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Details & Cataloguing

Important Chinese Art

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Hong Kong

A RARE TURQUOISE-GROUND FAMILLE-ROSE 'HUI MOUNTAIN RETREAT' TEAPOT AND COVER
SEAL MARK AND PERIOD OF QIANLONG
the finely potted globular body on one side with a short angled upright spout, opposed by an elegant ear-shaped loop handle, brightly painted to the exterior with a gilt-bordered rectangular panel enclosing a garden scene of a scholar seated at a low stone table admiring a scroll, an aged pine and rocky outcrop concealing part of a pavilion in the background, with an attendant serving tea while another brews it on a stove set amid rocks in the foreground, a bridge leading over a canal to a walled garden on one side, the reverse with a similarly shaped panel framing an imperial poem by the Qianlong Emperor, Jihuiquan peng zhulu ge (Brewing Tea by Hui Spring), followed by two seals reading Qian and Long, all against a pale turquoise ground with a dense pencilled pattern of curled feathery leaves, with swooping and ascending bats grasping beribboned wan symbols amid leafy foliate scrolls, the stepped cover similarly decorated around a slightly raised yellow-ground floral disc supporting a spherical knop painted with finely shaded lotus flower on a gilt ground, the interior and base enamelled in turquoise, inscribed with a six-character seal mark in underglaze blue reserved in a white square
17.4 cm, 6 7/8  in.
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Provenance

An old Scottish private collection, since the 19th century.
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 27th October 1992, lot 156.
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 2nd May 2000, lot 646.

Literature

Sotheby's Hong Kong – Twenty Years, 1973-1993, Hong Kong, 1993, pl. 305.
Sotheby's Thirty Years in Hong Kong: 1973-2003, Hong Kong, 2003, pl. 349.
Julian Thompson, The Alan Chuang Collection of Chinese Porcelain, Hong Kong, 2009, pl. 113.

Catalogue Note

BREWING TEA BY THE HUI SPRING
A FAMILLE-ROSE TEAPOT FOR THE QIANLONG EMPEROR

The Qianlong Emperor was a fervent tea lover and is said to have composed more than two hundred poems on the subject of tea. He expressed his appreciation of tea culture in his writings and many of his poems make reference to the plucking, processing and preparing of tea. The Chonghua Dian (Hall of Double Glory) within the Forbidden City was the palace hall where the Emperor’s annual tea parties were held in the first lunar month, and where he invited his Grand Secretaries, ministers and members of the Imperial Academy to accompany him in drinking tea, writing poetry and pursuing other leisurely interests.

The idyllic outdoor scene on this vessel depicts a scholar seated in his garden at a stone table before an open handscroll, an attendant serving him tea brewed by a second assistant some distance away. Inscribed on the reverse is an imperial poem, entitled Jihuiquan peng zhulu ge (Brewing Tea by Hui Spring), which is included in Qing Gaozong yuzhi shiwen quan ji [Anthology of imperial Qianlong poems], Yuzhi shi er ji [Imperial poems, vol. 2], juan 24, p. 4 (fig. 1).

The painting and the poem celebrate the Qianlong Emperor’s fondness for the Hui Spring in Wuxi, Jiangsu province and the legendary bamboo brazier which was used to prepare tea using water from the spring, both of which had been treasured by scholars for hundreds of years. The pure natural spring water from the Hui Mountain, appreciated by scholars since the Tang dynasty (618-907), was recorded in Chajing [The Classic of Tea] by Lu Yu (733-804), the highly respected ‘Sage of Tea’, who ranked it second among all natural springs. During the Ming dynasty, a well-known monk named Pu Zhen, zi Xinghai from the Hui Mountain Temple, commissioned artisans from Huzhou, Zhejiang province, to make a bamboo brazier, and served his guests tea made with water from the Hui Spring boiled using this unique brazier. Over many years it became a tradition for scholars to gather on the Hui Mountain to liberate their literati spirit through drinking tea, writing poems, or painting landscapes. The paintings and writings left by these scholars were later compiled into several scrolls and were given the name Zhulu tuyong [Compendium of the ‘Bamboo Brazier’]. These scrolls, together with the bamboo brazier, were regarded as the two treasures of the Hui Mountain Temple. During the Qing dynasty, the Qianlong Emperor learned about the Hui Spring and the treasures of the Hui Mountain and visited during his Southern Inspection Tours. He was served tea prepared on the bamboo brazier whilst admiring the handscrolls, and later composed the poem inscribed on this teapot to commemorate his visit. Upon returning from the south, the Emperor ordered a replica of the Hui Mountain retreat to be built in Yuquan Mountain near the Forbidden City and instructed his workshops to produce a copy of the original Ming dynasty bamboo brazier with an imperial poem (dated 1751) inscribed to the base. This now resides in the Palace Museum, Beijing.

The original Compendium of the Bamboo Brazier was destroyed by fire in 1779. The following year the Qianlong Emperor commanded court painters to repaint the scrolls under his supervision. Upon completion, the Emperor gave the new Compendium of the Bamboo Brazier back to the Hui Mountain Temple and ordered that it be stored in a special room. In addition, he had the paintings and poems transferred onto a series of steles, also to be kept in the temple. In 1860 the Hui Mountain Temple was destroyed by fire, resulting in the loss of all the scrolls. Fortunately, some of the stele survived, including one engraved with a painting by the Qianlong Emperor, Zhulu zhucha tu [Brewing Tea in a Retreat]. The remaining stele are now preserved inside the Hui Park in Wuxi City. Given the Qianlong Emperor’s attachment to the Hui Mountain retreat, it seems likely that the scholar depicted in the painting on the present teapot is intended to represent the Emperor himself.  

A closely related example from the collection of Mrs Murrell R. Werth was sold in our New York rooms, 13th/14th September 2016, lot 261 (fig. 2). A third teapot of this type, but with the outdoor pavilion scene and inscription panels surrounded by feathery iron-red scrolls and scattered flower heads, from the Qing Court collection and still in Beijing, is published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Porcelains with Cloisonné Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 108. A distinguishing element of these three teapots is the knop, which is decorated on all three examples with a lotus in iron red and gilding.

Another Qianlong imperial teapot of this form, painted with figures drinking tea in a garden pavilion on one side and an imperial poem on the other, the two panels against a flower scroll-decorated yellow ground that continues onto the knop of the cover, sold in these rooms, 31st October 1974, lot 316, and subsequently in the K.S. Lo collection, is illustrated in Hugh Moss, By Imperial Command, Hong Kong, 1976, pl. 86. Moss notes that the distinctive nature and quality of this teapot suggest that it was clearly made for the court and possibly for the Emperor’s own use illustrating the shift of imperial patronage from the Palace workshops in Beijing to the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen during the reign of Qianlong. He further notes that it may have been inspired by the artistic genius of Tang Ying (1682-1756), Superintendent of the Imperial Kilns at Jingdezhen (see p. 85). Compare also a teapot of domed form with flared neck, similarly decorated with a tea preparation scene and inscription on the reverse against a yellow ground adorned with flower scrolls, from the collection of Hong and David Cho, sold in our New York rooms, 22nd March 2000, lot 135, and again in these rooms, 9th October 2007, lot 1212.

Important Chinese Art

|
Hong Kong