Complete sets are extremely rare, although one with related design in Xianruo Temple, located in the garden of Cining Gong (Palace of Compassion and Tranquility) where the empress and consorts conducted Buddhist religious ceremonies is illustrated in situ in Qingdai gongting shenghuo, Hong Kong, 1985, p. 299, pl. 467; and another set was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 11th April 2008, lot 2826.
Candlesticks of this type, but with variations in the minor design bands, include a pair sold in our London rooms, 5th June 1981, lot 73; another pair sold at Christie’s New York, 30th November 1984, lot 557; and a single piece sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 9th November 2011, lot 331.
A universal monarch at the centre of the world, the Qianlong Emperor lent his support to a variety of religious institutions, including Daoist and Buddhist temples, as well as Manchu shamanic shrines and the buildings and altars that housed the so-called ‘State Religion’, the worship of impersonal Heaven. Garniture sets were used at official sites, such as the Temple of Ancestors in the Forbidden City, and at non-official halls including the Shouhuangdian located in Jinshin, the park that lay immediately north of the Shenwu gate within the grounds of the Imperial Palace. While state ancestral halls feature Nurgaci (the dynastic founder) as the primary object of workshop, halls such as the Shouhuangdian functioned as the imperial equivalent of a family ancestral hall for the descendants of Qianlong where his grandfather, the Kangxi Emperor, was the primary object of workshop. Non-state halls of worship were also used for domestic ritual performance conducted by imperial family members.
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