The present rock crystal vase is most impressive for its large size and bold carving. It is comparable with a similarly outstanding rock crystal flower container, from the Qing Court collection and still in Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Treasures of Imperial Court, Hong Kong, 2004, pl. 23. See also a large glass vessel, made in the Palace Workshop, in the form of a Buddha's Hand Citron and a pomegranate resting on lingzhi fungus, a design that appears to be closely related to the present vase, illustrated in Zhongguo jingying poli falanqi quanji, vol. 4, Shijiazhuang, 2004, pl. 258.
Rock crystal is first mentioned in Chinese texts of the Wei and Tang dynasties as a product of 'water turned into stone' and 'a beautiful material' imported from Persia. Hence the Chinese name shuijing which can be translated as 'the brilliance of water'. Historically it has been popular with the literati who associated clear crystal with 'plain beauty' and had various scholars objects, such as brushpots, made of this material. However, the majority of large rock chrystal carvings are of the 18th century with pieces made during the Qianlong period most outstanding for their quality of carving. See a large rock crystal brushpot bearing the mark Qianlong yuyong (for Imperial use by the Qianlong emperor), illustrated in Paul Moss, The Literati Mode: Chinese Scholar Paintings, Calligraphy and Desk Objects, London, 1986.
Stands for decorative pieces in the imperial collection were also made in the Palace by artists in the various carving workshops. The skilfully carved ivory stand for this vase not only enhances the beauty of the vessel but is an exquisite ivory carving in its own right.
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