Lot 110
  • 110


3,000,000 - 4,000,000 HKD
3,750,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • 34.2 cm, 13 3/8  in.
of octagonal section and generous proportions, the substantial and attractive white boulder superbly worked with an ovoid body sweeping up to an angled shoulder and surmounted by a waisted neck and gallered rim, all supported on a splayed galleried foot, the waisted neck flanked by a pair of phoenix handles, each rendered as the mythical bird with outstretched wings and suspending a loose ring, each of the main sides of the facetted body decorated with a large shou character flanked by a pair of kui dragons with angular scrollwork bodies below a musical chime, below upright archaistic plantain blades on the neck, the rim and foot further incised with key-fret motifs repeated at the rim of the gently domed cover of corresponding form, the sloping sides of the cover bordered with pendent petals, all surmounted by an openwork finial skilfully rendered in openwork as a pair of lingzhi blooms issuing from a floral bloom, the lustrous stone of an even white colour with faint icy and grey inclusions, wood stand


Sotheby's London, 1st July 1969, lot 58.

Catalogue Note

Striking for its grand size and particularly translucent white tone, this vase is a statement of the wealth and glory of the Qianlong period. Boulders of such size were rarely used for making vessels due to the natural irregularities in the stone, thus were more often reserved for scenic miniature mountainscapes. The quality of the present boulder however has led to its formation into a vase with the craftsman skilfully producing a piece that centres on its broad proportions and luminous colour through the elongated octagonal form and delicate low-relief carving. Jade carving reached its zenith during the Qianlong reign as a direct result of the Emperor’s personal passion for jade objects and access to unprecedented quantities of the raw material. Prior to the mid-Qianlong period, jade boulders only reached Beijing in small quantities, as the jade-rich territories of Khotan and Yarkand in present-day Xinjiang were occupied by the Dzungars, who blocked the supply of jade to mainland China. The Qianlong Emperor gained access to these areas in the 24th year of his reign (1760), following the Qing army’s defeat of the Dzungar Khanate. Beginning in the following year, tribute jades were sent to Beijing in spring and autumn and a formal system of biannual tribute soon developed. The stable supply of large quantities of raw jade led to the production of increasingly larger display objects, including vases such as the present.

The Qianlong Emperor advocated that jade carvers should take inspiration from the past, and many of the most impressive jade vessels made in this period combined elements readily associable with China’s revered Bronze Age with portents of good fortune. This vase is no exception: its shape represents an adaptation of the archaic bronze fanghu shape, and its motif features geometric C-scroll and kui dragons reminiscent of bronze wares from the Eastern Zhou dynasty (770-256 BC). The motif was cleverly combined with a shou (longevity) character suspended from a musical chime, and three lingzhi on the cover that add an auspicious message.

White jade vases of octagonal shape and of such large size are rare. A smaller octagonal vase, similarly carved with a shou character on the body, was sold in these rooms, 22nd May 1979, lot 274; and one lacking the cover and carved with two fish suspended from a bat and a stone chime, in the De An Tang collection, was included in the exhibition A Romance with Jade, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 57.

The motif on this piece suggests it was designed as a birthday gift; stone chimes (qing) are homophonous with the word to celebrate (qing), while the shou character and the lingzhi on the cover conveys the wish for a long and happy life.