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Lot 3601. An outstanding imperial inscribed Khotan white jade 'landscape' boulder, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period, the poem dated to the Spring of the gengxu year, corresponding to 1790; 21.3 cm. Lot sold: 9,855,000 HKD (Estimate: 6,000,000 - 10,000,000 HKD)©  2021 Sotheby's

the elongated irregular boulder exquisitely and deeply carved in high relief as a craggy mountainous riverscape, depicting a walled village of thatched cottages and pavilions nestled amidst pine and wutong trees, with a woman weaving in a cottage, and an elderly crossing a bridge with a boy, all surrounded by intricately layered rocks with numerous crevices and streams flowing in the foreground, incised and gilded on the top with an imperial poem, followed by Qianlong gengxu chun yuti (imperial composition by the Qianlong Emperor in the Spring of the 55th year, 1790) and two seals reading guxiang ('fragrance of antiquity') and taipu ('great gem') respectively, the reverse with a continuous scene of the landscape with a boy riding a buffalo towards a pavilion next to a gnarled pine tree, the semi-translucent stone of an even white tone accentuated with attractive warm russet inclusions, wood stand.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 47.

The jade carver has exhausted his skills, carving a landscape instead of a vessel.
A vessel with an archaic style is difficult to achieve, whereas a landscape scene easily pleases.
Using the jade’s natural corrosion as ink washes, the carver has turned its irregularities into mountain peaks.
Oh, what advantage the carver has taken [of me]! I have almost wanted to discard the work, disregarding [its excellence].

Carved from high quality Khotan jade, this sculpture features a landscape with figures carved in the round. A grass hut stands by the river, over which a bridge passes, shaded by old trees. A woman weaves by the window, and a child leads an old man across the bridge in this idyllic scene of daily life. The sculpture is carved with Qianlong’s inscription cited above, as well as a Qianlong signature and year mark dating it to the 55th year of his reign (1790). On the reverse, an old pine trees stands tall, shading a small pavilion. Riding an ox, a child arrives at the entrance to a mysterious cave. The scene is lively and intriguing. The high-quality Khotan jade has a dense and hard texture and a luxurious tone. Exemplifying the virtuosic craftsmanship of the Qianlong period, this sculpture was one of the excellent works produced under the supervision of the Zaobanchu palace workshops.

Called hemoyu ('river-polished jade'), this kind of jade originated near the mouths of rivers. Polished and impacted by currents, it has a smooth surface and dense texture, and is considered the finest of Khotan jades. Two years after subjugating the Dzungars in the 24th year of his reign, Qianlong decreed that the ministers stationed in Xinjiang organise the local clan leaders to collect 4,000 jin of jades from the Khotan River and on the Kunlun Mountains and send them to Beijing as annual “regular tribute.” In order to prevent the private quarrying and sale of raw jades, the emperor set up checkpoints along Khotan River and in other jade-producing cities and stationed his troops there.

Among his ten major military accomplishments recorded in Records of the Ten Great Campaigns, Qianlong was most proud of pacifying Xinjiang. He also created the first system of jade tributes, bringing the art and craft of jade to an unprecedented and unsurpassed height during his reign. Qianlong’s reputation as a jade lover was well deserved.


Qing gaozong yuzhi shiwen quanji [Anthology of imperial Qianlong poems and text], yuzhi shi san ji [Imperial poetrypart. 5], vol. 98, p. 9.

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Lot 3602. A superbly carved white jade archaistic 'chilong' bi disc, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 18.8 cm. Lot sold: 3,780,000 HKD (Estimate: 3,000,000 - 5,000,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

exceptionally worked in high relief on one side with three chilong clambering sinuously, two of the larger ones rendered in openwork with well-defined muscular outlines, the reverse decorated in low relief with whorls encircled by a 'rope-twist' fillet and a band of taotie masks and archaistic dragon motifs, stand.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

Provenance: Spink & Son Ltd., London.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 133.

Note: The white jade bi disc is carved with three chilong dragons in relief on one side. Two of the dragons are larger while the third smaller, all dancing in circles with their lithe bodies rendered with impressive agility and vitality. The other side bears a band of archaistic dragon motifs and a 'rope-twist' fillet enclosing a 'grain' pattern. The Qianlong Emperor, who was very fond of chilong dragons, once interpreted chi as xi (bliss), and therefore impelled many imperial works of art to feature a chilong decoration.

The present disc was inspired by an archaic jade prototype. Considerable in size, the carving required an extravagance of materials and craftsmanship. In the 24th year of his reign (1759), the Qianlong Emperor won the campaigns against the Dzungars and secured the pacification of Xinjiang, which gave rise to an abundance of jade supply for the Palace Workshops (Zaobanchu) to deploy their prowess with. Upon the Emperor's orders, jade wares of various forms and remarkable sizes were made to incorporate either an archaistic theme or other ideas, manifesting the heyday of an empire.

