The Chinese Rain Flower Stone
A CHINESE folk song says
“exquisite stones can sing you songs if you use your heart and soul to listen”
14th of February 2017 – 26th of February 2017,
My first trip to explore Nanjing and the amazing Chinese Rainflower GEM.
Invited by the Nanjing Rainflower Gem Association.
Kristina V Herreen,
The Networking Diva,
Melbourne Australia, March 2017.
The Rainflower Gem Stones
The Legend of the Chinese Rainflower gem
The origin of the Yuhua Stone also called The Rainflower stone is told through the legend of a Chinese monk named Yunguang who lived during the Nan Dynasty. Yunguang used to travel around the country to deliver sermons. One day, He travelled to Nanjing, there, he sat on the Guanghua Gate for three days, talking about his concept, without eating or drinking. According to the legend, his sincerity moved God deeply, so God rained thousands of colorful flowers from the sky to reward him. When the flowers touched the ground, they turned into the Rainflower Stone.
The stone is known for its beautiful patterns, often imagined to look like animals or flowers.
The Yuhua Stone (Chinese: 雨花石; pinyin: yuhua shi; literally: “rain flower stone”) is a special kind of stone found in Nanjing, China, due to the unique geology of the area. Yuhua/The Rainflower stones, or pebbles, are of sedimentary origin and consist of minerals including quartz and other silicates. They are found in the Yangtze River, polished smooth by the action of water. Colors include red, rose, yellow, green, and white.
The Rainflower Gemstone, a Beloved Stone for 6,000 Years
Collecting Rainflower pebbles is a graceful hobby which has a long history in China. Famous writer, Su Dongpo, and calligrapher, Mi Fu, of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Guo Moruo, a well-known writer of modern times, and Deng Yingchao, late premier Zhou Enlai’s wife, were all pebble collectors.
In China, the appreciation and collection of Rainflower stone dates back over 6,000 years. According to archaeological records, 76 Rainflower stones were unearthed in the Neolithic tombs around the Nanjing area. Among these stones, one has a thin hole, which means it could possibly have been worn with a string. Even after 6,000 years of admiration, these Rainflower stones are rated as excellent by its multitudes of collectors.
During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907 – 960 AD). When the last emperor of the Southern Tang (937 – 975 AD) married the Queen Zhou the Younger, amongst his ten precious betrothal gifts for her there were Rainflower stones. The dowry of the Tang Dynasty Princess Wen Chang also included Rainflower stones. During the Southern Song Dynasty, admiring and collecting such stones had gained favours among the literati. During the reign of Emperor Wan Li of the Ming Dynasty (1573 – 1620 AD), appreciation for Rainflower stones greatly expanded, and it became fashionable to admire and compete over the rarest stones. During this time, the price of such stones surged and stone pickers flocked to stone markets in Nanjing’s Yuhuatai and Fuzimiao areas.
Valuation of the Rainflower stone
Although the Rainflower stone has been treasured so much by its admirers, its valuation is quite different from common ways to valuate gem stones lays in the main importance on the colour, shape, patterns, and appeal of the Rainflower stones. More accurately, the value of a Rainflower stone resides in understanding the meaning given by its admirers.
The resonance between the stones and their collectors continues in the Rainflower stones’ collection circle. Often times, the story is the same: Once found by its “soul mate,” the price of a Rainflower stone picked from discarded rubble could soar to tens of thousands of yuan because of its special pattern, colour, and the meaning that these patterns and colours bear. Once a Rainflower stone is wanted by someone, it’s common that the person would spare no effort to obtain it, even spending extremely high sums.
Perhaps it could be looked at like this: over thousands of years, the reason why there are various definitions and standards of Rainflower stone is that the core value of the stones stems from the collector’s own imagination and appreciation, as well as the resonance between man and nature.
“You need to use a kind of imagination and insight when enjoying, all the Rainflower gems are induvial”.
The purpose of my trip to Nanjing China.
