Large jade boulders only became available in increased quantities after the Western campaigns of 1759, when the Manchu court gained control over areas of Khotan and Yarkand, in present day Xinjiang. A steady supply of high-quality jade from this jade-rich region was subsequently presented to the Qing court in spring and autumn of every year. The finest specimens were then transformed to aesthetically pleasing objects by artisans working in the Zaobanchu (Palace Workshops), as well as in the jade workshops in Suzhou and Yangzhou.
It is rare to find sceptres of these proportions; related smaller naturalistically carved examples include two sold in our Hong Kong rooms, the first carved from white jade, decorated with two smaller lingzhi and a bat on the lingzhi-form terminal and additional lingzhi fungus and leaves on the shaft, attributed to the Qianlong period, sold 19th May 1982, lot 388, and the other carved from celadon and russet jade, rendered with a stylised dragon on the head and two chi-dragons on the elongated handle, 17th May 1977, lot 312; a yellow jade version carved with entwined branches of lingzhi fungus on the curved shaft, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 2nd October 1991, lot 1459; and a celadon jade example, carved with a cluster of lingzhi fungus on the shaft, attributed to the 19th century, in the Avery Brundage collection and now in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, illustrated in René-Yvon Lefebvre d’Argencé, Chinese Jades in the Avery Brundage Collection, Tokyo, 1977, pl. LXXIX.
While the ruyi (meaning ‘as you wish’) sceptre is already a highly auspicious object favoured for its form, the carefully chosen motifs on the present piece further emphasise its propitiousness. The bats, together with peaches and lingzhi fungus collectively form the rebus ‘May your heart be filled with intelligence when blessings arrive’ (fuzhi xinling).
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