Lot 1310
  • 1310


3,000,000 - 4,000,000 HKD
bidding is closed


the large ruyi-shaped terminal magnificently carved with a ferocious scaly dragon in pursuit of a 'flaming pearl', its body writhing amongst swirling clouds, the arched shaft carved in low relief with three bats swooping amid cloud swirls billowing and dispersing, the reverse similarly carved with two bats to form the wufu, the end pierced for threading a tassel, the stone of a pure even white tone with small russet inclusions cleverly utilised to enhance the carving

Catalogue Note

Ruyi sceptres of this generous size are rarely made out of jade, given the scarcity of larger boulders, and are more commonly found carved in wood or cast from metal. The present sceptre is also exceptional for its high quality carving and the fine polish of the material. The carving of the dragon and clouds is highly auspicious and symbolize high rank and power. Hence a sceptre of this design and quality would have been commissioned by the emperor for special occasions.

Ruyi sceptre is a talisman presented to bestow good fortune. Ruyi in Chinese means 'as you wish'. Its long history dates back to pre-Tang (618-907) times, with its origins connected with Buddhism when it was used as a back-scratcher. It is often seen held by holy figures such as Manjusri, the Buddha of Wisdom. Its shape changed during the latter half of the Tang period when there was a decline in Buddhism. Sceptres became closely associated with Daoism and from that time onwards, the heart-shaped head was often rendered as a longevity fungus (lingzhi). Sceptres also became highly ornamental, lost their practical function and took on any shape that was considered suitable for its use as a secular good luck charm. During the Qing dynasty sceptres became imperial objects. Its auspicious nature combined with the choice of material and high level of craftsmanship made sceptres the perfect imperial gifts. They were  bestowed by the emperor to worthy officers and loyal subjects. Both the Yongzheng and the Qianlong emperors had themselves painted holding ruyi sceptres, but the Qianlong emperor was particularly fond of them and owned an extensive collection.

For a comparable ruyi sceptre, see one from the Palace Museum, Beijing, included in the exhibition The Three Emperors, 1662-1795, The Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2006, cat.no. 282, made of grey-green jade and engraved with dragons among clouds. Compare another with a dragon carved on the handle and the ruyi-shaped head decorated with clouds, illustrated in A Romance with Jade, From the De An Tang Collection, Hong Kong, 2004, pl. 19, sold in these rooms, 1st November 1999, lot 561. A spinach-green ruyi sceptre, the head carved in high relief with a large front-facing scaly dragon was sold in these rooms, 10th April 2006, lot 1529. For further examples of imperial ruyi sceptres see those included in the exhibition Auspicious Ju-I Sceptres of China, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1995.