PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT ASIAN COLLECTION
supported on a straight foot curving to a rounded body with an everted lip, carved on the exterior with a long Imperial poem 'Yong Hetian Yu Wan' (In Praise of a Khotan Jade Bowl), dated to the yiyou year of the Emperor Qianlong's reign (1765) followed by two seals, the base incised with a four character mark, the stone of even white colour with only occasional inclusions
Elizabeth Parke Firestone Collection.
Christie's New York, 22nd March, 1991, lot 532.
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 26th October 2003, lot 33.
The bowl is inscribed with a poem by the Qianlong's emperor, recorded for the year 1766 in the anthology of Imperial Qianlong poems, Qing Gaozong yu zhi shiwen quanji: Yu zhi shi san ji, juan 53, page 2 under the heading Yong Hetian yu wan ('In praise of a Khotan jade bowl'), and can be translated:
Year after year arrives tribute, offered from Khotan,
Rarely among it a bowl of this quality, like fat, has been sent.
An object perfect enough for performing the great rites in the sacrificial hall,
Suave and infinitely beautiful the phrases, how ornately written!
Not a minute flaw and nothing to mar its excellent quality.
It is satisfactory to the highest degree!
May generations of sons and grandsons forever carefully guard it and use it,
To be prized and esteemed like blood-red swords and great bi discs.
The anthology explains the poem with the following commentary: 'According to the rites of our dynasty, for all congratulations that are being offered in the imperial halls, there is a ritual of bestowing tea, a decree to esteem the tea, and for this ceremony this bowl has been given for imperial use.'
The poem bears the dating Qianlong yiyou jixia yue shangwan yu ti ('Imperial inscription of the first decade of the last month of summer in the year yiyou of the Qianlong period'), which is equivalent to AD 1765, and is followed by two seals.
The same poem is also inscribed on two other jade bowls, one of similar form and size, in the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, included in the Museum's exhibition Empty Vessels, Replenished Minds: The Culture, Practice, and Art of Tea, Taipei, 2002, cat.no.165; the other in the Palace Museum, Beijing, of different proportions, with a higher foot, illustrated in Zhongguo yuqi quanji, vol.6, Shijiazhuang, 1993, pls.54 and 55. It is not recorded in the catalogue whether the Taipei bowl is dated, although it is stated that the poem was written in 1766. The Beijing bowl bears the same date as the present piece, equivalent to 1765, although this would seem to contradict the anthology of Qianlong poems, where the poem is dated to the following year.
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