The Qianlong Emperor had a deep reverence for antiquity as well as a great passion for collecting antiques, particularly earlier jades. It is documented that eight hundred or so poems composed by the Emperor are odes to jade, including more than sixty praising jade bi discs from the Zhou and Han dynasties. In response to the Emperor's command, Workshops of the Imperial Household Department (Neiwufu Zuofang) referred to exemplars on Kaogu tu [Illustrations for the study of antiquity], Bogu tu [Illustrated catalogue of antique treasures], etc. to incarnate the charm of antiquity; moreover, the emperor's personal conception and modification combined aesthetics of the bygones and tastes of the contemporaries, which encapsulated the spirit of ancient cultures and defined the characteristics of the Qianlong period.

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Lot 3605. A yellow jade 'dragon' rhyton, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 16.2 cm. Lot sold: 6,225,000 HKD (Estimate: 5,000,000 - 8,000,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

well hollowed, the flattened tapering vessel issuing from the mouth of a dragon head depicted with protruding eyes, curled brows and a ‘S’-shaped tail, deftly carved in high relief with two small chilong clambering up the sides, the exterior carved in shallow relief with a band of swirling cloud scrolls, the smoothly polished stone of an attractive yellow tone with russet inclusions, wood stand.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

ProvenanceCollection of Gerald Godfrey.
Christie's Hong Kong, 30th October 1995, lot 903.
ExhibitedChinese Jade: The Image from Within, Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, 1986, cat. no. 97.
San Antonio Museum of Art, 1986.
The Dayton Art Institute, 1989, no. 102.
A Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 119.

Note: The present cup is impressive for the use of the highly esteemed yellow jade material and the elegantly carved form which references the past. Yellow jade was much favoured by the Qing court for its association with the imperial colour yellow. Since the Ming dynasty, it was recognised by scholars and connoisseurs as one of the most valued variations of nephrite. In his Yan xian qing shang jian / Refined Enjoyment of Elegant Leisure compiled in 1591, the dramatist-collector Gao Lian noted, ‘Of all jade materials, yellow stones with a mellow tone are the best and mutton-white ones come second’. Because of the rarity of the stone, brownish colourings were often worked into a piece, as seen on the present lot, to increase the overall size and show the carver’s great respect for the treasured material. Compare a related yellow jade rhyton, carved with a chilong, archaistic scrolls and an inverted dragon head with closed jaws, preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Jiu-fang Li, Chinese Jades throughout the Ages – Connoisseurship of Chinese Jades, vol. 11: Qing Dynasty, Chicago and San Francisco, 1996, pl. 45.

Jade cups in the form of horns appeared in antiquity and continued to be appreciated until the Qing dynasty. See a Western Han prototype, excavated from the tomb of the Nanyue King Zhao Mo (r. 137-122 BC) located in Guangzhou, a celadon jade rhyton carved with a kui dragon below its mouth and spiral patterns in the background, the base with a bifurcated and striated tail, but lacking the upturned dragon head of the present piece, included in the exhibition Jades from the Tomb of the King of Nanyue, Museum of the Western Han Tomb of Nanyue King, Guangzhou, and Art Gallery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1991, cat. no. D44. From around the Song dynasty, rhytons were carved with a mythical animal head at the base; see a smaller pale caramel-brown jade vessel, formerly in the Cunliffe Collection, included in the Oriental Ceramic Society’s exhibition The Arts of the Sung Dynasty, London, 1960, cat. no. 252, and sold at Bonhams London, 11th November 2002, lot 1, and again in these rooms, 9th October 2012, lot 3137. For an 18th-century example closely related to the present piece, see a smaller vessel of light brown tone, sold in our New York rooms, 23rd September 1995, lot 232.

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Lot 3606. An important imperial inscribed Khotan spinach-green jade 'Immortals of Mount Fantong' brushpot, Yuti mark and period of Qianlong, dated to the yimao year, corresponding to 1795; 14.7 cm. Lot sold: 6,225,000 HKD (Estimate: 5,000,000 - 8,000,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

of cylindrical form and resting on five ruyi feet, the thick wall masterfully worked around the exterior with a wondrous scene set with lush vegetation and depicting groups of immortals engaging in various activities, including two conversing with an attendant nearby under arched rockwork above gushing waters, and another two gathered around a table with an attendant pouring tea into the cup held by one immortal, all below a gilt-incised inscription reading Fantong xianlü below the rim, which is similarly gilt-incised with an imperial poem followed by a yuti mark dated to the summer of the yimao year (corresponding to 1795) and a seal reading de chong fu ('sign of virtue within'), the mottled spinach-green jade with dark speckles, wood stand.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

ProvenanceAn old French collection.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 1.

