sang-de-poulet pierre; Ger- Hühnchen-blut stein;
Nor- kylling-blod stein;
CHICKEN-BLOOD STONE (See also CINNABAR entry.)
A. Chicken-blood stone carving -- "Li Tieh Kuai," one of the eight immortals in Taoism (height - 29 cm; weight - 3500 g). (© courtesy of www.discovery.com.tw)
B. Chicken-blood stone square seal (7.5 x 2 x 2 cm; weight - 86 g) that includes several of the colors characteristic of this rock. (© courtesy of www.discovery.com.tw)
C. Chicken-blood stone carving -- "Figurine [height - 9 cm; weight - 142 g] of arhan..." Arhan (Arhat or Lohan) is one of the disciples of Buddha who, upon going through a series of activities requiring rigorous discipline and aesthetic practices, attained the ultimate goal – Nirvana. (© courtesy of www.discovery.com.tw)
DESCRIPTION: This gemrock, the following
description of which is based on reports and illustrations (i.e. I have not even seen any of
it), is a fine-grained rock that consists largely of clay matrix
(dickite and kaolin of the kaolinite-serpentine group), quartz (SiO2),
and cinnabar (HgS); some of it is said also to contain noteworthy
alunite ( KAl3(SO4)2(OH)6
Colors - the so-called chief rock is off-white, yellowish to brownish, or gray (including dark gray, nearly black); the bright red cinnabar-rich zones are described variously as spots, streaks, or stripes or "like blood splashed on the stone in a free pattern." According to Ching Chen (www.discovery.com), "In a chicken blood stone of any size, it always has the basic colors of red, black, white, yellow, green, blue, grey and purple . . . [which] are either in different layers or intermingled . . . may be thick or thin or deep or shallow . . . [and] produce a natural dying [sic] effect." On the basis of descriptions and colors exhibited in photographs of pieces fashioned from the rock, I suspect some of the colors represent alteration products. The texture of the non-cinnabar material, which has been designated "Yie-la stone" and in some descriptions described as a "natural jelly," is described as "compact massive [,which] appears microgranular when observed with microscope." (Wang and Guo, 1989).
H. (values for chief components): cinnabar - 2-2½ ; quartz - 7; clay matrix minerals - 2-2½
S.G. variable, depending upon the proportions of the different components present -- e.g., S.G. of cinnabar is 8.09 whereas that of the clay minerals is 2.5-2.6; figures I have calculated from dimensions and weights recorded for several seals range from 2.6 to 3.5.
Light transmission - subtransparent to opaque
Luster - pearly to subadamantine.
USES: One of the most used gemrocks for fashioning seals; also diverse carvings including decorative fans -- "It is wonderful and surprising that the color, patterns, or something like people, animals, flowers, birds, fishes and even the landscape, pavilion and abstract pictures are really like life" (www.cnarts.net); less frequently fashioned as beads and stones incorporated into jewelry such as bracelets.
OCCURRENCES: Along bedding planes and in fracture zones of altered rhyolites and ignimbrites (i.e., welded tuffs) that have undergone dickitization and kaolinitization.
NOTEWORTHY LOCALITIES: Changhua (Tsang-Hwa), Lian area, Zhejiang (Tzer-Jiang) Province (=Chekiang District), China. -- The following is said by Ching Chen (www.discovery.com) about this locality: "The only chicken blood stone vein in the world is located in Yu-Yan mountain in Tsang-Hwa County of Tzer-Jiang Province, China. . . . [where] Tsang-Hwa chicken blood stone vein has been exploited since Ming dynasty, six hundred years ago. Now the vein has been exhausted. The Chinese government already closed the mine officially in 1985." However, Wang and Guo (1989) also record Balinyouqi, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region as a source.
REMARKS: The name, chicken-blood stone, is based on the fact that cinnabar, as it occurs in this material, closely resembles chicken blood.
!!! Beware: The constituent cinnabar -- mercury sulfide (HgS) -- has a toxicity that fashioners and owners of chicken-blood stone should always take into account. See CINNABAR entry.
The overall softness of this rock along with its attractive appearance has made it highly desired for carving. Indeed, it can be carved rather easily even with a pocket knife.
Especially the red parts of chicken-blood stone have been found to change their appearance when exposed to sunlight for relatively long periods (www.treasure-center.com); this is so because cinnabar tends to darken rather markedly when exposed for any prolonged period to the ultraviolet rays in sunlight. Consequently, it would seem only prudent to keep pieces carved from chicken-blood stone where there is no chance of such exposure.
Chicken-blood stone is one of the most cherished gemrocks in China. -- Wang and Guo (1989) refer to it as "a superior gem material and one of the noblest of all native ornamental stones." According to Ching Chen (www.discovery.com), "From senior collectors and the literature we know that Tsang-Hwa chicken blood stone used to be the national treasure kept by the Imperial House. Only officials above the fourth rank were allowed to have it. All the rough chicken blood stone from the production site was sent to the Imperial Palace to be processed by the Imperial sculptors. Chicken blood stone pieces were the gifts that the emperor bestowed on high ranking officials on special occasions." Indeed, it is widely recognized that seals and carvings fashioned from chicken-blood stone, such as those currently on display in the Imperial Palace in Beijing, were cherished as "national treasures" by emperors of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1731-1795) dynasties.
In China, a longstanding belief is that the cinnabar of chicken-blood stone protects its owner from evil and brings good luck and blessings. Consequently, some people carry chicken-blood stone "lucky charms," and, especially in the past, Chinese often gave seals or something else fashioned from chicken-blood stone as, for example, cherished birthday and wedding gifts.
"Chicken blood stone . . . became . . . popular to collect in Japan . . . [after] 1972 when Premier Chou En--Lai presented a pair of chicken blood stone seals to the Japanese Prime Minister [Tanaka Kakuei] to celebrate the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between China and Japan. [--] This event made the Japanese realize that Tsang-Hwa chicken blood stone was not only China's national treasure but also a treasure throughout the world. From then on, the Japanese began to praise chicken blood stone as 'the last treasure on earth'." (Ching Chen, as recorded on www.discovery.com)
In some quarters, nomenclature problems exist with regard to chicken-blood stone: For example, It has been referred to incorrectly as a variety of agalmatolite (see Appendix A), cinnabar and pagoda stone (see note in AGATE entry). The last mentioned example is especially unfortunate because the term "pagoda stone," although applied variously to both agates and fossiliferous limestones, is based on patterns that resemble pagodas, which apparently have not been observed in chicken-blood stone.
Special attention is directed to two books that contain extraordinarily fine photographs of seals, carvings, and other items fashioned from Chicken-blood stone. See Chen, Jing (1993) and Huang, Kuang-Nan (1996), full references for which are given in Appendix C.
SIMULANTS: Despite the following
statement "Recently, we have found lots of fake Chicken Blood
Stones within the market" (www.treasure-center.com), I have found only one record that possibly relates to
the identities of any of the alluded-to "fake . . . Stones":
"Massive cinnabar in limestone is a very desirable carving material
among the Chinese" (Keller and Wang, 1986). - [ If this rock has been
so-represented -- i.e., as
representing or a substitute for chicken-blood stone, the fact that
limestone effervesces with dilute HCl would suffice to distinguish this
rock from chicken-blood stone.].
Although it is unclear, apparently "rosalinda" and "myrickite" (see Appendix A) could be, and may have been used as simulants and even called Chicken Bloodstone in the market place (Hyršl, 2012).
REFERENCES: Cheng, et al.,1986. Wang & Guo, 1989.
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R. V. Dietrich © 2012
Revised: April 16, 2012
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