266
266
A SET OF FIVE RARE IMPERIAL INSCRIBED JADE BOOK LEAVES DATED KANGXI 57TH YEAR, CORRESPONDING TO 1718
Estimate
200,000300,000
JUMP TO LOT
266
A SET OF FIVE RARE IMPERIAL INSCRIBED JADE BOOK LEAVES DATED KANGXI 57TH YEAR, CORRESPONDING TO 1718
Estimate
200,000300,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Chinese Art

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New York

A SET OF FIVE RARE IMPERIAL INSCRIBED JADE BOOK LEAVES DATED KANGXI 57TH YEAR, CORRESPONDING TO 1718
each of flat rectangular form, the front and cover leaves boldly incised and gilt with a pair of ascending and descending dragons in pursuit of a 'flaming pearl' among clouds, two leaves inscribed with commemorating texts in Chinese, one leaf inscribed in Manchu script (5)
Length 11 in., 28 cm; Width 4 3/4  in., 12 cm
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Provenance

Sotheby's Paris, 16th December 2010, lot 264.

Catalogue Note

Skilfully fashioned into uniform thin tablets and meticulously inscribed, these jade panels are dated to the xinyou day of the third month of the wuxu year of Kangxi (corresponding to 12th April 1718) and commemorate the conferring of a posthumous title on Empress Xiaohui Zhang (1641-1717) who was Dowager Empress for almost the entire reign of the Kangxi emperor (1662-1722). Empress Xiaohui Zhang was of the Mongol Borjigit clan. The inscription praises her diligent service and kindness to her great-aunt, the Superior Empress Dowager, her exemplary management of the inner palace household, and her role in contributing to the harmony that prevailed there all to her, before finally concluding with praise for her great skill as a calligrapher.

In 1653 the Shunzhi emperor demoted his first empress, her aunt, and promoted Xiaohui Zhang as imperial consort, and one year later officially made her his second empress. When he died in 1661, Xiaohui Zhang was made dowager empress, although she was not the Kangxi emperor's biological mother, Empress Xiaokang (1640-1663). Additionally, Empress Dowager Zhaosheng (1613-1688), mother of the Shunzhi emperor as well as the great-aunt of Empress Xiaohui Zhang, was then given the title Taihuang Taihou ('Superior Empress Dowager').

Although one panel, which probably contained eight columns of text, is missing along with the last panel, the entire inscription is preserved in the Qing shilu ('Veritable Records of the Qing'), which was collated, edited and published in a modern edition by the Beijing Zhonghua shuju in 1987. These sources reveal that while she is usually identified by her short title, Empress Xiaohui Zhang ('Filial and Kind Designated Empress'), her entire title is given at the very end of the Chinese inscription: 'Filial and Kind, Considerate and Exemplary, Dignified and Sincere, Compassionate and Gentle, Respectful and Content, Pure in Virtuous Conduct, Submissive to the Will of Heaven, Worthy Assistant to the Son of Heaven Designated Empress'.  It is notable that zhang, the last character in the title just before ‘empress’ (huanghou), translated as ‘designated’, indicates that she deserved to have her tablet placed in the Imperial Ancestral Hall.  

Further examples of jade books with commemorative inscriptions include two dated to 1648, documenting the posthumous title given by the Shunzhi emperor to his grandmother, one in the Qing Court Collection, and still in Beijing, published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Jadeware (III), Hong Kong, 1995, pl. 3, and the other from the Hartman Collection, sold at Christie’s London, 12th December 1988, lot 241, and again in these rooms, 15th September 2010, lot 210. See also a jade book dated to 1736 with a eulogy dedicated to the Qianlong emperor's grandmother, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, illustrated in Treasures of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1979, pl. 27; and another dated to 1778 commemorating the death of the Qianlong emperor's mother, Xiaosheng, sold at Christie's New York, 3rd June 1993, lot 56.

Important Chinese Art

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New York