NoteIncised with a poem composed by the Qianlong Emperor and the four-character inscription Fantong xianlü (‘Immortals of Mount Fantong’), this brushpot is significant not only for its imperial association, but also for the intricately carved depiction of an imaginary scene which denotes the origin of the precious jade boulder from which it was made.

The imperial poem can be translated as:
From the same mountain range of Fantong and Kunlun,
Washed to Khotan, produced the essence of jade;
Could the figures be identified? I wonder…
Probably Beigu (according to the Taoist legend by the sage Taiji Zhenren),
speaking of immortal affairs.

Composed by the Emperor in the final year of his reign, the poem is included in Qing Gaozong yuzhi shiwen quanji [Anthology of Imperial Qianlong poems and texts], Yuzhi shi wu ji [Imperial poetry, vol. 5], vol. 98, p. 9, under the title of Ti Hetian yu Fantong xianlü bitong [Composed for the Khotan jade brushpot of the ‘Immortals of Mount Fantong’]. Beigu referred in the verse is an immortal from the western part of China, alluding to the source of the jade material celebrated by the Qianlong Emperor. With the Qing court’s expansion of territory in western China in the mid-18th century, there was an increased supply of jade material from the region of Khotan. With its vivid depictions of immortals in a landscape on the cylindrical form, this vessel aims to create a visual effect similar to that of a continuous handscroll painting, a style of jade carvings the Emperor was fond of. The poem incised on the present piece replicates the colophons inscribed on paintings to accompany pictorial representations.

Brushpots of this type would have been required throughout the imperial palaces and would also have made suitable imperial gifts to or from honoured officials. Compare a few related brushpots incised with the same inscriptions; a closely related piece preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing (accession no. Xin-117968); two narrower vessels without the ruyi-form feet, ibid. (accession nos Gu-103529 and Gu-103530); one in the collection of Michael S.L. Liu, included in the exhibition The Grandeur of Chinese Art Treasures: Min Chiu Society Golden Jubilee Exhibition, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 2010-1, cat. no. 217; a further one sold at Christie's London, 13th June 1990, lot 425; and a slightly smaller piece, sold in our London rooms, 28th October 1988, lot 306, again in these rooms, 31st October 2004, lot 229, and most recently at Christie’s Hong Kong, 27th November 2019, lot 2847.

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Qing gaozong yuzhi shiwen quanji [Anthology of imperial Qianlong poems and text], yuzhi shi san ji [Imperial poetry, part 5], vol. 98, p. 9.


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Lot 3607. A white jade 'quail' box and coverQing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 12 cm. Lot sold: 504,000 HKD (Estimate: 300,000 - 500,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

well rendered in the form of a recumbent plump bird, depicted with round eyes and a short beak, the body finely carved with overlapping layers of plumage, the legs tucked neatly underneath the body, the well-polished stone of an even white tone.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 86.

NoteThe present quail box belongs to a group of jade vessels developed early in the Qianlong period which is represented in a number of collections. Compare a celadon jade box in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Zhongguo yuqi quanji [Complete collection of Chinese jades], Shijiazhuang, 2005, vol. 6, p. 69, no. 106; a smaller pair of quail boxes in the Seattle Art Museum, but carved from a slightly yellowish stone, illustrated in James Watt, Chinese Jades from the Collection of the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, 1989, cat. no. 73; and another pair, also smaller in size, from the collection of Robert Youngman, sold in these rooms, 3rd April 2019, lot 3402.

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Lot 3610. A white jade 'dragon' moonflask, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 18.7 cm. Lot sold: 2,457,000 HKD (Estimate: 2,000,000 - 3,000,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

of flattened globular form, finely carved on each side with a frontal five-clawed dragon writhing amidst scrolling clouds with its body wrapped around a flaming pearl’ the waisted neck flanked by a pair of stylised dragon handles and adorned with foliate lappets repeated on the cover, the lustrous stone of an even white tone, wood stand.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

ProvenanceChristie's Hong Kong, 26th April 1998, lot 526.
Christie's Hong Kong, 31st October 2000, lot 954.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 35.