I was invited via Mr Chen Bai Xiong in Melbourne Australia, together with Ms Flora Gu, by the Nanjing Rainflower Association, to visit Nanjing and to give advice on how I can help the Association to promote the Rainflower outside China, to start with Australia. As a professional networker, connecting people with people and business with business, with many resources and large network, the Association was interested to know how I could assist as a business. Ms Gu had organised the Associations First Exhibitions in Melbourne in 2016 so Ms Gu and I was there to work together with professional suggestions and proposal
After a long flight, an if I may say, being very excited to finally visit China, I landed in Nanjing and got picked up by Ms Ge and a few members of the Rainflower Association. As I unfortunally don’t speak any Chinese more that “Nihao” and “Xie Xie”, I didn’t follow the conversation much on the way to the hotel. I was appreciating being pickup at the airport, and I got nice gifts and food given to me, as the day I arrived, was the last day of The Chinese Luna New Year 2017.
At the hotel, we both needed a rest before the welcome dinner later that night, all hosted by The Rainflower Association. Not hard at all, we just got our heads on the pillows and we were both out like a light.
We got picked up by one of the board members and was taken to a great restaurant in the city of Nanjing and we got a great welcome. The whole board was present and I got introduced to each one of them and their positions one by one.
The whole board was very friendly and very passionate about the Rainflower Stone and its beauty. Everyone explained about the food culture of the Nanjing area and the history of the Nanjing Rainflower Association.
I must say that my first night in China, my first dinner in China and my first meeting with the Nanjing Rainflower Gem Association was a great experience and I was really looking forward the next day.
This was great! After breakfast, we were picked up by one of the members from the Association again and we went to the Association’s office, inside a large College. We were invited to be guided on a tour at the just new renovated Rainflower Gem Museum, in the part of the school where the students also can take part of the knowledge in the museum. Today I felt very special to have an interpreter both for the tour in the museum and for my presentation later on. It was an eye opener as I could already see the importance of education to get the Rainflower and the understanding for this Chinese Treasure, to get recognised for what it really is outside Chinas borders.
Before lunch I had the honour to present to the Association and the board what services and experience The Networking Diva has both professionally and what resources that could be in service for the Association, if they wanted to hold another Exhibition in Melbourne or if it was other goals on their agenda that the Association wanted to inform us off? I included the most reliable resources that I had in my network, including Ms Ge, and people that build my business and my professional network.
Some suggestion to help the Association with another Exhibition in Melbourne, would be to use my resources, start at least 8 months ahead with the planning including some market research in Melbourne, financial support like sponsors, invitations, venue, agenda, promotions, accommodations/flights and so on. Plans would start when I will have a budget in place for the whole project, including costs both in China and Australia.
The respond from the board was that they would like to know what the kind of women in Melbourne that would buy the Rainflower Gemstone.? My understanding was that the interest to hold another exhibition in Melbourne 2017 was a priority.
The board of the Association decided they needed to talk within the board and decide and come back to me.
Today was very exciting as we were taken to the place where the legend of The Rainflower started, where the the legend of a Chinese monk Yunguang, got noticed by God and it rained thousands of colorful flowers from the sky to reward him. That’s where we were going today, to the park with the big statue to represent that moment and also to have a look at a public museum of The Rainflower.
This was a new experience for me regarding the way of showing the public the importance of the Rainflower Gem in China. Another big point for me today was that some of the information in the museum was translated in English, which was great for me. But most importantly for the public and for the overseas workers in Nanjing as it has a rich cultural heritage, sizable expat community (international students, teachers, corporate workers, entertainers) and a world-class infrastructure, that all makes it an interesting and profitable place for foreigners to visit and stay in the city every year. China is also getting more tourists so to take advantage of that in the promotion of the Rainflower is in my view an important step for awareness, to market the Rainflower for the Chinese people within China but also to market the Rainflower for foreigners within the Chines borders, with information about the Rainflower translated into English as much as possible.
The support for the Rainflower is good by the Government in Nanjing and on the 5th day we were going to meet the government to introduce our potential ongoing relationship and work over the boarders to promote the Rainflower outside China, in Melbourne Australia. The meeting was good and the moral support for the Rainflower to be promoted and offered to overseas byers was very positive. The the government could see that the relationship between The Rainflower Gem Association and the Association in Melbourne and the professional input from me, Flora and our combine resources would not make a positive impact on the trade of gemstones but also to other professions and industries, all in favour for Nanjing. I believe that The Rainflower and its promotion in Melbourne need the local professions to make it the most effective. Local professionals can be handpicked by the resources in Melbourne, as it needs experience and knowledge, to find the right people and to save time and money.
