Lot 2624. A white jade 'bajixiang' ruyi sceptre, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 43.6 cm, 17 1/8 in. Estimate 3,000,000 — 4,000,000 HKD. Lot Sold 3,620,000 HKD. Courtesy Sotheby's 2010.
the ruyi-shaped terminal finely carved with a stylised shou character roundel and encircled by four beribboned bajixiang emblems, the long, elegant arched shaft carved in low-relief with four emblems completing the bajixiang above a bat, the bottom embellished with a scrolling geometric design, with a similar design carved on the reverse, the end pierced for threading a tassel, the stone of a pure even white tone.
Provenance: Collection of Edward T. Chow.
Exhibited: Post-Archaic Chinese Jades from Private Collections, S. Marchant and Son Ltd., London, 2000, cat. no. 87.
Note: Ruyi sceptres of this generous size are rarely made out of jade, given the scarcity of larger boulders, and are commonly found carved in wood or cast from metal. The present sceptre is also exceptional for its fine quality carving and even tone, which is accentuated by the brilliant polish of the material. The auspcious bajixiang symbolise longevity and are believed to bring peace and blessings. Hence, a sceptre of this design and quality would have been commissioned by the emperor for special occasions.
Ruyi in Chinese means 'as you wish', and the ruyi sceptre is a talisman presented to bestow good fortune. Its long history dates back to pre-Tang (618-907) times, with its origins connected with Buddhism when it was used as a back-scratcher. With the decline of Buddhism during the latter half of the Tang period, sceptres became closely associated with Daoism and from that time onwards, the heart-shaped head was often rendered as a longevity fungus (lingzhi). Sceptres also became highly ornamental and were designed in any shape that was considered suitable for its use as a secular good luck charm. During the Qing dynasty, sceptres became imperial objects. Its auspicious nature combined with the choice of material and high level of craftsmanship made sceptres the perfect imperial gifts. They were bestowed by the emperor to worthy officers and loyal subjects. Both the Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors had themselves painted holding ruyi sceptres, but the Qianlong emperor was particularly fond of them and owned an extensive collection.
For a comparable ruyi sceptre, see one sold at Christie's New York, 19th September 2006, lot. 32; and two sold in our London rooms, 8th October 1983, lots 160 and 164. Compare another with the bajixiang carved on the handle and the ruyi-shaped head decorated with two Daoist immortals in a landscape, illustrated in Masterpieces of Chinese Ju-i Sceptres in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1974, pl. 1. For further examples of imperial ruyi sceptres see those included in the exhibition Auspicious Ju-I Sceptres of China, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1995.
Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, 08 Oct 10 11:00 AM, Hong Kong