Folk Object — Jade Necklace


Informant (W) is a 78 y/o Chinese woman living in China.

Main Piece:

(Interview is translated from Mandarin Chinese.)

I: Can you tell me more about the jade necklace you gave me when I was younger?

W: Oh, I remember that. Your cousin had one, so you were begging me to get one for you too.

I: Why do people wear it? Is there something special about the jade?

W: Jade is a very important stone in China. If you wear a piece of jade, it sucks out all of the impurities in your body (吸毒, lit. “sucking poison”). When you see a dark spot in your piece of jade, that’s the negative energy it took.

I: So it’s stored in that piece of jade forever?

W: Yes, that’s what the jade does.


This conversation took place over a phone call.


The jade necklace can be loosely defined as a folk object. The existence of a folk object is defined by how it’s used, which changes over time, and are generally created from natural materials. With its staggering popularity, something like a jade necklace is probably mass-produced and distributed, and most likely has a variety of uses, from purely aesthetic reasons to religious ones (many jade necklaces are Buddha carvings or have Chinese zodiac signs). However, the shape of the jade is generally a round circle or donut shape—folk objects usually are slow to change in its form. In what my informant tells me, this particular instance of a jade necklace also uses contagion magic. By contact with the skin, the jade is able to suck out impurities within the body (specifically what this entails, my informant did not specify). This act gives the jade a sacred purpose and a usage other than aesthetics.