Finely fashioned from a large boulder, this sceptre highlights the exceptional quality of the even hues of the stone in its simple form and by restricting the carved areas of decoration to the ruyi-head and shaft end. Large boulders only became available after 1759, when the Qing military forces defeated the Dzungar Khanate and secured control over jade rich regions of Khotan and Yarkand in present day Xinjiang. A bi-annual tributary system was subsequently established between the Qing government and the four sub-Khanates of Xinjiang, securing the Imperial Workshops a steady supply of high-quality jade.
Compare a larger pale celadon jade sceptre carved with similar auspicious design on the ruyi terminal comprising of peaches, a bat and a wan emblem, but rendered with C-scrolls on the end of the shaft, from the collection of Sherry and Lawrence Philips, sold at Christie’s New York, 24th March 2004, lot 53; and a smaller white jade sceptre, the shaft decorated with branches of pomegranate and finger-citron, attributed to the Qianlong period, sold in our London rooms, 21st June 1976, lot 279. Further sceptres carved in low-relief include a smaller white jade example carved with two bats flanking a central shou character on the terminal, the shaft decorated with butterfly and floral bloom, sold in these rooms, 5th November 1996, lot 1085; and another carved with with a bat suspending a ribbon-tied qing and two peaches on the head, and a further bat on the shaft end, sold in our New York rooms, 25th February 1983, lot 287.
The motifs have been carefully selected for their auspicious connotations. The bat and the peaches carved on the head, combined with the wan symbol and the beribboned qing together form the rebus wan fu qing shou, meaning ‘may myriad birthday blessings be bestowed’. The peaches also represent immortality, said to have grown in the orchard of the Queen Mother of the West (Xiwangmu).