NoteThe five-clawed frontal leaping dragon remains one of the most powerful and ubiquitous symbols of imperial authority, adorning items from the emperor’s robes to his palaces. While imperial ‘dragon’ moonflasks were popular in porcelain during the Qianlong period, they are relatively rare in jade. Preserved together with its original cover, the present piece, powerfully carved with imperial dragons from a white jade stone of superior quality, is one of the finest extant examples

Further ‘dragon’ moonflasks include one carved in low relief, with dragon handles and cover, illustrated in Zhongguo yuqi quanji [Compendium of Chinese Jade], vol. 6, Shijiazhuang, 1993, pl. 220; another with a cover and ringed mask-head handles, from the collection of Sir John Buchanan-Jardine, included in the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, Royal Academy of Art, London, 1935-36, cat. no. 2839; and a slightly larger example, similarly conceived with stylised dragon ring handles, but without cover, sold in these rooms, 7th October 2010, lot 2628.

This type of jade moonflasks – well-proportioned, understated in colour yet richly decorated with details – must have been an ideal addition to the interior of the imperial household. A jade covered moonflask, for example, can be seen in situ on a display shelf among many other precious imperial objects at Shufangzhai (Studio of Cleansing Fragrance) in the former residence of the Qianlong Emperor (Life of the Forbidden City, Hong Kong, 1985, pl. 224). 

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Lot 3614. A finely carved white jade 'Five Elders' brushpotMark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795); 15.3 cm; h. 13.4 cm. Lot sold: 945,000 HKD (Estimate: 700,000 - 1,200,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

the cylindrical vessel resting on five short bracket feet, the exterior well worked with a continuous scene depicting five elderly immortals and an attendant in a secluded landscape setting, two figures portrayed conversing on a promontory overlooking choppy waters, the base incised with a four-character reign mark, the white stone with icy inclusions and dark veins skilfully utilised to enhance the design.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

ProvenanceSotheby's London, 7th June 2000, lot 60.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 13.

NoteA spinach-green jade brushpot similarly depicted with the Five Elders was sold in our London rooms, 7th November 2018, lot 19, from the collection of Robert Napier, First Baron Napier of Magdala (1810-1890), included in The International Exhibition of Chinese Art, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1935-36, cat. no. 2794. In its essay written up by Dr Xu Lin, it was remarked, “During the middle and later parts of his reign, he [the Qianlong Emperor] vigorously promoted the introduction of painting subjects into jade carving. He believed that while paper could last a thousand years, jade—the crystallised essence of heaven and earth—was indestructible. Consequently, many themes common in painting and calligraphy began to appear in jade carvings.” The notion of longevity became increasingly important to the Qianlong Emperor with age and that this subject matter was especially favoured likely demonstrates his wish for a long life.

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Lot 3616. A white jade melon-form washerQing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 23.5 cm. Lot sold: 529,200 HKD (Estimate: 300,000 - 500,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

skilfully carved in the form of a section of an elegantly lobed melon borne on a gnarled branch issuing leafy curling tendrils, with a naturalistic single praying mantis on the side, the softly polished stone of an even white tone, wood stand.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 12.

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Lot 3618. An exceptional imperial inscribed white and russet jade 'Mount Lingyan' boulder, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); h. 23.5 cm. Lot sold: 3,780,000 HKD (Estimate: 3,000,000 - 5,000,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

elaborately worked from a large white and russet boulder to depict a craggy mountain landscape, one side intricately rendered with cottages and pavilions nestled amidst tall wutong and pine trees, with waterfalls and streams flowing in the foreground, the midsection gilt-incised with an imperial poem in praise of Mount Lingyan, the reverse with layered rocky ledges and a gushing waterfall crashing into foaming currents near the base, wood stand.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 70.

Note: In accordance to the form of the raw jade, this sculpture has been carved in the round to depict an impressive landscape. A stream flows underneath a small bridge, and a footpath leads to a pavilion. Atop the mountain peak is an imposing ancient monastery with a pagoda. Old gnarled pine trees snake between strange giant boulders. The blank cliff-face bears an intaglio inscription that reads, “Imperial poem on the Lingyan Mountains. Three years have passed imperceptibly in an instant / since I venerated the Buddha at Lingyan Temple. / The precipitous pagoda still reaches the Heavens. / The grass hut on the right is reachable by a footpath. / I am returned to the studio, which remains unadorned. / The spring flowers bloom again in their former red. / Standing by a railing, I most enjoyed the lucid scenery / Of the green fields east of King of Wu’s garden.”

This poem is recorded in Qing Gaozong yuzhi shiwen quan ji [Anthology of imperial Qianlong poems and text], yuzhi shi san ji [Imperial poems, part 3], vol. 47, pp. 10-11 under the title '[Composed] during my stay on Mount Lingyan, for the third time after the rhyme scheme of an old poem.' It was composed in 1765, during Qianlong’s fourth Southern Tour, which at 126 days was the longest of his Southern Tours. The foremost peak in the Wu region, Mount Lingyan is located on the shores of Lake Tai and home to Lingyan Monastery, where Kangxi and Qianlong both stayed during their various Southern Tours. Lingyan Monastery was constructed by the King of Wu for his beloved concubine Xishi during the Spring and Autumn Period, and is thus a witness of the rivalry between the Wu and Yue kingdoms. Relics and natural scenes associated with the King of Wu fascinated Qianlong, who thus had the ancient temples and famous scenic sights of the Wu region immortalised in jade.

