Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009

Catch the Frontier Spirit in Xinjiang

For millenniums, jade has been a symbol of wealth and virtue in China — a ring of jade was even inserted into the 2008 Beijing Olympics medals. Among the most valuable is the "mutton fat" jade from the Yurungkash River that flows through Hotan, a city in China's far western province of Xinjiang. At more than $120 a gram for high-quality stones, rumor has it some locals have found jade pebbles and immediately crossed the street to exchange them for cars. You can roll up your pant legs and join the residents scouring the stony river bottom. After thousands of years, the jade is a little picked over, but it's a fun excuse to get one's feet wet, overturn some boulders and go digging in the muck. Cost: free.

— By Christopher Shay