“The Stone of Heaven: The Secret History of Imperial Green Jade
by Adrian Levy, Cathy Scott-Clark
This book is the history of Imperial Green Jade but really it’s a history of greed. This was the favoured type of jade that comes from Burma/Myanmar. It starts off as a history book of Chinese emperors and their obsession for the stone, but near the end turns into a travelogue of the authors going to the present day mines in Myanmar.
The story of jade is filled with so many twists and turns, it’s hard to accurately describe this book. It’s a long book, and filled with minutiae about famous people who collected jade, or were jade traders. It’s about drug lords extracting the stones. It’s about famous people who owned jade. I almost gave up halfway through when they kept talking about Hutton and other rich people who were addicted to buying jade jewellery but I’m glad I didn’t because I would’ve missed the story of how they visited the mines.
An overview on the path you will follow if you read this book:
- Emperor and his obsession with jade
- British trying to get the jade in Myanmar
- Empress Cixi’s jade collection, Boxer rebellion, summer palace burned
- Shanghai rich people buying and selling looted Qing jade artifacts
- War in China, Nationalists trading weapons for jade
- Civil war in Burma - military takes control of the mines
- Authors travel to the mines in present day
Some funny parts of the novel are about Chiang Kai-Shek. He was a major player in the illicit jade buying and selling game during the civil war in china with Mao Zedong. We learn he was called ‘peanut’ head by villiagers in his hometown and by General Stillwell. Also he had the cute moniker, Mr. Cash-my-cheque as he was known to never turn down money or weapons from America.
The story of jade is a long one that is closely tied to Chinese culture and history. The authors did a good job of showing this thread although at times it was hard to see where they were going with some of their side quests. This was a fascinating book, but quite a niche one as well. I think you would have to be very, very interested in Chinese history and enjoy long history books to enjoy this book.
Rating: ★★★★ Book #86 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge
#Books #BookReview #history #jade #China #AdrianLevy #CathyScottClark”,