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The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

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What does the jade pendant symbolize in The Joy Luck Club?

Quick answer:

The jade pendant symbolizes both Jing-mei's relationship with her mother and her Chinese heritage.

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The jade pendant comes to symbolize both Jing-mei's relationship with her mother and her Chinese heritage. As such, its meaning evolves over time.

The jade pendant is first given to Jing-mei by her mother, Suyuan, in the chapter titled "Best Quality." Suyuan calls the pendant "life's importance." Jing-mei initially dislikes the pendant and keeps it stuffed away in a box with no intention of ever wearing it. She claims it is not a piece of jewelry she would have picked out for herself and that it's too large and garish for her taste. This is reflective of her estrangement from her mother, whom she sees as overly critical and demanding, as well as Jing-mei's distance from Chinese culture. However, this soon changes.

After her mother dies, Jing-mei begins to wear the pendant all the time, wondering what the carvings on the item mean. She does not ask her aunts for an interpretation, because she knows they will all give her different answers and not necessarily the one her mother might have intended for her. By this time, the necklace becomes a symbol of a mother's love for her daughter, as well as a reminder of what Jing-mei has lost after Suyuan's death, when it is too late to ever fully know what she felt "life's importance" to be.

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