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Qing gaozong yuzhi shiwen quanji [Anthology of imperial Qianlong poems and text], yuzhi shi san ji [Imperial poetry, part 3], vol. 47, p. 10-11.

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Lot 3619. A gilt-inscribed and decorated pale green jade 'Three Star Gods' table screen, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 29 by 19.1 cm. Lot sold: 982,800 HKD (Estimate: 400,000 - 600,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

rendered on one side with 'The Three Star Gods', the reverse inscribed with a poem respectfully written by Prince Yongxuan and terminating with two seal marks reading zi chen ('son and officer') and Yongxuanzitan and sandalwood frame.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 23.

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Lot 3620. A pair of spinach-green jade 'prunus' table screens, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 22.7 cm. Lot sold: 882,000 HKD (Estimate: 700,000 - 900,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

each worked on one side with a gnarled trunk issuing branches bearing prunus blossoms, the scene further rendered rockwork and floral sprigs, the reverse left plain, the stone of a rich variegated green colour, wood stands.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 48.

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Lot 3621. superb white jade 'elephant' vase and cover, Qianlong mark and period (1736-1795); h. 22.1 cm. Lot sold: 4,032,000 HKD (Estimate: 2,000,000 - 4,000,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

well worked with a broad rounded shoulder tapering to a neck and galleried rim, the neck flanked by a pair of elephant-mask handles, each suspending a mock ring, all between bands of pendent lappets and foliage encircling the rim and foot, the countersunk base incised with a four-character seal mark, the cover decorated with a finial depicted as a recumbent animal, wood stand.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

Provenance: Sotheby's London, 28th May 1963, lot 64.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 48.

Note: The craftsman celebrates tradition through the archaistic shape and choice of decorative motifs while redesigning these elements, as evidenced by its compressed form, ringed elephant handles and recumbent lion knop. The silhouette of the present vase was probably inspired by archaic bronze vessels; see a Western Zhou bronze lei with a pair of animal ring handles and a band of pendent cicada, excavated from Fengxiang, Shaanxi, and included in The Cultural Grandeur of the Western Zhou Dynasty, Taipei, 2012, cat. no. 67.

Compare jade vases similarly flanked by ringed elephant-head handles, such as an 18th-century covered vase with archaistic motifs, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (accession no. 65.86.99a,b); and a Qianlong mark and period example, from the collection of Sir Quo-Wei Lee, sold in these rooms, 27th November 2019, lot 84. See also a Jiaqing period white jade ovoid example also sold in these rooms, 9th October 2012, lot 3003.

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Lot 3622. An exceptional imperial inscribed white jade 'luohan' boulderQing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 22.6 cm. Lot sold: 8,887,000 HKD (Estimate: 7,000,000 - 9,000,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

masterfully carved in high relief with the Fifth Luohan seated on a ledge within a deep grotto with two slender arms crossed over a raised left knee, naturalistically modelled with a balding head with a grinning expression accentuated with long bushy eyebrows flanking a hooked bulging nose, wearing flowing robes falling off the shoulder to gather at the waist, revealing an emaciated torso and a bare feet, a book placed at his side and a pair of boots placed on a rock before him, below a incised and gilded thirty-two character imperial inscription, all amidst jagged rockwork, the reverse carved as a continuation of the mountain scene with waterfall cascading down the craggy rockwork, wood stand.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 34.

With broad faces and deeply set eyes, the arhat has an emaciated body.
Bearing a bodhisattva within, he understands karma.
He throws sutras to the ground, having completed his spiritual training.