Another day to meet some more representatives for the government and as usual (I’m getting spoiled) we got picked up again by our nice host for this visit, The Rainflower Gem Association.
The response was good, and the same, the moral support was good and this government officials believed the connection and the work together between the Rainflower Gem Association and me, Flora and our resources in Melbourne and Australia would be good from many aspects. We were invited to a lovely lunch and at the lunch I had a interpreter, which was great as I could follow the conversations a bit more than without an interpreter. I also learned a few Chinese “table manners” witch it’s always nice to know.
After visiting the Government and a nice lunch we took off to the next place.
When I was In Australia I was told, I had to go to the Rainflower Gem Market, and that’s was where we was going now. This market the only one of its kind and the biggest one in the world. All with Rainflower Gems and their trades. Exciting!
Today was not a trading day so we were showed around with not many Rainflower or people around. The market is in a large warehouse type of building with several floors and the Rainflower market had the whole third floor. That floor included manager’s office, filled and empty (waiting to be filled) retail stores and a big space for the market to take place every Saturday morning.
My reaction to this space was great. This will be a hub for the traders to go and to create a community for the Rainflower to be sold, bought and where the collectors and traders have a chance to interact and to discuss the next moves to promote the Rainflower, in China or overseas. My thoughts are that this could be the general meeting place for the members of the Association, a place for networking events, meetings and different functions for the existing members and for potential members and guests. A place for the members to feel a belonging and that they get value for their memberships.
Another exciting day. I find the enthusiasm and knowledge among the board of Association be very strong and smitten. It wants me to find out more about their precious gem and to share it with the world. I strongly believe that education is the key for the Rainflower to be successful outside China (and within of course) as education is the story, the value and the mystic behind the Rainflower. If you can see that you will also find the value of the Rainflower,the more education the more value.
We met another important part of the Government today and the meeting went well. The Association will keep in contact to keep the Government updated with the promotion in Melbourne and in China.
I’m looking forward to this as I find it interesting to learn how the Association is promoting the Rainflower. We went back to the market and to the office and was showed the ways they already have invested in promotion material. It was a beautiful book, brochures and a few small items wearing the Rainflower as well as a website in Chinese. For me this think book was a perfect “Coffee table book “to use in Australia, the hard work and the big cost was already done so to translate it all to English was easy. I think it would be the same with the Association’s website, to create a second one in English, the one to promote the Rainflower outside China.
After lunch, we went to the two mines and to the factory for the Rainflower in Nanjing. It was quite a drive, and today was very cold and windy, and both mines were on top of two big hills, not too far from each other. I enjoyed the ride as I love to take part of the culture, and in in this case, the outside of Nanjing closer to the country. The facts about the mines are that one is in operation and the second one, privately own, is not. The community around the working mine are all living of the mine in many ways (from any of the stones, not necessary a great Rainflower stone) and it keep many families’ dependent on the mine. The Factory of the Rainflower does the hard job finding the valuable gemstones out of the enormous quantities of stones. The factory does as the locals, if no Rainflower Gems are find, they find other ways to use the stones.
Marketing research day today. We took a Taxi to Dr, Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum, in the foothills of Purple Mountains. He was the founder of China, as we see it today, and we are going to this big tourist destination, for both domestic tourists and overseas tourist, to find out if the Rainflower is represented at this location and in that case how. I’m excited because this is history and I love history. I am also excited to see how the Chinese public are reacting to the Rainflower Gem as well as foreigners.
The first thing we notice when arriving was lots of tourist shops and lots of fake Rainflower Gem stones, unfortunally. When asking the shop owners, the answer was they were real Rainflower, even when the price was low, when the stones was in fact fake.
We find two genuine shops with one of them even having a banner outside the shop, of the Rainflower and photo of the Association as well. Asking the staff about their shop, clientele and the real Rainflower vs the fake ones we got the same reactions. People need more education so they will understand the real from the fake. The price could be higher as that will indicate the value of the gem and finally the Rainflower could be recognise as a gem to get more respect among the people in the industry.
