2

5

3

4

Lot 10. The Prince Yunli Jade Boulder. An Imperially-inscribed white and russet jade 'birthday celebration' boulder, First half of the 18th century, two-character seal mark Chun He. Estimate HK$5,000,000 - 8,000,000 (US$640,000 - 1,000,000). Sold for HK$ 7,900,000 (€851,797). Photo: Bonhams.

The attractive even-toned white stone retaining its characteristic russet skin and crisply carved in various relief with one boy proferring a box supporting a bat to another boy floating on a thick cloud and holding aloft a double gourd issuing swirling smoke amidst further bats in flight, the boys divided by a waterfall and stream and surrounded by pine, wutong and rocks, the reverse with a pine tree issuing from craggy rocks carved with an Imperial inscription, box. 11.3cm (4½in) wide (2).

ProvenanceA Scottish private collection; according to the family acquired in China between 1901 and 1906, and thence by descent
An important Asian private collection

NoteThe jade boulder is carved with the characters:

如南山之壽,以介景福。

Which may be translated as:

'Resembling the longevity of Southern Mountain so thou will have bright fortune.'

The line is taken from the ancient Classic of Poetry, Shijing, part of the Confucian Canon. The 'Southern Mountain' refers to the auspicious mountain south of the ancient capital of Xian.

The jade is carved in an oval cartouche enclosing the two characters Chunhe 春和 or 'Peaceful Spring'. The seal indicates that the inscription was composed by Prince Yunli 允禮 (originally named Yinli 胤禮 1697-1738), the seventeenth son of the Kangxi Emperor. Prince Yunli was a fine scholar and patron of the arts, and compiled an anthology of his own poetry entitled Chunhe Tang Ji 春和堂集 or 'The Collected Works of the Master of Peaceful Spring Hall'. He was also known as the Master of Chunhe 春和主人 whose studio names were also recorded as Chunhe Tang 春和堂 or Jingyuan Zhai 靜遠齋, see Qingren shiming biecheng zihao suoyin, (Guide to the Studio Names, Alternate Names, Personal Names and Sobriquets of Qing Era People), Shanghai, 2001, no.802. 

6

Prince Yunli (1697-1738); image courtesy of the Freer and Sackler Galleries

The jade is carved in an oval cartouche enclosing the two characters Chunhe 春和 or 'Peaceful Spring'. The seal indicates that the inscription was composed by Prince Yunli 允禮 (originally named Yinli 胤禮 1697-1738), the seventeenth son of the Kangxi Emperor. Prince Yunli was a fine scholar and patron of the arts, and compiled an anthology of his own poetry entitled Chunhe Tang Ji 春和堂集 or 'The Collected Works of the Master of Peaceful Spring Hall'. He was also known as the Master of Chunhe 春和主人 whose studio names were also recorded as Chunhe Tang 春和堂 or Jingyuan Zhai 靜遠齋, see Qingren shiming biecheng zihao suoyin, (Guide to the Studio Names, Alternate Names, Personal Names and Sobriquets of Qing Era People), Shanghai, 2001, no.802.

In April 1723, when his elder half-brother Prince Yinzhen became the Yongzheng Emperor, Prince Yunli was granted the title of Prince Guo of the Second Rank 果郡王. In 1725 he was awarded a higher allowance for his services and was promoted to Prince Guo of the First Rank 果親王. In 1727 Prince Yunli was further appointed as the Grand Secretariat of the Households Department or Hubu, which oversaw household census and determined the associated taxation. In 1734, Prince Yunli who was known as a patron and scholar of Tibetan Buddhism and the arts, escorted the Dalai Lama back to Tibet from his visit to the Qing Court, inspecting military forces along the way. The strong personal relationship and trust between Prince Yunli and his brother the Yongzheng Emperor was clearly demonstrated when the Yongzheng Emperor fell gravely ill; he entrusted Prince Yunli with raising and supporting the heir-apparent Prince Hongli, the future Qianlong Emperor. 

During the Qianlong Emperor's reign, Prince Yunli was appointed to the Grand Council, the most influential policy-making body in the Qing Empire, empowering and investing him with great authority. His proposal to reduce taxation in the Jiangnan region was highly regarded and approved by the emperor. When Prince Yunli died in 1738, the Qianlong Emperor ordered an additional memorial ceremony and a posthumous name was given to honour his lifetime accomplishments.

The present jade boulder is exquisitely carved enabling the beholder to first appreciate the luminous quality of the white jade stone highlighted against the contrast of the russet-toned deftly carved mountains. A second look observes the graduated mountains geometrically yet naturally carved. The eye is then free to roam the scene of the fluttering bats released from the box held by a boy ascending towards the cloud wisps emerging from the double gourd held by his companion amidst the tranquil landscape. This scene may depict the Hehe Erxian, also known as the Immortals of Harmony and Union. The bats represent auspicious wishes and good fortune and therefore this scene would have been complemented by the carved poetry meant to bestow upon the owner good wishes and fortune. 

Very similar workmanship, particularly evident in the distinct sharp contours and manner of execution of the mountains, can be seen on an Imperially-inscribed pale green and russet jade boulder, Qing dynasty, from the Qing Court Collection, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Jadeware II, Shanghai, 2008, no.52; compare also the jagged rockwork on the Qing Court painting from the Qing Court Collection in the Palace Museum, Beijing, depicting the Yongzheng Emperor in various guises Yinzhen at Play: Attacking a Tiger with a Trident, illustrated in Harmony and Integrity: The Yongzheng Emperor and His Times, Taipei, 2009, p.308, pl.II-111. See also the similar style of carving of the wutong leaves on a white and russet jade boulder, Qing dynasty, imperially inscribed by the Qianlong Emperor, illustrated in Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum: Jade 8 Qing Dynasty, Beijing, 2010, no.120.

7

An Imperially-inscribed pale green and russet jade boulder, Qing dynasty, from the Qing Court Collection© The Palace Museum, Beijing

8

A white and russet jade boulder, Qing dynasty, imperially inscribed by the Qianlong Emperor. © The Palace Museum, Beijing

9

Yinzhen at Play: Attacking a Tiger with a Trident, Yongzheng period (1723—35). © The Palace Museum, Beijing.

For another work carved with mark of Chunhe see a pebble-shaped jade snuff bottle, illustrated by S.Sargent, ed., Franz Art: Chinese Art from the Hedda and Lutz Franz Collection – Jade, Hong Kong, 2010, p.164; see also an Yixing teapot, 18th century, made for Yunli with the studio mark of Jingyuan Zhai, illustrated in Purple Clay Wares: The K.S. Lo Collection, Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, Hong Kong, 2002, p.80, no.32. See also V.L.Uspensky, Prince Yunli (1697-1738): Manchu Statesman and Tibetan Buddhist, Tokyo, 1997; and for his poetry anthology see Chun he tang shi ji春和堂詩集 (The Collected Poems of the Master of Peaceful Spring Hall), Shanghai, 2009.

Bonhams. FINE CHINESE CERAMICS AND WORKS OF ART, 28 Nov 2017, 14:00 HKT, HONG KONG, ADMIRALTY