Rare Giant Gemstone Sort of Wasted. Thanks, Religion.

I’m okay with Buddhists, generally. But guys, really? A statue of Buddha (there are a few around, in case you don’t know) was the best the human race could come up with for the largest single piece of jade ever discovered?

… a mammoth boulder of nephrite jade sourced in Northwest British Columbia, Canada. Dubbed the Polar Pride boulder when it was discovered in 2000, gem experts called the 18-ton specimen β€œthe find of the millennium.”

I’ll admit I’m coming up short in figuring out what should have been done with it instead. My best imaginings include a carving of a black bear, or a family of river otters, realized in such a way as to convey an environmental message. But still …

The Polar Pride was split in two and sold for an undisclosed price to an international Buddhist organization headed by the Nepalese monk Lama Zopa Rinpoche. In 2006, the twin blocks were shipped from Vancouver to Thailand, where master craftsmen began their two-year labor of love – freeing the smiling, meditating figure of Buddha from an enormous block of gem-quality jade.

Buddha? That’s it?

To those who argue that Buddhism is not a religion, here’s at least one counter-argument. This bit is pure religion:

Rinpoche said that the statue made from the majestic boulder would illuminate the world and bring peace, happiness and solace and help prevent destruction, including war.

Yeah, I’m sure it’ll do that. Jade statues are known for their mystical, war-preventing powers.

More than that, though, you kinda have to assume the price was in the millions. I have a church a few blocks from my house valued at more than 7 million. I can never pass the thing without thinking of how many college degrees in medicine or environmental science the money would have financed. Ditto for this largest-ever jade Buddha statue.

Presented with a never-before-never-again opportunity, the best humans can come up with, once again, is religion.

Aw, heck.

  • c2t2


    The geologist in me would keep the boulder exactly like it is/was, other than a few flakes chipped off for chemical analysis and thin section. How cool is a giant block of jade? Wildlife sculptures might be acceptable too (I vote for wolves!)

    I could see a fat, happy Buddha made of pure jade, but that thing in the picture? It’s just plain ugly. I mean, really? Ruining an awesomely huge piece of jade to make something hideous?

    A small consolation is that the ‘undisclosed sum’ is now (presumably) in the hands of the Canadian govt. AFAIK that particular institution tends to be less bloodthirsty and more decent than most.

    • felliott

      It’s pure kitsch.

  • Dekker Van Wyk

    “I can never pass the thing without thinking of how many college degrees
    in medicine or environmental science the money would have financed.
    Ditto for this largest-ever jade Buddha statue.”

    I had a similar experience several years ago. The local mega-church decided their old worship complex with a 2500 seat auditorium was too small so they spent (at the exchange rate of the time) more than $10 million to build a monstrous new complex with a 6000 seat auditorium, in a much posher part of town. I am still shocked that I was the only person I knew at the time who openly questioned such obscene conspicuous consumption. Every time I meet a member of that church I ask them how they justify not using that vast fortune to provide for the many, many poverty stricken people in the city. It is always fun watching them rationalize.

  • Mick

    Is that a begging bowl in its hand?

  • Voidhawk

    Reminds me of my visit to Mongolia where a Buddhist monastry is planning to build a statue of Buddha larger than the statue of liberty* whilst inside the grounds of the monastry there are children in rags holding begging bowls


  • Sagrav

    On top of that, it’s kind of a tacky looking statue too. The jade body looks fine, but the head just clashes with it. What a waste.

  • cajaquarius

    A shiny rock whose ultimate value is entirely subjective is carved into a person of old, the value of who’s teachings are entirely subjective. I dunno, seems to fit. I like Geology but the only thing I see with this would be keeping it intact and putting it in a Science Museum – where it would become the most overlooked, under-appreciated attraction to all the kids there to see the cool Tesla Coils. Let’s face it; in the world of science, Chemistry and Physics are the “cool kids” while things like Geology are the “geeks who never get any”. Hard to get upset and this is as someone who actually has a passing like of geology. That said, I do see the author’s point but it seems to me like getting upset at all the money some entertainer is making and how much better the world would be if we gave that money to teachers, the needy, a good cause, etc. It presupposes so many economic and cultural factors fall into place just right that it becomes a pipe dream.

  • axelbeingcivil

    You’re complaining about them carving a stone into a form you don’t particularly identify with. If there’s no scientific value to this particular stone, nothing to be learned from studying it, then I don’t particularly consider whatever form it’s carved into to be more significant than any other.

    If you’re complaining about the money spent, feel free to comment on all such luxury spending, but don’t phrase it as “Thanks a lot, religion!” when your own suggestion for spending millions of dollars is to make a carving of a bear instead of using that money to ensure real bears stay alive.

    I’m not a fan of the excesses of religion either but this is the pot calling the kettle green.

  • TByte

    The point being made by just about everybody on this thread is that their heart is NOT in the right place.
    And also that they have no taste.

    • david

      i don’t agree. they bring it around the world for people to worship/see
      for free. their heart’s in the right place, i find it strange that you
      would say their heart’s not in the right place with this jade when
      people dig up jade and sell it. and “good taste” is subjective

  • puppybone69

    You really should actually see it in person, preferably at the opening ceremonies of one of the visitation events for it, before you judge it. I don’t adhere to any one religion, philosophy, or way of life, and I’m not Asian either, but I have witnessed firsthand the “Jade Buddha for Universal Peace”, and it couldn’t possibly have a more positive effect on more people as anything else. A flying spaghetti monster represents as much to some people as a Buddha does to others, as does a multitude of other forms, including animals and symbols, religious or otherwise, but its form is far less significant than its message. In this case, that would be universal peace, which could certainly have been conveyed just as well by a giant dove, or an olive branch, or a number or other things, but none of those would’ve affected as many people in the same way as the chosen form of Buddha has, which could’ve been represented in a multitude of other forms as well. So it doesn’t really matter what any one person thinks of it as much as it matters what most people think of it, and most people on earth today are some form of Buddhist, which should explain why the chosen form was the most widely recognized Buddha in the world today. Also, the original boulder was 18 tons, and this Buddha doesn’t even weigh half of that. The remainder of the boulder was carved into a multitude of other forms and symbols, religious and otherwise, including animals. So it was hardly “wasted” on any one religion by any one religion. In other words, you really should keep an open mind and do some research on the subjects you criticize before you criticize them and make yourself look like a closed minded ignorant person. That’s not to say that you aren’t entitled to your own opinions, or to voice them publicly any more or less than I or anyone else is, that’s just to say your foot appears to be in your mouth.