A SUPERB AND RARE SPINACH-GREEN JADE RUYI SCEPTRE INLAID WITH WHITE JADE MARK AND PERIOD OF JIAQING
The sceptre itself, and the carved motifs on this particular ruyi sceptre are rich in symbolism. The ruyi sceptre is a talisman presented to bestow good fortune. The origins of the sceptre are connected with Buddhism and is thought to have developed from back-scratchers used by monks and holy figures. Later it was adapted by Daoists who introduced the heart-shaped head rendered as a lingzhi (longevity fungus). The original function of the sceptre was lost by then and since the object had no practical purpose it could take any form deemed suitable to express well wishing. It was during Yongzheng's reign that the auspicious tradition of the ruyi (literally 'as you wish') was revived. He commissioned the making of sceptres in various materials and even had his portrait painted depicting him holding a wooden sceptre. This portrait, titled The Yongzheng Emperor Admiring Flowers, is in the Palace Museum, Beijing, and was included in the exhibition China. The Three Emperors, the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2006, cat.no. 272. Sceptres became an imperial object and were presented to the Emperor or members of the Imperial family and high officials as auspicious gifts on occasions such as birthdays and promotions.
It is extremely rare to find jade sceptres inlaid with jade plaques of a different colour, although a black jade sceptre, the head and the tip inlaid with light celadon jade plaques, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in Zhongguo yuqi quanji, vol. 6, Shijiazhuang, 1993, pl. 177. More common are sceptres with the handle made of dark wood such as zitan and the ruyi-shaped head, the bulbous section and the tip inlaid with a jade; for example see a zitan sceptre inlaid with white jade plaques carved with the sanduo motif, sold in these rooms, 27th April 2003, lot 8; and another related example similarly published in Masterpieces of Chinese Ju-I Scepters in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1974, pl. 18.
The present sceptre is carved to convey many auspicious emblems. The sprig of peaches is a reference to longevity and immortality, the citron and pomegranate together convey the wish for many sons to pass the first degree examination (jinshi), and the three fruits together represent the 'Three Abundaces (sanduo)' which are blessings, long life and many sons.