Bringing out the value of rock: Lu Feng Jade Workshop
By Cheryl Robbins
A visit to the National Museum of Prehistory in Taiwan's southeastern Taitung County will reveal that some of Taiwan's prehistoric peoples created exquisite ornaments, as well as tools and other daily use items, from jade more than 3,000 years ago.
This jade was collected from what is today Fengtian Village in Shoufeng Township of Hualien County, and became known as Taiwan jade. Jade is a general term that includes both jadeite and nephrite, which have distinctly different mineral compositions, but can be difficult to distinguish with the naked eye. In Hualien, it is actually nephrite that is found, so sometimes it is also called Taiwan nephrite.
It was not until the mid to late 20th century that Taiwan jade began to be intensely mined. Between 1962 and 1986, more than 11,000 metric tons were mined, accounting for 60% of the global nephrite production. It may come as a surprise that Taiwan nephrite was once famous worldwide.
During that time, Fengtian flourished with numerous jade artisans moving into the area. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before this industry experienced decline with a significant drop in production beginning in 1980. Nowadays, most of the jade workshops have closed. However, the Lu Feng Jade Workshop remains, having transformed itself from a jade production center into a tourist destination.
Nearby Baibao Creek was once a major source of Taiwan jade. It was fairly easy to find raw jade here, even up to about a decade ago. However, much of that source has dried up, requiring jade "hunters" to go farther up into the mountains to find this increasingly elusive rock. A documentary on jade hunting is played inside the workshop.
From its exterior, raw jade looks like an ordinary rock, but once cut open its beautiful green hues are revealed.
Some tourists still like to try their luck in hunting raw Taiwan jade along Baibao Creek. But, a better guarantee of taking Taiwan jade home with you is processing your own jade pendant or ornament. This workshop offers a DIY experience for NT$450 per person.
This experience can begin with cutting pieces of raw jade, then designing and forming a shape.
However, most visitors opt to choose a pre-made shape, such as the outline of Taiwan, heart, circle or rectangle. In addition to deciding the shape, Taiwan jade comes in a number of shades, from light and bright to dark and almost black.
Once you have made your choice, it is time for some coarse grinding. Workers teach the proper way of holding your jade piece to avoid your fingers touching the rapidly rotating sanding discs.
The next step is fine grinding, and this is usually where one of the workshop professionals will help out, to ensure that all of the surfaces are evenly ground. This is followed by polishing. Once this is done, your jade piece is finished. From here, you can have it transformed into a necklace or hanging ornament with Chinese knot chain.
For smaller groups, the time to complete this DIY project is around 30 minutes. Allow more time for larger groups, or if the workshop is busy. Reservations are highly recommended even for individuals and small groups.
The interior of the workshop is functional, with rows of workstations and various equipment such as saws and sanders. It is nondescript except for the jade inlay stools for workers to sit on.
Next to the workshop is a well-lit showroom featuring displays of works produced in-house. These include jewelry and accessories, as well as statues from small to large.
Today, although this part of Hualien's history has faded, it remains fascinating. A visit to the Lu Feng Jade Workshop is a truly unique Taiwan experience.
Tel: (038) 652323 or 0933-798-666