Even the Buddha does not abide, and how much less a non-Buddha?Buddhism was transmitted to China during the Han dynasty. As enlightened followers of the Buddha, the Sixteen Arhats were venerated in China as well. During the late Tang and Five Dynasties period, the arhats’ ranks swelled to eighteen. A devout Buddhist, the Qianlong Emperor was cognisant of this discrepancy and preferred the original grouping of sixteen. In the 21st year of his reign, he ordered Ding Yunpeng to paint Sixteen Arhats in monk clothes according to Zhang Xuan’s description recorded in the Painting Catalogue of the Xuanhe Era. In consultation with the Changkya Khutukhtu, Qianlong reset the conventional order of the sixteen arhats and rendered their names in 'Aligali' characters, which he created to aid the accurate pronunciation of Sanskrit mantras. In the spring of the 22nd year of his reign, during his stay at Sheng’en Temple in Hangzhou on his second Southern Tour, Qianlong saw the stone tablets purported to record late Tang monk-painter Guanxiu’s Portraits of the Sixteen Arhats and was impressed by their exaggerated appearances, which corroborated what he had read about Guanxiu’s arhat paintings. Identifying the images to be a precious survival from the late Tang period, Qianlong ordered Ding Guanpeng to copy them before returning to Beijing and wrote an encomium in praise of them. Chen Jiejun, in his essay “Qianlong’s Southern Tours and the Dissemination of Portraits of the Sixteen Arhats by Guanxiu,” argues that Guanxiu’s arhats images inspired the various representations of the arhats produced during the Qianlong period, including jade sculptures, depictions at the Confucius Temple in Hangzhou and in the pagoda of Miaoxiangting at present-day Beihai Park, Beijing, as well as paintings (Bulletin of the National Palace Museum, vol. 409, 2007, pp. 50-67). The lot on offer was created after the 22nd year of Qianlong’s reign and reflects his redefinition of the Sixteen Arhats theme.

The jade mountain is carved from high-quality jade with a warm milk-white tone. Following the natural patterns in the raw jade, the carver has articulated a precipitous peak. The steep cliff face is inscribed with gold lacquer with Qianlong’s eulogy cited above (fig. 1). The arhat sits cross-legged against the cliff, his hands folded on his knees in a relaxed pose. He wears a long robe but bears his arm and shoulder, revealing an emaciated body. His facial features, meant to evoke an 'exotic' Indian, correspond with the characteristics of Guanxiu’s iconography: a wide forehead, deep-set eyes, and a highly arched nose.


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Fig. 1. Qing gaozong yuzhi shiwen quanji [Anthology of imperial Qianlong poems and text], yuzhi shi san ji [Imperial text, part 1], vol. 13, p. 9.

The Qianlong court produced various jade sculptures of arhats in various compositions and sizes, and these have been widely exhibited and published. One example, at the National Palace Museum in Taipei (fig. 2), is illustrated in the catalogue The Refined Taste of the Emperor: A Special Exhibition of Archaic and Pictorial Jades of the Ch’ing Court, Taipei, 1997, cat. no. 43. Another example, at the Palace Museum in Beijing, is illustrated in The Palace Museum’s Essential Collection: Jades, vol. 2, Shanghai, 2008, p. 74, no. 56. Another example, also depicting the fifth arhat, bears the same Qianlong encomium as the present example but is inscribed in Qianlong’s regular script style and is larger in size than the present lot. It was sold in these rooms, 2nd May 2005, lot 530. Another highly relevant example depicts the sixteenth arhat Abidha in Guanxiu style, but bearing an inscription of Qianlong’s Encomium after Viewing Ding Guanpeng’s Sixteen Arhats of the 23rd year of his reign. It was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 30th May 2016, lot 3021. 

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 Fig. 2. A celadon jade boulder of the 11th arhat Cudapanthaka, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period. National Palace Museum, Taipei.

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Lot 3623. A large white jade 'boy and buffalo' group, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 18.6 cm. Lot sold: 4,531,000 HKD (Estimate: 2,000,000 - 4,000,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

well carved as a recumbent buffalo with the head turned sharply to its left, the large curled ridged horns supported on its back, a boy playfully clambering on its hindquarter holding a stalk of leafy grain in his left hand while the right hand resting on the buffalo’s left horn, the smoothly polished stone of an even celadon tone with russet inclusions, wood stand.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 79.

Note:The quality of the white stone and strength of the carving on the current buffalo and boy group highlight its skillful representation of an auspicious scene in the natural world. The reclining buffalo, a symbol of strength and tranquillity, is also associated with spring and agriculture because of its role in pulling ploughs. According to James C.S. Lin in The Immortal Stone, Cambridge, 2009, p. 51, from the Ming dynasty buffaloes were often depicted at rest with its head turned 90 degrees, as seen in this carving, to indicate that the world was at peace. When depicted with a young boy riding on its back, this motif represents obedience and serenity as well as spring and agriculture because of its role in pulling ploughs. Even a small child can ride an animal of this size and strength without fear. 

