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The Jade Road

A study of the jade trade in ancient China


  • Markus Palo

Summary, in English

The term the 'Jade Road' is very hard to find in English literature yet the Chinese term '玉石之路' exists within Chinese archaeological and cultural articles (and even in business and travel magazines) as a prehistory to the 'Silk Road'. Why has this term, 'Jade Road', escaped translation and explanation in English material and what facts and theories exist about it? This thesis has found that there exists evidence of a jade trade during the Neolithic Period (12,000 – 2200 BCE) and the Bronze Age (2200 – 500 BCE) in China well before silk was transported along the 'Silk Road' (starting from about the Han Dynasty, 汉朝 206 BCE – 220 CE) . There have been cultural exchange between Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures during these periods shown on the similarity of the jade artefacts and the jade from Hetian in present day Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region that has been found throughout China, called Hetian Jade (和田玉). Chinese archaeologists, gemmologists and anthropologists use the term 'Jade Road' to describe the routes used by traders during the Neolithic Period and Bronze Age from the west of present day China to the central and east parts, and some of them say it went as far west from Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region as Egypt and the Mediterranean. In English literature this jade trade is in some material only briefly mentioned as a prehistory to the 'Silk Road'. Most Chinese scholars who use this term suggest that the 'Jade Road' was the forerunner to the 'Silk Road' and that jade was the goods that paved the way for exchange between the East and the West. There is no evidence of the frequency nor the scale of this trade however evidence that jade has been
traded since Neolithic times across the entire landmass of present day China and at least as far as western Asia exist and are well documented in Chinese archaeological articles.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • History and Archaeology
  • Languages and Literatures


  • jade road
  • ancient china
  • silk road
  • neolithic period
  • bronze age
  • nephrite
  • jadeite
  • 玉石之路
  • 古代中国
  • 丝绸之路
  • 新石器时代
  • 青铜时代
  • 软玉
  • 硬玉


  • Michael Schoenhals