The way the earth has created the variety of natural gemstones in the world is a remarkable part of nature. Holding such stones like quartz, hematite, tigers eye, and amethyst, you’ll often wonder how can nature create such things so beautiful. The old saying “A diamond in the rough” rings true as the beauty is hidden until it can be revealed through a labor and time intensive process.
Baoding Balls in the Rough
In the geology world, plain stones cut from the mines start out as roughs. They might appear as normal looking rocks that you see on the ground. Our solid semi-precious gemstones balls are always made of natural stones that start out as roughs.
Rough gemstones before being carved to baoding balls
Beware of fake stone materials. Many gemstone objects today are made by imitation or synthetic materials. Creative techniques have allowed some materials to mimic the look of natural stones very closely. Many imitation stones are even labeled and called natural by dishonest sellers so you have to be careful.
From the rough gemstones, a saw is used cut the stone into pieces resembling a ball. They start by cutting squares pieces and then cutting off the corners and edges until a round object resembling a dodecahedron is formed. Then the edges are grounded until a ball is formed. It takes a skilled craftsman to make nice round balls.
Outer Beauty is Inner Beauty Made Visible
The next critical step is the polishing phase where the gemstone spheres are put through a multi-step polishing procedure. First, the balls are polished with a coarse polishing material to even out the surface.
Then they are polished repeatedly gradually using finer polishing compounds and materials. This step is most important to reveal the glossy shine in the gemstones.
Every Gemstone Ball is Unique
One characteristic of natural gemstone baoding balls is that no two balls are alike. We often don’t realize when holding a pair of gemstone baoding balls is that you are holding something that took thousands of years to create. Each ball will have its own unique colors, patterns, and appearance. The rocks in the ground are constantly changing from the earth’s movement. Rocks crack under pressure and the cracks are fused with other stones of the same type or another. Molten magma crystallizes into quartz. Minerals and sediment settle and diffuse into the stones. There is a lot going on in the earth’s crust creating the gemstone’s unique appearance of veins, fractures, pits, and banded layers. While writing this, I am reminded of a saying that you are made of flaws and that is what makes you beautiful. That’s very true of things created in nature.
The dragon and phoenix have been symbols used throughout Chinese culture for centuries. They are seen in most events, celebrations, and in surroundings. Dragon and phoenix baoding balls are particularly popular as you’ll see why.
The Chinese Dragon
In Chinese culture, the dragon is a kind mythological animal representing auspiciousness. It symbolizes power, strength, and good luck. Chinese emperors had dragons throughout their kingdom from their robes and beds to their throne. Being associated with the dragon means a person is excellent and outstanding. Therefore, having a child in the year of the dragon was very much desired.
The Chinese dragon is different than other mythological dragons as its body is formed by a combination of other animals. It has the head of a camel, demon eyes, horns of a stag, claws of the eagle, tiger paws, cow ears, beard from a goat, neck from a snake, belly of a clam, scales of a carp, and a tail of a fish.
The Chinese Phoenix
The Chinese phoenix once had a male phoenix (feng) and female phoenix (huang). Overtime, the words were merged (fenghuang) and represented only the female as dragons were predominantly used to represent males. This also symolized the union of yin and yang.
The phoenix represents high virtue and grace. As emperors were adorned with dragons, their empresses and surroundings were decorated with phoenixes. The symbolism of a dragon and phoenix together also represented a blissful marriage. It is common today to see the dragon and phoenix pair together at weddings.
The Chinese Dragon and Phoenix Pearl Folktale
Often you see the dragon depicted with a ball. It is actually a large pearl and there are different interpretations of what the pearl signifies. However, there is a popular folktale which is told as follows:
Long, long ago there was a snow-white Jade Dragon, living in a rock cave on the east bank of the Celestial River. In the great forest across the river lived a beautiful Golden Phoenix.
