Jade: The Green Beauty of Myanmar
By Jocelyn Cheng
Myanmar, the hidden gem of Asia has tonnes of attractions to offer: from internationally renowned sites such as diving in the Myeik Archipelago, to nature adventures at Chin state, and historical expeditions at Sagaing. However, there is still a gem that can be called the true gem of Myanmar that remains much of a mystery – the everlasting Jade.
History of Myanmar Jade
In Myanmar, the variety of jade, known as jadeite, is mined and cut for the main purpose of distributing it to other countries in Asia. Jadeite is usually used in making jewellery and other jade-based products like facial jade rollers and plates. You may see jades in multiple shades of green, as it is the intensity of the colour that determines the stone’s quality. Common jade are usually pale green, whereas high-quality jades are emerald green. Interestingly, jadeite deposits in the northern region — most notably Kachin State — are of the highest quality in the world. This high-quality jade is highly sought-after by Asian countries, with China at the head of the jade trade. Today, Myanmar is considered a main contributor to the world’s high-quality jade supply.
World’s First Jade Pagoda
Werawsana Pagoda in Mandalay is the first jade pagoda in the world. Built entirely out of jade, this pagoda offers a breath-taking sight to visitors to the area with its jewels glimmering in various shades of green. It is certainly unique and one will not be able to find another pagoda similar to this. An impressive 75-feet high and with a circumference of 176 feet, each terrace is about 12 feet high topped with a 7-foot umbrella and 8-foot banana bud. To add to the wonders of this pagoda, it was built to be sturdy enough to withstand an earthquake up to 6.59 on the Richter scale. Bricks were not used in the construction of the pagoda, only jade stones that were collected over a period of 25 years from donors who contributed their jade for the construction. As a result, the pagoda you see today is made up of a combination of A, B, C, and D-grade jade stones, all thanks to the generous locals who willingly gave away their jade for the creation of this amazing pagoda.
Timeless Jade Market
The jade market in Mandalay is a paradise for jade collectors. Bustling with traders, merchants, tourists and locals looking for a good bargain, this market has jade stones casually displayed on benches, tables and even on the pavement. Some of the jades are even carelessly placed over a merchant’s stall, something that might shock tourists given the quality of jade.
Sizes may vary from palm-sized stones to huge, heavy jadeite that has not been cut, weighed or examined to determine the actual value. This is when the fun part happens — you get to watch how the stones are cut, weighed and sculpted by experts. Trading raw jade materials at this market is common, and you will be able to learn new things about jade stones that you can use to impress your friends and family when you get back home. You can also buy bracelets, figurines and Buddha images that are carved out of pure jade.
Art of Jade Carving
Jade carving is extremely delicate and intricate work, taking up 3 to 4 years for one to learn. However, not many people master this skill, resulting in Myanmar transporting raw jade to be carved by experts of other countries that have bought the jade. The art of jade carving in Myanmar has great potential to grow as its own industry and to be noticed by jade traders and buyers. As the Myanmar experts have their own way of carving certain images, this makes it a unique art on its own. There have been suggestions to build jade carving schools in the country, so there will be young jade carvers in the future to boost the jade industry of Myanmar.
Travel to Myanmar for a remarkable jade experience and be sure to bring back a couple of precious green stones. This trip will open your eyes to what is truly the hidden gem of Myanmar.