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New Zealand jade to speak volumes at Shanghai World Expo
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10:18, August 11, 2009

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For the duration of the Shanghai World Expo in Shanghai next year, an ancient jade vessel and a large and striking greenstone hei tiki will symbolize the many links between New Zealand and China.

Both items, which have been drawn from the collections of New Zealand's Otago and Shanghai museums, are carved from jade -- known as "yu" in China and pounamu in Aotearoa New Zealand. Dunedin and Shanghai are sister cities and there is a special link between the two museums.

Phillip Gibson, the Commissioner-General of the New Zealand pavilion at Shanghai said on Monday that he was delighted that the two outstanding examples of jade carving will be displayed side-by-side at the expo.

"This is something very special. We are extremely grateful to both museums. It will be a real privilege to display these ancient and revered treasures," Gibson said in a media statement.

The two items will be displayed in the VIP area of the New Zealand pavilion for the six months the expo will be open.

The jade cong is a tall vessel, standing 21.6 cm high. Its exterior is square while the inside is circular. It was carved during the period of the Liangzhu culture, the last Neolithic jadeculture of the Yangtze River Delta, which flourished from 3500 BC to 2500 BC.

Jade has long been valued in both Chinese and New Zealand cultures, both for its range of colours and intrinsic beauty, and also for what it represents. In Chinese culture, jade can symbolize virtue and wisdom. In Maori culture, the pounamu hei tiki may symbolize chieftainship and status.

Measuring 16 cm high and 9.6 cm wide, the hei tiki is large and has eyes made from inset paua shell.

Gibson said the Shanghai expo was a "unique opportunity" for New Zealand in China. "We intend to have a distinctive presence, one that the several million visitors who will visit our pavilion will remember," he added.


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