A jade carving of a boy climbing over the back of a buffalo, from the Mrs Ronnie Greville DBE, Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth, and Wallace collections, was sold in our London rooms, 14th November 2001, lot 44, and again in these rooms, 8th April 2011, lot 3210. See also a smaller white jade boy and buffalo group from the Thompson-Schwab collection, sold in our London rooms, 9th November 2016, lot 3. Another was sold in these Hong Kong rooms, 8th October 2010, lot 2800; and a third of slightly larger size, was sold at Christie’s London, 6th November 2012, lot 10. See also a slightly larger jade buffalo and qilin group, but lacking the boy, from the collection of the Earl and Countess of Jersey, sold in our London rooms, 16th May 2012, lot 18; and another sold at Christie’s London, 12th May 1958, lot 143.

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Lot 3625. An imperial gilt-inscribed and decorated white and russet jade pebble, Qing dynasty, Jiaqing period (1796-1820); 15 cm. Lot sold: 882,000 HKD (Estimate: 400,000 - 800,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

gilt-incised on one side with a verdant scene depicting the Purification Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion, the reverse gilt-incised with a poem by the Jiaqing Emperor entitled Weiyu Shushi shi ('Poem on the Studio of Superfluous Taste'), the irregular pebble with russet patches, wood stand.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

Provenance: Christie's Hong Kong, 7th July 2003, lot 528.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 43.

Note: The present boulder elegantly combines the imagery of the legendary scholarly gathering at the Orchid Pavilion originated from the preface by the celebrated calligrapher Wang Xizhi (307-365) and an imperial poem by the Jiaqing Emperor on the subject. For a white jade paperweight similarly inscribed with a Jiaqing imperial poem in the Palace Museum, Beijing, see The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Jadeware III, Hong Kong, 1995, pl. 171.

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'On The Orchid Pavilion Gathering', Weiyu Shushi Shi Quanji Dingben [Anthology of poems from the Jiaqing Imperial Studio of Superfluous Taste, definitive edition], vol. 8: poems, p. 5.

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Lot 3626. A white jade 'elephant and boys' group, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 17.8 cm. Lot sold: 756,000 HKD (Estimate: 600,000 - 1,000,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

carved as an elephant standing foursquare with its head turned towards its right, caparisoned with a long tasselled saddle rug decorated with bats flying amidst clouds above crested waves and rockwork, set with a man and a foreigner kneeling atop the elephant supporting a hollow baluster treasure vase (baoping), the foreign with a brush in his hand, and the other holding the vessel by a ribbon, the stone of a milky-white tone with minor dark inclusions.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

Provenance: Sotheby's London, 5th December 1995, lot 101.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 87.

NoteElephants (xiang) were a popular theme at the Qing court and are full of auspicious associations. The Chinese term figures in numerous rebuses to convey peace, prosperity and good fortune. Images of boys abound in Chinese art conveying wishes for many sons. The motif of boys washing an elephant also evokes a pun, the term xi xiang, 'washing an elephant' being considered as a homophone for ji xiang, 'lucky or propitious'. 

A similar example is illustrated in Zhongguo yuqi quanji [Complete collection of Chinese jades], vol. 6, Shijiazhuang, 1993, pl. 270; and another, but carved with one boy instead of two, was included in the 85th Anniversary Exhibition of Chinese Jades from Tang to Qing, S. Marchant & Son, London, cat. no. 82. See also a closely related example sold in these rooms, 8th April 2014, lot 3064.

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Lot 3627. A fine white jade bowl, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 14.1 cm. Lot sold: 1,449,000 HKD (Estimate: 1,200,000 - 2,000,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

the thick-walled bowl finely worked with steep rounded sides supported on a short foot, incised to the base with a bing character, the stone of an attractive even white tone.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

Provenance: Sotheby's Hong Kong, 27th April 2003, lot 1.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 114.

NoteCarved from white jade, the bowl has a straight rim and thick walls and is inscribed at the centre on the underside with the character bing [third class]. The Qianlong Emperor personally ranked the jades in his possession, having them or their wood stands inscribed with such characters as jia, yi, bing, ding to indicate various ranks. Inscribed with the character bing, the lot on offer is an example of this practice.

This bowl is undecorated and showcases the beautiful translucency of its raw jade. The jade-obsessed Qianlong developed unique insights into jades and advocated the principle of “fine jade is not to be carved,” in accordance with the Confucian virtues of benevolence, loyalty, wisdom, courage, and moral purity associated with jade. Even before ascending the throne, Qianlong [then Prince Hongli] had written a fu rhapsody on 'Fine jade as a metaphor for the gentleman': “How brilliant the uncarved jade, its essence contained. How lustrous the fine jade, how luminous and translucent. The nourished forest is small yet elegant in its concentration. The shining peaks billow in their heroic majesty. Your virtuous qualities, unmatched, I compare to the gentleman’s moral purity. Dyed but unsullied, you retain your unadorned plainness. Modest but unblemished, you are as unyielding as from the first. The gui is auspicious, superior to ordinary stone. Worn as an accessory, jade elevates worn clothing. Jade, used in rituals, blesses with plentiful harvests. With a dazzling aura, it emanates light. Gentle and refined, it possesses the virtues in equal measure. Comparing himself to jade, the gentleman finds in it a mirror image. Warm and lustrous in its form, dense and impenetrable in its nature, jade is unpolluted with even a speck a dust and has no equal. Translucent all around its body, it shines with a dazzling halo. How can one take the uncarved jade as unfinished, and take its absence of blemishes as a flaw!”

