What exactly is this stone material? Where do its real life origins come from?
First of all, let's discuss the name for a moment. Again I have to give a shoutout to Switch and his blog where he put a lot of effort into uncovering lots of things lost in translation and one is the name of the stone itself. The direct translation of the Japanese name is "Tao River Green Stone" and that is a very good hint on where to start.
|A Taohe Inkstone from the Gansu Province|
Master Chen told us that Phantom River Stone is very precious and rare.
The real stone is mined from the bottom of the Tao River and in fact very hard to find with it being under water for centuries. They are pricey and valued for their very low water absorbtion wich makes them great for holding ink.
The other important thing that he mentions is that it "can only be found in the Guilin region".
While Master Chen only assumes this it's simply not true. As Switch has already pointed out on his blog there are mulitple rivers with that name in China and they are all far away from Guilin.
The above shown stone is from the Tao River in the Gansu Province wich is a long way up to the northwest. It is in fact almost 2000km from there to Guilin.
|The Stone Pit in Guilin. Possibly the origin of all Phantom River Stone products|
You might already see another discrepancy here. Tao River Green Stone is mined from rivers.
Phantom River Stone on the other hand is carved out of the walls of an underground cave.
Now there is a lot of water running through it and there could very well be a connection to the river origins of the real-life stone. After all the tides of time can shape the land a lot.
However, there is another stone that could act as the real life counterpart to Phantom River Stone wich in some ways is even more fitting than the stuff that the Japanese dub tells us it is.
So let me introduce you to a copper carbonate mineral called malachite.
|A malachite stactice with a rather familiar shape and color|
I think it's clear why I put this on the pedestal that can be found in Shenhua's house for this post's introduction image. It looks very similar to the piece of stone sitting on it in the game, wich is definately from the Stone Pit and therefore must be Phantom River Stone.
Malachite isn't exactly rare. It's not even uncommon and can be found in many places all over the world. It's been known for it's malve like green color for ages and shaped into figures and various other objects aswell as grinded to use its pigments to make a distinctive green paint. It's also common to extract copper from it, since it contains a rather high amount of the metal.
That also gave it use as a means to solder Gold up until the medival times.
|A decorative plate and a statue, both made from polished malachite, each with unique features|
The statue on the other hand is from China and has much less prominent markings, giving it a greater resemblence of the mirror's surface. The outcome naturally depends on how the mineral has grown and how it is cut.
|The famous Terracotta Army in the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang|
It was used in ancient China and residual pieces of it have been found on some of the warriors of the Terracotta Army. These have originally been painted in various colors and it just so happened that they used malachite for the green ones.
The reason I bring this up is that the Terracotta Army and the mausoleum itself are part of quite a lot of Shenmue theories. Many fans have come up with speculations over the years that the mirrors could have a connection to them, that they might be the treasure and that Ryo's journey will eventually lead him there. So much in fact that the army has been shown to come alive in the fan movie "Shenmue III: The Gang Edition".
|The L marker points to a malachite mine|
That makes malachite as the basis of Phantom River Stone much more plausible than Tao River Green Stone, doesn't it? Then again malachite isn't rare or special enough to fit the description.
Were Master Chen's and Oishi's statements and assumptions wrong? Is it Tao River Green Stone? It is malachite? Or does it simply combine traits from both? Tell me what you think!
Thanks to my buddy corvan who brought my attention to this peculiar green stone.