The naturalistic rendering of this piece captures the aesthetic ideals adopted by literati from the Song dynasty (960-1279) onward. Irregularities in nature such as the strange patterns on a bamboo root and its diagonal nodes were deemed beautiful representation of nature's unpredictability and were thus not only appreciated in their original form but were also replicated in other media, including jade. Vases of this type were used in scholar's studios where they were not merely utilitarian vessels but also served as a means of escape from the regulated court life, and a source of reflections and inspiration through their subject matter. Bamboo was often likened to the ideal scholar; it grows straight, it bends but does not break and is considered a humble tree. The russet inclusions of the stone of the present piece recall the story of Emperor Yao, one of the three legendary emperors of the third millennium BC, and his two daughters, whose tears are said to have marked the skin of the bamboo trees that grew over their father's tomb.
Vases of this type and of such large size are rare; compare a smaller vase carved as a single section of bamboo, sold at Christie's New York, 30th March 2005, lot 112; one in the form of a bamboo and pine trunk, but also with a phoenix, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum. Jade, vol. 8, Qing Dynasty, Beijing, 2011, pl. 181, together with another carved as a pine trunk with bamboo, plum and pine branches, pl. 179; and a fourth vase from the collection of the Countess of Halifax, illustrated in Robert Kleiner, Chinese Jades from the Collection of Alan and Simone Hartman, Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 117.
For a Ming dynasty vessel in the form of bamboo, see one also with a chilong, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Zhongguo meishu quanji. Yuqi [Complete collection of Chinese art. Jade ware], vol. 9, Beijing, 1991, pl. 291; and another, described as a cup, also from the Qing court collection and still in Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Jadeware (II), Hong Kong, 1995, pl. 199.
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