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Lot 3629. A white jade 'daji' 'double-gourd' vase and cover, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 21 cm. Lot sold: 2,520,000 HKD (Estimate: 1,200,000 - 1,800,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

of double-gourd form, finely carved in low relief with bats in flight amidst swirling clouds, the upper and lower lobes enclosing the characters da and ji ('great happiness') respectively, flanked at the shoulder by a pair of openwork handles in the form of curling leaves, the cover surmounted by a finial with two loose rings, the translucent stone of an attractive white tone.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 44.

NoteIn the precision of the intricate rendering of the bats and swirling clouds in low relief against the immaculate polished white stone, this fine vase represents the technical skill achieved by jade carvers of the 18th century. It is also rare to find large double-gourd vases of this type carved with such elegant proportions. However, a close comparison can be made with a slightly smaller example, carved in low relief with five bats and also inscribed with the characters daji ('good fortune'), illustrated in Stanley Charles Nott, A Catalogue of Rare Chinese Jade Carvings, Palm Beach, Florida, 1940, no. 14. Another example carved with bats amongst Buddhist emblems and peach sprays is illustrated in Chinese Jade, Spink & Son Ltd., London, 1998, cat. no. 41. Other white jade double-gourd vases of this type include one illustrated in Robert Kleiner, Chinese Jades from the Collection of Alan and Simon Hartman, Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 154, and sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 27th November 2007, lot 1552; one from the collection of Mrs E. Dormer, sold in our London rooms, 14th November 1967, lot 11; another sold in our New York rooms, 11th and 12th April 1990, lot 326; and a fourth example sold in our London rooms, 25th May 1971, lot 12, and again, 11th May 2011, lot 112.

Due to its many seeds, the double gourd, mandai, is a symbol of fertility in China, and its lengthy network of string-like vines and tendrils suggests continuity; hence the auspicious pun wandai (ten-thousand generations). When hollowed out, the gourd is employed as a storage container for food, liquor or medicine to also symbolise abundance and good luck. The relief decoration which appears on the surface of the present example consists of a harmonious combination of auspicious and well-wishing motifs. The wufu, or 'five bats', symbolize the five blessings: long life, riches, health, love of virtue and a peaceful death, while the double-gourd shape itself is associated with the Daoist immortal Li Tieguai and is symbolic of prosperity and an expression of hope for many sons and grandsons.

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Lot 3630. A finely carved white jade 'elephant and boy' group, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 12.5 cm. Lot sold: 1,638,000 HKD (Estimate: 1,200,000 - 1,800,000 HKD). ©  2021 Sotheby's

skilfully worked to depict an elephant standing with the head turned to the left, as though looking at the boy kneeling and supporting a vase of lingzhi flowers with both hands at the elephant's hindlegs, the animal's body further rendered with characteristic folds of wrinkles and terminating in a long finely incised tail swept to the right, the stone of an even white colour with icy inclusions, wood stand.

Property from the De An Tang Collection.

ExhibitedA Romance with Jade: From the De An Tang Collection, Yongshougong, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 80.

NoteThis superb jade elephant is worked from white stone of exquisite quality, naturalistically rendered in the form of a recumbent elephant, turning its head towards the boy with a sprig of auspicious lingzhi fungus. To find such meticulous workmanship on such a fine quality piece of jade is extremely rare.

Representing physical and mental strength, elephant is associated with Buddhism. The Shakyamuni Buddha was born as an elephant in one of his previous incarnations and in Buddhist iconography, the bodhisattva Samantabhadra rides on a white elephant. The Qianlong Emperor was clearly aware of such representations. A court painting by Ding Guanpeng (fl. 1726-1770) depicts the Emperor as Samantabhadra, seated next to his elephant, which slightly turns its head to his rider while its wrinkled skin is being washed by caring attendants; see The All Complete Qianlong: The Aesthetic Tastes of the Qing Emperor Gaozong, Taipei, 2013, cat. no. III-2.5.

See a jade elephant with boys in the Palace Museum, Beijing, see The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Jadeware (III), Hong Kong, 1995, pl. 98. 

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art including Imperial Jades from the De An Tang Collection, Hong Kong, 13 October 2021