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The Legend of the Jade Artist

The jade artist is anonymous to us today, but in his own time he was often known to his contemporaries by his distinctive style. And so comes to us one of the few legends connected with the jade artist, a story as well known to the Chinese as is the story of Romeo and Juliet to us.

Once upon a time there was a poor young jade carver, in love with a rich man’s daughter. The girl’s father forbade the courtship, but, young and in love, the pair eloped anyway.

To do this the young man had to give up his art, since his style was so unique that any object he carved would reveal his identity.

But one day his beloved fell sick. Without money to purchase medicine, his only alternative was his art. He carved a beautiful goddess in green jade, then sold it, on condition that the merchant who purchased it never reveal how he obtained it.

As fate would have it, the girl’s father was an avid collector of jade, and the piece soon fell into his hands. Instantly recognizing the style, he offered the merchant a huge bounty to reveal the whereabouts of the carver. And although no merchant would commit such a deed except in fiction, this merchant weakened.

The father found the pair, killed the young man, and took his daughter home.

But late one night the girl took the jade goddess and fled again to the site of her great happiness. Digging up the grave, she threw herself into the arms of her beloved, there to wait until death came upon her.

But when the moon rose a curious thing happened. The spirit of the young man, which had taken refuge in the cool jade goddess, moved back into the inert body and the lover lived again.

At this moment the father arrived. So overcome was he by the miracle that he welcomed the young man as his son and accepted the couple into his home and heart. The jade goddess was given as an offering to a nearby temple, where it is said to reside today, its very presence a comfort to all young lovers.


— from  Jade: Stone of Heaven by Richard Gump, p. 213
© 1962 Doubleday & Company, Inc., New York, NY