Qian Jiuru in ‘Wannian Jiazi he’, Forbidden City, 1992 (5), p. 5, suggests that the creation of this group of objects was to commemorate the milestone victory of the Jinchuan suppression, the most difficult of the Ten Great Campaigns of the Qianlong period. It also embodies the Emperor’s inner literati spirit, as the zodiac theme, according to the poetic inscription on the wannian jiazi, was inspired by the works of talented Chou Yuan (c. 1247-1326), whose Jin Yuan Ji comprised of phrases that deliberately incorporated names of the twelve zodiac animals into individual registers and was recorded in the Yongle Dadian [Yongle Encyclopaedia].
Complete sets of white jade twelve zodiac figures are held in important museums and private collections worldwide; see a set of similar size, from the De An Tang collection, included in the exhibition A Romance with Jade, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 76; and another from the collection of Alan and Simone Hartman, illustrated in Robert Kleiner, Chinese Jades from the Collection of Alan and Simone Hartman, Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 111, and sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28th November 2006, lot 1416. See also a set of similar figures, but smaller in size, from the Qing Court collection and still in Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Jade Ware (III), Hong Kong, 1995, pl. 111; a larger set sold in our New York rooms, 23rd September 1995, lot 256; and a set carved from pale celadon jade, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, accession no. 02.18.730a-I.
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