Because jade is a high-priced gemstone―good-quality jade can cost as much as USD 2 million
per ton―extreme care is required even from the quarrying stage. Once the jade is obtained, it is
necessary to swathe it with yellow earth to prevent it from forming cracks, and cover it with a thick
straw bag to protect it from the sun’s direct rays and any dramatic changes in temperature. For a jade
carver, precise calculation is an essential factor even from the initial stage of designing with
drawings. Because carving demands extreme precision, the artisan needs to be equipped with
sophisticated carving skills as well as superior aesthetic receptivity.

Knowing that a production of a good jade piece begins with obtaining fine precious stone, Jang
always prepares to travel anywhere in the world where quality jade is found. In fact, he has been
quarrying the gemstone from a mine in Russia since 2003. Once the stone is obtained, he remains
with it night and day, absorbing himself into the creation of ideas about the pieces he will make with
it. He says that it is a passionate moment, like the instant he met his lover with whom he fell in love at
first sight. He feels that as if he is in heaven, freely crossing over the boundary between reality and
the world of fantasy until finally a definite figure appears in his mind. He sees the stone as a dragon,
a vase, or an incense burner. Only then, only after finding a form that perfectly matches the nature of
the stone, can he create a perfect work of art that does not permit even the hint of error or flaw.

The superb techniques excelling all others in Jang’s works are the 'yeouiju technique’ and the ‘chain technique.’
The yeouiju technique is one used for carving a dragon with yeouiju, or a magic pearl, in its mouth. The craftsman
does not put the pearl into the dragon’s mouth after the completion of the mouth, but carves the pearl and the mouth
at the same time with the same jade block until the pearl begins to roll around inside the orifice with a pair of canine
teeth preventing the pearl from rolling out. The chain method is used to carve, again with a single block of jade, a set
of links that is flexible while connected together. Art critics say that the exquisiteness and precision of the above two
carving skills excels those made by Chinese carvers, who originally developed the skills, praising Jang as a “divine
master artist.”

Jang’s exceptional carving skills and techniques have been widely
acknowledged, even outside Korea. With exhibitions held in five Southeast
Asian countries in 1983 and in Texas and New York, U.S.A., in 2001, he
earned an international reputation as a master jade carver with awe-inspiring
talent and ability. Two works, “Double Chain” and “A Dragon with a Magic
Pearl in its Mouth,” attracted particular attention from both general art lovers
and critics, who were fascinated by the skill that made the pearl roll around
within the dragon’s mouth when the wind blew.

Currently, Jang Ju-won is devoting all his energy into two pieces: “Korea
Fantasy” and “Five Hundred Arhats.” Having worked on them for more than 20
years now, these are mega-size works of more than two meters in both length
and width. The “Korea Fantasy,” in particular, is a piece carved from a three-ton
jade block revealing the panoramic of Korea’s history for five millennia,
from the age of Dangun, the founder of Korea, to the present.

His incredible works of art created by carving a hard jade block with an obsessive, artistic spirit widens viewers’
eyes because of his exquisite and precise skills. Moving closer to the pieces, however, they can smell a pleasant,
subdued fragrance. The phenomenal efforts and creative tenacity he has concentrated into the jade for his entire life
exudes this scent, which lingers in the air and is breathed in by the spectators, becoming a part of them.

View the master's works