Seeking Solace in Stones is a short film composed of two fictional narratives that have been extracted from the memories and anecdotes surrounding jade, a hard gemstone also known as nephrite or jadeite. Commonly worn as jewellery, jade mythology is based on the stone’s ability to retain every wearer’s life force (chi), as well as its power to heal and protect. As there is little explored in this topic in Western academic texts, it felt important for me as someone who grew up with this belief within my family, in a secularist social environment, to dissect my own viewpoint.
The film examines the stone’s significance in the character’s lives – one associates with it spiritually whilst the other has a more consequential relationship, where jade has become their main source of income. The stories never intersect but form a paradigm of beliefs, two people sharing their faith in something magical and intangible yet foundational to their lives.
This piece of work is the product of a year-long research into women from Chinese diaspora communities in London and the role that oral storytelling has had in the creation of jade myths, beliefs and culture, where jade jewellery is commonly treated as sentient protective charms. Through the lens of Haraway’s theory of situated knowledges (1989), lived experiences provide an important and enriched perspective on our understanding of the world, and the process of exploring this topic meant engaging with a section of society that is often shrouded by otherness.
This investigation was able to uncover stories surrounding the sourcing of jade, and its socio-economic toll on those communities involved with the mining or digging of the raw material. Part of film’s dual narrative is based on news articles that were written during the late 2010’s, when the jade rush in Xinjiang (Western China) led the stone’s valuation to surpass the price of gold. This had influenced many of the indigenous Uighur communities in the region to adapt to new livelihoods, and at that time they were yet to feel the full effects from the ethnic riots that took place in the county’s capital city Urumqi.
Juxtaposing this narrative is that of a jade wearer whose strong emotional attachment to their jewellery, have bound with traumatic past experiences to reinforce their faith in the stone’s supernatural powers. It sheds light on the magnitude of this belief in Asian cultures and its part in driving jade’s cycle of demand and hazardous supply chains.
Seeking Solace in Stones is an image story composed of two fictional narratives in Cantonese and Uighur that have been extracted from the memories and testimonies surrounding the jade stone found through my research. The central element of the piece are the two characters being aware of jade stone’s significance in their lives, even though their stories never intersect. They merge to form something new, with their points of overlap being a shared belief in something magical and intangible, yet foundational to how they view the world.
Story & Direction Debbie Poon
Uighur translation and narration Mirshad Ghalip
Cantonese translation and narration Gwyneth Tang
Soundtrack Flora Yin-Wong
Jaded Impressions: Worn Experiences of the Jade Bangle (2019)
This essay navigates the concepts of jade and it’s protective ideas through the lens of Donna Haraway’s theory of situated knowledges. She proposed that new ways of inquiry into subjects were needed to compliment the contemporary histories and sciences prescribed under the name of Western objectivity.
Photograph of a jade bangle belonging to So Wai Yin (my mother), 2019
I developed a method of research where I interviewed my mother about her beliefs around jade using physical prompts, to understand her relationship to her jade bangle, before going on to examine these beliefs and their oral history origins. The culture of jade bangle wearing is embedded with memories from female family members and friends, of the jade snapping or cracking in what could have been fatal accidents, and they are shared between women as jewellery pieces get replaced or passed down generations. These anecdotal incidents transfer into myths over time.
In discussing found experiences of other women in Chinese diaspora who had written about jade and belief, I wanted to create a piece of work that could make use of the stone as a portal to connect with others, who share this ancestry and culture, but also as a way to demystify it from its superstitious stereotype.
Click to read Jaded Impressions