Jade in English and Jade in Chinese (玉 in Chinese, pronounced as Yu) are not the same.

What is jade to a Westerner?

Jade is an ornamental stone. The term jade is applied to two different rocks that are made up of different silicate minerals: Jadeite and Nephrite.

Nephrite jade consists of calcium- and magnesium-rich amphibole mineral actinolite with a chemical formula of : Ca2(FeMg)5(OH)2(Si4O11)2.

What is Jade (玉 in Chinese) to a Chinese?

Jade is the material basis of Chinese unique culture, it is the symbol of beauty, kindness, elegance, dignity, and nobleness. It is often said in Chinese culture that Jade carries the sprits of human and can help a wearer be a better person. When a person wears a Jade for a long time, the sprits from the Jade and the wearer would interact, making the Jade even more lustering, warmer and smoother, and the wearer even healthier and more gracious.

There are more than 500 terms in Chinese that contain the character of Jade (玉), for example: 玉女, 玉手, 玉容, 玉照, 玉音, 玉体, 玉人, 玉容, 玉府, 玉堂, 玉房, 玉楼, 玉兔, 玉宫, 玉衣, 玉帛, 玉冠, 玉食, 玉实, 冰清玉洁, “宁为玉碎, 不为瓦全”, “谦谦君子, 温润如玉”, etc.

  Chinese Jade-culture also deeply influenced Japanese civilization so that even today there are many Japanese words also contain the Chinese character of Jade (玉), such as: 玉音, 玉露, 玉砕, 玉茶, 玉袋, etc.
Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC), the most respectful Chinese thinker and social philosopher, once said: “夫昔者君子比德于玉焉。玉温润而泽,仁也;缜密以栗,知也;廉而不刿,义也;垂直如队,礼也;叩之,其声清越悠长,其中诎然,乐也;瑕不掩瑜,瑜不掩瑕,忠也;孚尹旁达,信也;气如白虹,天也;精神见于山川,地也;圭璋特达,德也;天下莫不贵者,道也。”

  What Confucius said here is that the characters of a person should be like that of Jade: kind, warm, gracious, beautiful, and noble.

After the Confucius's period, the Jade-culture was even deeply rooted in Chinese society.