Leaving their home every morning, the dragon and the phoenix met each other before going their different ways. One flew in the sky, while the other swam in the Celestial River. One day both came to a fairy island. There they found a shining pebble and were fascinated by its beauty.
“Look, how beautiful this pebble is!” Golden Phoenix said to Jade Dragon.
“Let’s carve it into a pearl,” said Jade Dragon.
Golden Phoenix nodded in agreement. Then they started working on it, Jade Dragon using his claws and Golden Phoenix her beak. They carved the pebble day after day, month after month, until they finally made it into a perfect small round ball. In high spirits Golden Phoenix flew to the sacred mountain to gather dewdrops and Jade Dragon carried a lot of clear water from the Celestial River. They sprinkled and washed the ball with dew and water. Gradually the ball turned into a dazzling pearl.
They had become attached to each other and both loved the pearl dearly. Neither wanted to go back to the cave and the forest. So they settled down on the fairy island guarding the pearl.
It was a magic pearl. Wherever it shone, things grew better. Trees became green all the year round, flowers of all seasons bloomed together and the land yielded a richer harvest.
One day the Queen Mother of Heaven left her palace and saw the brilliant rays shed by the pearl. Overwhelmed by the sight, she was eager to acquire it. She sent one of her guards to go in the middle of the night to steal the pearl from Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix while they were fast asleep. When the guard came back with it, the Queen Mother was very pleased. She would not show it to anyone, but immediately hid it in the innermost room of her palace, to reach which one had to pass through nine locked doors.
When Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix woke up in the morning they found the pearl gone. Frantically, they searched high and low for it. Jade Dragon looked into every nook and cranny at the bottom of the Celestial River, while Golden Phoenix combed every inch of the sacred mountain, but in vain. They continued their unhappy search day and night, hoping to recover their treasured pearl.
On the birthday of the Queen Mother, all the gods and goddesses in Heaven came to her palace to offer their congratulations. She prepared a grand feast, entertaining her guests with nectar and celestial peaches, the fruit of immortality. The gods and goddesses all said to her, “May your fortune be as boundless as the East Sea and your life last long like the South Mountain!” The Queen Mother was excited and, on a sudden impulse, declared, “My immortal friends, I want to show you a precious pearl which cannot be found either in Heaven or on earth.”
So she unfastened nine keys from her girdle and unlocked the nine doors one after the other. From the innermost room of her palace she took out the bright pearl, placed it on a golden tray and carried it carefully to the center of the banquet hall. The whole hall was instantly lit by the pearl. The guests were fascinated by its radiance and greatly admired it.
In the meantime, Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix were continuing their fruitless search. Suddenly Golden Phoenix saw its bright light. She called to Jade Dragon, “Look, isn’t that the light from our pearl?”
Jade Dragon stuck his head out of the Celestial River and looked. “Of course! No doubt about it! Let’s go and get it back.”
They flew towards the light, which led them to the palace of the Queen Mother. When they landed there, they found the immortals crowding around the pearl and praising it lavishly. Pushing through the crowd, Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix shouted together, “This is our pearl!”
The Queen Mother was so enraged by their claim that she snapped, “Nonsense! I’m the mother of the Heavenly Emperor. All treasures belong to me!”
Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix were infuriated by her remarks. They protested, “Heaven did not give birth to this pearl, nor was it grown on earth. It was carved and polished by us. It took many years’ hard work.”
Shamed and angry, the Queen Mother clutched the tray tightly while ordering her palace guards to eject Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix. But they fought their way back, determined to snatch the pearl from the Queen Mother. The three struggled over the golden tray with all their might. As the tray shook amidst the tussle, the pearl fell off, rolled to the edge of the stairs and then dropped into the air.
Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix rushed out of the palace, trying to save it from being dashed to pieces. They flew beside the falling pearl, until it slowly landed on earth. When it touched the ground the pearl immediately turned into a clear, green lake. Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix could not bear to part from it, and so they changed themselves into two mountains, remaining for ever by the side of the lake.
