Saturday, June 8, 2013


Period: Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911).
Date: 18th century.
Medium: Nephrite jade.
Colour: Light yellowish green.
Dimensions: L. 21 cm; H. 14 cm; W. 5.5 cm.

The main theme of the carving is the root of the ginseng plant with lateral roots curling and twisting around it, encompassing a Chinese coin and two small children.  The root is considered to be an aphrodisiac, hence the children incorporated in the design.  The Chinese coin means wealth and prosperity.

I know little personally about ginseng except that it is highly regarded in China as a therapeutic herb.  I found a great article on the web published by Cheryl Dennett, who researched the subject and enjoys sharing her knowledge, so I know she will not mind me using her words.

Ginseng has been used for thousands of years as a natural remedy. But, there have been some beliefs about ginseng that are quite fanciful. Here are some myths and superstitions about the herb ginseng that you may not have heard before now. The root of the ginseng plant is the part that is used. It was used as an omnipotent healer in ancient China. 
It was believed in that country that the herb grew when lightening struck a clear stream. They also believe it is a cure for anything that ails a human. It was used for treating colic in babies and all the way through life to be used to help with the hardships of old age. 

It is believed that ginseng can perform miracles with the human body. It was used to improve every aspect of human life including mental powers, extend the life span, and increasing the libido. And, it is believed to be able to do all of this in the same person at the same time.
A Chinese herbalist named Shen'nong Bencaojing from the first century believed ginseng to be a miracle cure-all, as well. He stated, "Ginseng is a tonic to the five viscera, quieting the animal spirits, stabilizing the soul, preventing fear, expelling the vicious energies, brightening the eye, improving vision and prolonging life." For this reason, it was regularly taken by many emperors of China and their households.

Ginseng was not cheap in ancient China. For many years, it was sold for many times its weight in silver. It is difficult to grow and therefore quite rare, at times.

The ginseng plant only grows to about 12 inches in height. And, it takes 6 to 7 years for the plant to achieve this much growth. In that time, the plant will extract so many minerals that the soil will take about 10 years to recover. So, each time a mature plant is harvested for its roots, another plant can not be cultivated in the same space for a long time. This contributed to the high cost of the herb.
Ginseng was found growing wild in Canada in the eighteenth century. It was exported to China at that time. But, now, North American ginseng is consumed by people of the West in teas and powders. It is still believed to be somewhat of a cure-all.

It is possible to grow ginseng in your back yard. But, it is a long and difficult process. But, it may be worth it if the myths of it being a cure-all are true. So, you might just have found a fountain of youth you can grow in your own home garden.

Period: Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911).
Medium: Nephrite jade.
Colour: Light green with grey-brown.
Dimensions: H. 19 cm; W. 19 cm; D. 5 cm.

Ginseng is an aphrodisiac, bringing children, wealth is expressed by a coin and an ingot, the fungus lingzhi is associated with longevity, and two bats for happiness and good fortune.