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Rare rocks that resound with quality

THERE are about 400 types of Lingbi stones and they are divided into 52 categories, all varying in texture, shape and color. Wang Jie examines the qualities and beauty of these unique rocks.

There is perhaps no stone like the Lingbi stone, one admired not just for its beauty but also for its musicality.

The ancient Chinese people once used Lingbi stones as musical instruments - yes, Lingbi stones can "sing."

If you flick them with a fingernail or tap them with a wooden stick, Lingbi stones produce a clear, ringing tone. It became known in ancient China as the "music stone."

Originally found in Lingbi County in Anhui Province, Lingbi stones are fine-grained, delicately textured limestone said to have been created over 700 million years.

Apart from its unique sound - it is known as a resonant rock - Lingbi stones are also noted for their varied textures and shapes.

Some resemble animals such as lions, tigers or dragons, and others seem reminiscent of a panoramic view of landscapes with mountains and rivers.

There are about 400 types of Lingbi stones and they are divided into 52 categories, all varying in texture, shape and color.

Because of its unique shape, crisp sound and rarity, Lingbi stones were much sought after by Chinese emperors, officials and intellectuals who kept small Lingbi stones on their desks, larger ones in their living rooms, or created a special area in their private gardens for the biggest specimens.

Many famous Chinese poets wrote poetry about Lingbi stones, including Su Shi (1037-1101) and Mi Fu (1051-1107) of the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

Today the legacy of Lingbi stones lives on.

Since China's reform and opening-up policy started in 1978, people have gradually realized both the cultural and financial values of Lingbi stones.

It first become popular among collectors in China's Hong Kong, Thailand and then in America and Europe.

The price of Lingbi stones also rose sharply from when they were available for a few thousand yuan to the present worth where they can fetch several million US dollars at auction.

In 1999, a Lingbi stone was awarded the golden prize at the Kunming Expo in southwestern China's Yunnan Province.

However, excessive mining of Lingbi stones has almost completely depleted the resource. Today it is extremely difficult to find top-quality Lingbi stones in their hometown. The demand for the stones greatly exceeds their production.

To buy Lingbi stones

1. Tap the stone to make sure it produces a clear, crisp sound.

2. The texture of Lingbi stones is oily and there is a unique gray V-shaped pattern inside. If the stone shows a U-shaped pattern, it has probably been processed by a machine.

3. Check whether there is amber-hued mortar ossified on the back of the stones.

4. Only top-quality Lingbi stones are worth collecting. Don't focus on the number but the quality rating of the stone.

5. Research Lingbi stones, and visit Lingbi stone exhibitions to gain experience.

6. The more vivid the imagery of the stone, the greater value it has. Its images should be lively, be an appropriate size for the stone and blend in harmoniously as well.

7. Be sure that it is an original Lingbi stone and that it has not been processed. Even if the image seems incomplete, perhaps missing a mouth or an eye. Remember it is better to have a natural shape rather than an artificial creation.

To maintain Lingbi stones

1. Regularly clean and wax the stones.

2. Make sure the Lingbi stones are displayed in a safe place.

3. Find good stands to hold the stones. Normally a stone-made stand is provided. Often the lighting, the mounting and the positioning will add to the dramatic effect and enhance the beauty of Lingbi stones.


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