Since then Jade Dragon Mountain and Golden Phoenix Mountain have quietly stood beside the West Lake.
Live longer? How can a simple exercise of rotating a couple balls make you live longer? The answer is knowing how to manage the culprit called “stress”.
Stress is the Root of Aging Faster
We all know too much stress is harmful to us. When your body is stressed out, we behave differently and the body changes.
Coping with stress leads to eating more which in turns makes us overweight
Stress causes arteries to harden leading to atherosclerosis
Stress causes wrinkles and gray hair which make you look older
Chronic stress affects sleeping, anxiety, anger, irritability, and a host of other behaviors which are not good for the health
Stress lowers the immune system and can even cause the immune system to attack itself
Stress creates free radicals in our bodies that damage our cells
Not a complete list, but enough to see any of these can lead to a shorter life. People spend billions of dollars on things to control the symptoms of stress like weight, blood pressure, and sleep. However, those issues will always exist without managing the cause.
Exercising with Baoding Balls can Reduce Stress
Ask any doctor and they will all say to exercise to help control stress. But our busy lives doesn’t always have the time. Or you may be a person which strenuous activity is just not possible. The ease of use is one positive feature of using baoding balls. You can use baoding balls almost anywhere and it doesn’t have to be exhausting. Exercise while you watch TV, read, sit at a desk, or wait in traffic. If you enjoy walks for exercise, they can compliment your routine. They are quite easygoing can can add a bit of stress relief to your day.
Baoding Balls Work Well with Relaxation Techniques
We can’t avoid all stressors in our life, but we can combat it. Harvard Medical School wrote that one way to combat stress responses with with relaxation responses. These techniques recommended by Harvard can work well while using baoding balls.
Deep breathing. This technique where you take long, deep, and slow breaths from the belly is simple and effective to relax your self from distracting thoughts. Easy to pair with baoding ball meditation.
Body scanning. While you focus on your breathing, focus on a part of your body and mentally relax any tension. Baoding balls can help you focus on tension in your upper body and also be used to massage other areas.
Guided imagery and mindfulness meditation. Focus your mind on relaxing images and places. Bring your attention to the present with mindful meditation not focusing on past and future concerns. Using baoding balls with chimes can help meditation by giving you something to focus on.
Yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong. Going beyond rhythmic breathing, these relaxation forms involve body movement. Baoding balls are especially popular with tai chi and qigong.
Repetitive prayer. Repeating a short prayer or phrase while you focus on your breathing. Or you can focus on the rhythm of the baoding balls which might be easier.
Reduce Stress and Add Years to Your Life
Life is short and we don’t need stress making it shorter, so why not give baoding balls a try? Clear your thoughts, and free your head of the the stress triggers. That’s why we call them Chinese Stress Balls.
When you look at a baoding ball with elegant designs, you might wonder what kind of artwork this is. It is a technique called cloisonne (pronounced like cloy-son-aye). It is an art method dating as far back as the 14th century in China.
Cloisonne is the technique of creating designs on metal with enclosures of copper wires. These enclosures, called cloisons, are twisted and bent into various shapes which are then softly hammered, glued, and soldered onto the metal. Then the cloisons are filled with an enamel paint, fired, and polished revealing beautiful color.
Cloisonne is a National Treasure of China
It was first imported into China over 700 years ago from ancient Greece and Egypt. The technique was learned and developed during the Ming dynasty. It was a very time consuming and labor intensive processes with many steps so cloisonne items were only owned by the royal family. This raised the value and desirability of cloisonne greatly.
Cloisonne Designs Are All Hand Shaped
Once the metal piece has been prepared, artisans must bend and pinch copper wires into the specified designs. It is a skill that requires years of practice and patience as finishing one piece such as a vase or plate can take two months just for making and applying the copper wires. In modern day China, less people are doing this craft as a profession. Older generation masters are now teaching apprentices only one of the steps such as wire shaping or enamel painting instead of all the steps. Hoping to preserve and pass down the techniques in modern times, this way younger artisans become skilled faster and work more efficiently with others.
