Lot 541
  • 541


100,000 - 150,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Porcelain
  • Height 10 1/4  in., 26 cm
the globular body supported on a tall splayed foot and surmounted by a conical neck with a waisted join leading to the broad and deep disc-shaped mouth and tapered lip, the body exuberantly painted with the 'Eight Buddhist Emblems' interspersed with scrolling lotus blossoms against a lavender-blue ground all between a band of upright lappets below and a band of pendent pink ruyi above, the blue ground and floral scrolls repeated at the mouth, stylized polychrome petals wrapping the conical neck, the lip and join on either side of the mouth with alternating blue and pink dots against a lemon-yellow ground, the blue-ground foot with bands of upright lappets and petals, gilt bands dividing each section and applied to the edges of the lip and foot, the base glazed blue and with a gilt six-character seal mark

Catalogue Note

Although vases of this type are well known, it is exceptionally rare to find examples with this attractive lavender-blue ground. In both form and design, these ritual vases are steeped in Tibetan Buddhist practice and teachings yet also represent the opulent Sino-Tibetan aesthetic developed to suit the Qianlong emperor’s eclectic taste. A devout follower and patron of Tibetan Buddhism, Qianlong commissioned the building of numerous halls and shrines dedicated to the recitation of Buddhist scriptures, including the Baoxiang lou (Tower of Precious Forms), which was built around 1771 for his mother, Empress Xiaosheng. These were lavishly furnished with Buddhist sculptures and altar wares which were made to the highest standards, such as the present vase.

The form of this vase is modeled after Tibetan metal prototypes known as bumpa. During rituals these vessels were used to hold sacred flowers or peacock feathers as they are believed to have the power to cleanse the heart of practitioners from evil. An emblem of Amitayus, these vases were also used during longevity rituals whereby the vase was filled with water that could be consecrated and transformed into an elixir of immortality by practitioners who evoked the deity’s name. Bronze bumpa often appear on contemporary paintings and thangkas where they are covered in colorful brocaded cloths, which may have inspired the luxurious bajixiang ('Eight Buddhist Emblem') and lotus scroll design on this vase.

The vivid enameling applied to the neck of the present vase captures a pastel variation of the 'Five Principle Colors of Buddhism' (known as panchavarna in Sanskrit, meaning 'The Five Pure Lights'), comprised of blue, white, red, green and yellow. Each color was symbolic of a virtue and a character and could be represented in different tones but always as a set of five. Buddhist motifs are traditionally colourful due to the notion of the ‘rainbow body’; a concept in Tibetan Buddhism when everything begins to transform into pure light, which is the highest state attainable in the realm of samsara before the ‘clear light’ of Nirvana.

Qianlong mark and period vases of this form are more commonly found decorated with other color grounds; a yellow-ground example with the reign mark in iron red is illustrated in Lu Minghua, Qingdai Yongzheng-Xuantong guanyao ciqi [Qing dynasty official wares from the Yongzheng to the Xuantong reigns], Shanghai, 2014, pl. 3-154; another, published in Julian Thompson, The Alan Chuang Collection of Chinese Porcelain, Hong Kong, 2009, pl. 112, was sold twice in our Hong Kong rooms, and again at Christie’s Hong Kong, 29th May 2007, lot 1507; a green-ground vase, in the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, is illustrated in Qian Zhenzong, Qingdai ciqi shangjian [Appreciation of Qing dynasty porcelain], Shanghai, 1994, pl. 148; and a ruby-ground version, lacking the drum-shaped section below the mouth, was published in Treasures of Official Porcelain. Official Kiln Porcelain of the Qing Dynasty Collected by Hangzhou Tu Huo Zhai Museum of Antique Ceramics, Hangzhou, 2011, p. 133. Vases of this type were also produced in other color schemes, such as a gilt-decorated example in the Palace Museum, Beijing, included in the exhibition The Life of Emperor Qianlong, Museu de Arte de Macau, Macao, 2002, pp. 308 and 309.