Ruyi sceptres are highly auspicious objects favoured for their shape and ornamentation, which represent the propitious expression ‘as you wish’. Their origin remains a matter of speculation, with the popular belief being that their shape evolved from back-scratchers commonly made in bamboo or bone. However, their function may more likely have derived from hu tablets, items of authority and social rank held in the hands of officials in ancient China. From the Song dynasty (960-1279), sceptres became closely associated with Daoism, and their heart-shaped head was often rendered as a lingzhi, the longevity fungus. By the Ming period (1368-1644), they were often presented as gifts among the official-gentry class, while under the Qing (1644-1911), starting from the Yongzheng reign (1722-1735), they became imperial objects that were bestowed by the emperor to his worthy officers and loyal subjects as rewards, and conversely made ideal tribute gifts to the emperors. Both the Yongzheng and the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795) had themselves painted holding ruyi sceptres, and the latter was particularly fond of them and owned an extensive collection.
Two large ruyi sceptres carved with a similar auspicious motif of bats and shou character were sold in our New York rooms, one, 11th March 1975, lot 56, and the other, 25th October 1975, lot 17; another, from the collection of His Highness Maharaja Sir Padma Shumshere Jung Bahadur Rana, was sold in our London rooms, 15th May 2013, lot 57; and two were sold at Christie’s New York, the first, 23rd/24th September 1988, lot 244, and the second, 1st June 1990, lot 369. Compare also smaller sceptres of this type, such as one in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Museum’s exhibition Masterpieces of Chinese Ju-I Scepters in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1974, cat. no. 4; and another from the De An Tang collection, included in the exhibition A Romance With Jade, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 20.
The motif of a bat (fu), shou (longevity) character and endless knot (panchang) on this pair of sceptres signifies the wish fushou mianchang (‘May you have endless blessings and longevity’).
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale