During the time of the Warring States in the Chinese history, 8th century B.C. in the State of Chu, Bian He discovered a piece of jade in the Jing Mountains in the Province of Hubei. He hastened to present it to Emperor Li of Chu. Unfortunately, the advisers of Emperor Li declared that the piece of jade was not genuine. For his deceit, Emperor Li punished Bian He by amputating his right foot.
When Emperor Li passed away, Emperor Wu of the State of Chu ascended the throne. Again Bian He presented the rough jade stone to him at his palace. His advisers again declared that the piece of jade was a fake. This time, the left foot of Bian He was amputated for trying to deceive the Emperor the second time.
When the third Emperor of Chu ascended the throne, Bian He had himself carried to the gate of the palace and tried to present the rough jade again. The guards refused to let him in. In the deep of the winter, he sat outside the palace gate and cried for 3 days and 3 nights. This came to the attention of Emperor Wen and he ordered that Bian He be presented before him.
When Emperor Wen asked him why he cried for 3 days and nights, Bian He said that it was not because he lost both his foot but that a piece of precious jade had been rejected as fake by the Emperor’s advisors and that a loyal subject had been punished for deceiving the Emperor.
The Emperor thereupon called his best lapidary to cut open the jade stone and to their astonishment the jade turned up to be the most beautiful and purest of all the jade stones that the lapidaries had seen before. The jade stone was then named, “he shi zhi bi ”, in honor of Bian He, literally mean “Family He’s Jade Tablet’.
The Emperor wanted to bestow Bian He a marquis, but he declined the honor.
From this episode came the proverbial expression, “Having eyes but failed to recognize a precious jade of Jing Shan.” The legend of the jade stone did not end here.
This precious piece of jade came into the procession of the State of Zhao. During the turmoil of the Warring States this jade stone was much sought after by almost every States for the next few hundred years. At one stage, a State offered 15 cities in exchange for this piece of jade. At other times States went into fierce battle with each other and lost many men, animals and properties over this jade stone.
Prince Zhao of the State of Qin 255 B.C. offered 15 of his cities in exchange for this precious jade from the State of Zhao. The Emperor of Zhao sent his emissary Lan Xiang Ru with the jade to the State of Qin. After delivering the jade, Lan Xiang Ru discovered that the Prince of Qin had no intention to honor his word of delivering 15 cities to the State of Zhao. Lan then stole the jade and returned it to his Emperor and he was duly rewarded. However, one version said that Lan Xiang Ru threatened to smash the jade in front of Prince of Qin when he discovered that the Prince had no intention to give up his 15 cities. On seeing Lan’s loyalty and bravery to his Emperor, Prince of Qin relented and called off the deal and duly returned the jade intact.
This incident in history has given birth to another idiomatic expression, “The Jade Returns to Zhao.”, meaning a precious thing returns to its owner intact.