We got excited when we a find a sign and bought tickets to a flower exhibition were the Rainflower said to be a part. We went inside but we walked around for a couple of hours without finding it. That was very disappointing as it was advertised on this big board that the Rainflower was inside but ones you went inside there nothing more to see about the Rainflower. We asked many people, including staff, but no one knew anything about the Rainflower.
My conclusion from this very long and great day, is to agree with the Association to create a certificate for the Rainflower Gem. That will create the respect the Rainflower needs among the people in the industry and outside and it will separate the fake from the real and create respect among the public. It will also go up in value and create interest among the higher part of society.
My second conclusion is that it looks to me that the Rainflower had a great opportunity to be exposed, in this huge place of people, but the opportunity was missed as it wasn’t follow through to make sure people could find where to find the Rainflower. This is a very important point as every exposure or promotion cost money and time and if all the effort to get the Rainflower out there, it need to be exposed by as many people as possible and one thing is to make sure people will find it.
Today Flora and I was on a mission, we are going to the city to register our business here in Nanjing. People said it was complicated, and it would take time, what more do I need to say?
We spent the whole day trying to get the right person to help us and when we finally did, and she was really helpful, she printed out a bunch of paper for us to take home and fill in. So much of that day and the time spent, but you learn from every experience.
Today is Market day! I have made a short survey and Flora had it translated to Chinese. We will go around the Rainflower market today to find out what the traders are thinking about customers, prise and a few more things.
We arrive to a buzzing market full of people that are selling and buying Rainflower stones. Some were new in the game and some had been in the game for decades, but all very excited and enthusiastic about the Rainflower. A few things that we find out, were for example, most of the people saw Chinese customers as their majority and few from overseas. Most wanted to take the Rainflower outside China but couldn’t see how that could be done, with so little knowledge about the Rainflower in its own home country China and the majority wanted the price to go up.
My conclusion from this day was that education and education and more education is the main key for the Rainflower to find more and serious interest and investors, from both China and overseas, and also to higher the value of the “Chinese Diamond”.
Time to go on the Bullet Train for an hour and a half to visit the city that is famous for the long streets that is selling and trading only gemstones. Another day for research and to see how the Rainflower stones is doing around all the other gemstones, from China and overseas? We was also going to see if we could find any cutters, as the gemstones need to be cut from the raw stone into jewellery for a the Association’s target of demographics.
A cold day but an experience to travel in 298km/hours and we got there safe and sound. The taxi drop us of and we went into this beautiful arcade full of only gem stone shops and jewellery shops, but no side of any Rainflower anywhere.
We left the arcade and find two streets full of only gem stone shops and dealers and we even found one cutter that was of interest meaning the quality we were looking for. After visiting lots of shops and talking with many shop owners the same comments seemed to come up repeatedly. First, I need to mention we didn’t find one single Rainflower Stone at all, which was disappointing, in all of the shops we were visiting. Asking the staff, the interest for the Rainflower was very moderate, said it doesn’t sell. Another comment was that they might sell the Rainflower stone if it could be recognised as a Gem and not just a stone.
This really confirms the importance of a Certificate for the Rainflower Gem, and how that will chance the “status” of the Rainflower, staring right here in China.
Late into the trip but I’m excited as we will met up with one of the members of the Assosoiation, a member that is one of the few that can call himself a Rainflower Expert. He came to the hotel and gave us some more information and expert advice around the Rainflower stone. I must say that I really enjoyed it and that all information and advice I got through this week now started to make more sense to me. I still believe that if you get education and you have a passion for beautiful pieces the Rainflower is for you, both as pleasure and for an investment.
Last but not least……….
I like to thank all the people in The Rainflower Association, the board members and all the other members and people involved that made this trip and this opportunity real for me and Flora and to the Rainflower Association Melbourne Australia. We are looking forward to work with the Rainflower Association and to offer an equal and beneficial platform for both partners, both financial and morally.
I like to thank all the enthusiastic collectors of the Rainflower that we met and that have shown their hospitality and their friendship to me and my business. I like to thank you all for all the lovely cups of tea we have been drinking ( I love tea), all the beautiful dinners and lunches we have been invited to, all the time and effort that has been put into driving me and Flora around, the lovely time we have been showed factories, businesses and collections and last but not least……all the time everyone have done their very best for me to feel comfortable even though I could not speak any Chinese.
Kristina V Herreen
Melbourne Australia March 2017