace Museum, in which she recorded 64 jade poems written by the Qing emperor Qian Long and carefully sorted out the relevant documents that recorded interactions between China and Central Asia, West Asia and South Asia. In 2007, Deng published the catalogue Exquisite Beauty: Islamic Jades in which 197 relevant jades were presented. Unlike the previous catalogue that presented jades according to their shapes, this new catalogue exhibited jades in groups according to the regions of their production.

Inspired by Deng Shupin's efforts, Professor Xu applied to conduct a research project on 'Interactions between Chinese ancient jades and Islamic jades', and in 2009 she received a three-year grant from the National Social Science Fund: Arts. She started to explore and study the Hindustan jades in the Palace Museum in Beijing. Professor Xu first sorted out about 200 Hindustan jades recorded in the Palace Museum and divided them into different groups according to their regions of production. She then discerned the authentic jades from the imitated productions. She also further sorted out more than 200 authentic and imitated Hindustan jades from the Ming and Qing jades in the Palace Museum. Among the imitations, Professor Xu identified the replicas, imitations with a strong imperial style, and imitations suspected to have been produced around the mid- to late-nineteenth century. All of these jades were rearranged in a systemic record. Based on her studies, Professor Xu published a series of articles and found that 'Hindustan' was a dynamic concept that referred to different regions and places in different periods. Professor Xu also further explored the origin of the term 'Hindustan jades', the circulation of these jades, and the symbolic meanings of Hindustan jades for the Qing emperor Qian Long. She discovered that in addition to coming through Xinjiang, Hindustan jades also entered China through Xizang. In her article 'Interactions between Chinese jades and Islamic jades from the 12th Century to the 17th Century' (to be published), Professor Xu pointed out that the popularity of jades in Central, West and South Asia since the thirteenth century was largely due to the Mongolians, who conquered and controlled these regions. The interactions and communications between early Ming China and these regions was another factor. However, the demand for jade carving in the Islamic regions and the popularity of Mughal jades during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries led to a loss of jade materials from China to the Islamic world, resulting in the low quality of jade artefacts found in Ming China. The practice of setting jades with gold and jewels in China during the mid- to late-Qing era was also influenced by the styles of Islamic jades. In her article 'Re-examination of the white jade from the Sunjiawan in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province', Professor Xu investigated a jade accessory found in the Daming Palace. She discovered that this jade was actually an amulet from the Islamic region and was made between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, but it was long misidentified as a Chinese jade accessory from the Tang dynasty.

At the end of her talk, Professor Xu introduced a forthcoming exhibition of Hindustan jades by the Art Museum. The organisers plan to display the jades in four sections to highlight different traditions of jade art, as follows:

Section One: Jades from Central Asia (to show the origins of Hindustan jades);
Section Two: Hindustan Jades (to show the features of Hindustan jades and the interactions between Hindustan jades and other jade carvings from around this area);
Section Three: Imitations of Hindustan Jades (to show three different styles of imitation among imperial and local productions from various time periods);
Section Four: Mutual Influences between Hindustan Jades and Chinese Jades during the Ming and Qing Dynasties (to show the various influences in terms of shapes, settings, craftwork and aesthetic taste).

Back to Issue
ICS and Me
Event: 2014 ICS Luncheon IV – Stories of Fu Baoshi: Multiple Duplicates of the Same Paintings
Event: 2014 ICS Luncheon V – On the Research and the Upcoming Exhibition of Hindustan Jades
Event: Public Lectures by Professor Dorothy J. Solinger and Professor Thomas P. Bernstein
Event: Public Lecture by Dr Dimitri Drettas on 'Dream cutouts and ghostly interactions – The shaping and transmission of Chinese oneirocritique'
Event: Workshop and Lectures on Mughal Jade – Art Museum
Event: Workshop on the Naxi Language – T.T. Ng Chinese Language Research Centre
Event: The 3rd Renditions Distinguished Lecture Series on Literary Translation – Research Centre for Translation
New Publications
Event Highlights: ICS Luncheon
Event Highlights: Splendid Images: Chinese Paintings from the Eryi Caotang Collection – Art Museum
Event Highlights: Open Books: Artists and the Chinese Folding Books – Art Museum
Event Highlights: USC 50th Anniversary International Conference: Ideology, Power and Transition in China, and the 11th Graduate Seminar on China (GSOC) – Universities Service Centre for China Studies
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