3204
3204

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT ASIAN COLLECTION

AN EXTREMELY RARE LARGE IMPERIAL WHITE AND RUSSET JADE 'CALENDAR' PLAQUE
YUZHI MARK AND PERIOD OF QIANLONG
Estimate
2,000,0003,000,000
LOT SOLD. 3,240,000 HKD
JUMP TO LOT
3204

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT ASIAN COLLECTION

AN EXTREMELY RARE LARGE IMPERIAL WHITE AND RUSSET JADE 'CALENDAR' PLAQUE
YUZHI MARK AND PERIOD OF QIANLONG
Estimate
2,000,0003,000,000
LOT SOLD. 3,240,000 HKD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Qianlong – Scholar and Calligrapher

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Hong Kong

AN EXTREMELY RARE LARGE IMPERIAL WHITE AND RUSSET JADE 'CALENDAR' PLAQUE
YUZHI MARK AND PERIOD OF QIANLONG
the oval plaque skilfully worked with a central elongated aperture enclosing Yuncai tongzi (Boy of wealth), the figure rendered in openwork and depicted holding a circular ring and a gold nugget, the front side of the plaque decorated in low relief with the Ten Heavenly Stems in seal script encircling the aperture, the reverse incised with the Twelve Earthly Branches in regular script, all surmounted by a crouching demon figure, possibly a garuda, amidst scrolling clouds, above a ferocious scaly dragon emerging from swirling clouds at the base, the sides inscribed with a Qianlong yuzhi mark and an inscription reading Jiazi wannian ('Ten thousand years of the jiazi cyclical year'), the smoothly polished stone of an even white colour with warm russet patches and veining
19.5 cm, 7 5/8  in.
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Provenance

Sotheby's Hong Kong, 26th October 2003, lot 39.

Catalogue Note

This exceptionally rare plaque, of an impressive size measuring almost 20 cm in length, subtly illustrates the Qianlong Emperor’s position as the ‘Son of Heaven’. The Chinese rulers believed they ruled by heavenly mandate and every element of the present piece serves symbolically to affirm Qianlong as Emperor, from references to the lunar system to the dragon at the bottom. In style it is reminiscent of Han dynasty bi discs and its archaistic flavour, achieved in its colour, shape and carving style, is not only in accordance with the Emperor’s taste but also serves to further legitimise his throne. The importance of this piece is indicated by the Qianlong yuzhi ('made to imperial order') mark on the side. No other related example appears to have been published, although according to the Archive of the Qing Imperial Workshop, a white jade wannian jiazi plaque was sent to the court in the 45th year of the Qianlong reign (in accordance with 1780).

Carved in low relief on one side are the Ten Heavenly Stems and incised on the other are the Twelve Earthly Branches (tiangan dizhi). Together these two sets create the Chinese system that is used to count the years, months and days, as well as the two-hour periods (shi) which divides the twenty-four-hour day into twelve periods. In this lunar calendar, each year is assigned one of the Twelve Earthly Branches and an animal from the Chinese zodiac. Each unit in a cycle, whether it represents a year or minute, is assigned one stem and one branch. The Ten Stems and Twelve Branches run concurrently so a whole cycle takes sixty years to complete and for the Stems and Branches to once again coincide. Notably, this full cycle is also known as jiazi, as inscribed on one side of the plaque.

The direct representation of the Chinese lunar calendar in jade is also found on two sets of white jade zodiac figures, one held in the Palace Museum, Beijing, and the other in the National Palace Museum, Taipei. The twelve anthropomorphic figures were stored inside a box known as wannian jiazi he and arranged around a central rectangular jade box carved with the Daoist qian trigram, a symbol of the Qianlong Emperor. According to the Archive of the Imperial workshop, a complete set was made by imperial commission on the 21st day of the 5th month of the 48th year of Qianlong reign (in accordance with 1783), which was placed in Maoqindian (Hall of Merit and Diligence).

Akin to the zodiac figure sets, the present plaque appears to portray the Qianlong Emperor as the Son of Heaven; uniformly established and protected by celestial guardians to bring prosperity to the empire, as suggested by the central figure of Yuncai tongzi. This theme of establishment and protection is further suggested by the demon-like figure at the top of the plaque which may be a garuda, a guardian figure in Tibetan Buddhism. The dragon emerging from waves on the base draws attention to the imperial nature of this piece.

A much smaller white jade plaque, similarly carved with the Ten Heavenly Stems and Twelve Earthly Branches surrounding Yuncai tongzi in the centre, attributed to the Qing dynasty, was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 6th October 2012, lot 18, from the Yidetang collection.

Qianlong – Scholar and Calligrapher

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Hong Kong