3020
3020
A SUPERBLY CARVED IMPERIAL YELLOW AND RUSSET JADE TWIN BI DISC QING DYNASTY, QIANLONG PERIOD
Estimate
6,000,0008,000,000
LOT SOLD. 9,680,000 HKD
JUMP TO LOT
3020
A SUPERBLY CARVED IMPERIAL YELLOW AND RUSSET JADE TWIN BI DISC QING DYNASTY, QIANLONG PERIOD
Estimate
6,000,0008,000,000
LOT SOLD. 9,680,000 HKD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Emperors’ Playthings – a Connoisseur’s Collection

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Hong Kong

A SUPERBLY CARVED IMPERIAL YELLOW AND RUSSET JADE TWIN BI DISC QING DYNASTY, QIANLONG PERIOD
the large boulder of an attractive warm yellow colour accentuated with russet patches, boldly worked as a pair of link-hinged circular bi discs, each centred with a central aperture set with a turnable reticulated circular plaque, one enclosing a yin-yang symbol within scrollwork, the other similarly decorated with scrollwork bordering a pearl flanked by a pair of angular scrolls, meticulously worked on both sides with dense rows of raised bosses between two beaded edges, the discs hinged by a square rink decorated with spirls and luoshu diagrams of raised dots linking a pair of angular loops in the form of a stylised kui dragon projecting from the sides of the discs, the link detailed in low relief with scrollwork and raised bosses, wood stand
24.1 cm, 9 1/2  in.
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Provenance

Mrs. Christian R. Holmes, New York.
Frank Caro, New York.
Collection of Arthur Sackler (1913-87).
Christie's New York, 18th March 2009, lot 399.

Exhibited

3000 Years of Chinese Jade, New York, 1939, pp. 45 and 88, cat. no. 225.

Catalogue Note

The concept of looking back in order to move forward is deeply rooted in Chinese culture. The Qianlong Emperor clearly took this to heart and was renowned as an avid antique collector and connoisseur. He was known to spend hours admiring archaic bronzes, Song dynasty ceramics and early jades from the imperial collection. The emperor's enthusiasm for antiquity influenced the art of the period. Archaic revival pieces were produced in varying media, the present twin-bi being a prime example. Intricately carved from translucent yellowish stone accentuated by russet inclusions reminiscent of antiquity, it epitomises the archaistic taste and excellent craftsmanship of the Qianlong period.

The design of twin-bi joint with a movable hinge dates back to the late Eastern Zhou dynasty. See an example in the Winthrop Collection dated to the late Eastern Zhou period, illustrated in Max Loehr, Ancient Chinese Jades, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, 1975, p. 342, no. 507. The Winthrop twin-bi is decorated with spirals and two protruding animal-shaped scrolls on the outer edges. A different prototype of smaller size, dating back to the Han dynasty, is from the Qing court collection and is preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei (inventory number: Gu yu 003335). It is carved from white and russet jade with chilong and dragons among clouds. The Han dynasty object has a square hinge ornamented with a mythical mask on one side and the characters yannian (‘longevity’) on the other.

While the archaic jades in the imperial collection might have served as inspirations for the Qing hinged-bi examples, the central turnable plaques appear to be a Qing dynasty innovation, with the yin-yang sign representing cosmology and the fu symbol signifying the righteousness of the emperor. The reverse of the hinge is decorated with raised dots reproducing a rare diagram of luoshu, also known as jiugongtu (‘nine-palace diagram’), jiugonsuan (‘nine-palace calculation’), also known as the “magic square” in the West. The vertical, horizontal and diagonal sums of a magic square are all the same; in this case, they all equal 15. Dating back as far as the Western Han dynasty, luoshu was believed to be bestowed by heaven to a just ruler only and to proclaim his legitimate power. The magic square on the hinge hence serves as a perfect bridge between the cosmos and the virtuous emperor.  

Other recorded examples from the Qing dynasty of this form include a slightly larger twin-bi in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Zhongguo yuqi quanji [The complete collection of Chinese jades], vol. 6: Qing dynasty, Shijiazhuang, 1993, pls. 250-251. One side of the discs is similarly carved with raised bosses, but the reverse is decorated with a dragon and a phoenix amidst flowing clouds, completing the auspicious symbolism of longfeng hebi (‘Complement of dragon and phoenix’). The embedded central turnable plaques are similarly reticulated with yin-yang and fu symbols surrounded by scrolling clouds. The angular loops are also modelled in the form of a pair of kui dragons, yet in a slightly less simplified form when compared to the current piece. Another twin-bi, also preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Jadeware (III), Hong Kong, 1995, pl. 128. It is from the Qing Court collection and is the largest among the three. One side is adorned with a dragon and phoenix among clouds, while the reverse is densely decorated with stylised scrolls. According to the catalogue entry, the discs are linked together by a square hinge similarly detailed in low relief with a mythical animal mask and raised bosses, possibly luoshu. See also a white jade example in the collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle, included in the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1935-36, no. 2327.

Emperors’ Playthings – a Connoisseur’s Collection

|
Hong Kong