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Shoushan - the stepping stones to beauty and history

ONCE there were more than 130 types of Shoushan stone, but today only 50 to 60 varieties can be found. Wang Jie looks closely at this unique and beautiful natural phenomenon.

Stones, for many people, are not objects of desire. Even semi-precious stones do not have the allure of diamonds or rubies.

Stones are common. They can be found anywhere.

But there is in China a special stone that over the centuries has developed its own mystery and history.

Shoushan stone is, for collectors, one of the most coveted of all stones.

Quarried from Shoushan Mountain in Fuzhou, capital city of Fujian Province, Shoushan stone is noted for its smooth texture.

Technically, Shoushan stone is agalmatolite, one of the pinite family.

The minerals in the stones produce the colors and patterns.

Compared with Qingtian stone and Furong stone, two of the other famous stones of China, Shoushan stones stand out with their bright colors, fine grains, exquisiteness, suppleness and silkiness.

Some contain trace elements revealing a spectrum of five brilliant colors. Some are sub-translucent, others semi-translucent; and a few are transparent, each shining like crystalline pearl or cream.

Once there were more than 130 types of Shoushan stone, but today there are only 50 to 60 varieties.


Carving is one of the most important ways of valuing Shoushan stone.

Usually the stone carving begins with the craftsman determining the nature of the stone.

The theme will be based upon the shape, texture, grain and colors of the stone.

The skill and creativity of the craftsmen has contributed hugely to the growing popularity of Shoushan stones. They first make an outline on the raw stone, then cut and roughly shaped.

The stone is finally turned into a piece of art by refining, polishing and waxing.

The history

It is said that the earliest Shoushan stone originated in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), and a fine early example is the famous Shoushan Stone Pig, which can be seen at the Fujian Art Museum.

During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), there were many works of art made from Shoushan stone, including Buddha statues and incense burners.

Since Buddhism was popular during the period, there were many temples on Shoushan Mountain.

Monks in the temples carved beads, images of Buddha and incense burners from Shoushan stone and gave them as gifts to the visitors.

During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Fuzhou became an important city on the southeastern coast of the country, and this helped the development of Shoushan stone.

The carvings were quite mature by that time, varying from animals to figurines.

In the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, after being carved and polished, Shoushan stones were turned into seals and collected by Chinese scholars who used them to stamp their paintings, calligraphy or documents.

Shoushan stone reached its peak during the Qing Dynasty. There was a huge variety of subjects and figurines, animal statues, seals and even simple household objects.

The superior craftsman-ship and the unique qualities of Shoushan stone are why it is still increasing in value.

"The best of the best" of Shoushan stones are Tianhuang stones, due to its connection with ancient Chinese emperors.

It is said that Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398) of the Ming Dynasty and Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795) of the Qing Dynasty all preferred Tianhuang stone. Perhaps its sparkling yellow colors and royal luster fitted the emperors perfectly.


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