Next the copper shapes are dipped in a special glue and then arranged on the metal piece before going to the firing process.
After all the wire shapes are glued onto the piece, it is taken to be heated in a very hot kiln to 800 degrees Celsius. It is a small step, but each step is as important as the others because all other steps depend on the other work being done properly.
Cloisonne is Hand Painted and Polished
Painting each copper wire enclosure is the next step of the cloisonne process. A metal oxide powder is mixed with water to create the enamel paint. With over 3000 colors today, the options are much greater than ancient times and the craftsman has be be skilled at matching colors together. Instead of paint brushes, small tools and droppers and used to dab and fill in the areas with the enamel paint.
The pieces are fired in the kiln again melting the glaze adhering it to the copper wires and metal body. The process is repeated several times as colors and paint can burn or shrink during the firing. After painting is completed, the pieces are taken to be polished. This uses sanding and polishing compounds to smooth out any imperfections in the cloisonne.
After the several rounds of painting and sanding, a cloisonne piece is gold plated on the exposed copper areas. The end piece is a representation of an ancient art and treasure with beauty to last for years.
Cloisonne in the Palm of Your Hand
This technique was adapted in Baoding China for making cloisonne on metal balls. As cloisonne is a national treasure, cloisonne health balls are Baoding’s treasure. After hundreds of years, cloisonne is still be developed. Many cloisonne pieces now use resins and epoxy which imitate the look of cloisonne paint. It’s faster, lower cost, and more durable. As such, most painted baoding balls today use imitation cloisonne. Now you know when you hold a pair of baoding balls in your hand, you are holding something made by hand with hundreds of years of crafting history.
Remember the explosion of fidget spinners into the market? Why were they so popular and do they actually have any usefulness you might have wondered. What we find is that fidgeting helps concentration more than you might have expected. Baoding ball users have known about this phenomenon since ancient times. Baoding balls where the original fidget spinners you could say. Now there are many studies that show keeping your hands busy actually helps the mind with concentration.
ADHD Research Found Fidgeting Improves Focus
John Ratey, M.D. studied the connection of the body to the brain. He found small physical activity such as fidgeting increases levels of neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals play key roles in the brain for focus and attention.
Another researcher, Sydney Zentrall, Ph.D., found a cause of attention deficit is because people get bored at tasks and tune out. Doing something else at the same time helps a person focus at the primary task.
Study Found Stress Balls Improved Learning
In one stress ball study, students were tested and observed before and after giving them stress balls in the classroom. What they found was the number of distractions decreased, attention span increased, and their performance improved. In one of the results, auditory learners performance increased by 15%, visual learners increased by 10%, and kinesthetic learners by 8%. One student with ADHD improved by 27%. Majority of the students agreed their improvements were because of the stress ball use.
Psychological Study Found Dual Tasks Improved Memory
A memory study done by the University of Plymouth tested people to recall names after listening to a recording. The recording was quite dull and the people were conditioned to be in a bored state by making them do another boring task first and then making them think they were about to go home. They found that the people who were listening while doing another task with their hands had 29% better memory recall. It showed that doing something with your hands, can help concentration and memory.
Fidgeting Children Learned More Quickly
Dr Pine of the University of Hertfordshire, studied school children allowing some to fidget while making another group keep their hands still. They discovered that the fidgeting children learned faster and got the correct answer more than the children not allowed to move.
Fidget with Baoding Balls for Better Concentration
Many more studies have similar findings, that the movement of the body affects your concentration and focus.
Being bored dulls the mind and your cognitive ability declines. Baoding balls are a tool to keep you alert. The use of them can keep your brain focused improving your concentration at the tasks you are doing.
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Various topics and information all about baoding balls.