AN IMPERIAL JADE ‘BA ZHENG MAO NIAN ZHI BAO’ SEAL
QING DYNASTY, QIANLONG PERIOD
Estimate: 800,000 – 1,200,000 USD
LOT SOLD. 3,498,500 USD (Hammer Price with Buyer’s Premium)
Of square form, the seal surmounted by a pair of well-carved addorsed dragons, each with bulging eyes, flaring nostrils, gaping jaws and bared sharp teeth, the two scaled bodies crouching back on their haunches and pierced through the center with an aperture, the square seal deeply and crisply carved with the characters Ba zheng mao nian zhi bao (Treasure of concern over phenomenon at eighty) the stone of gray-celadon color with opaque mottling and striking dark-gray cloud swirls, with russet enhancing the horns and spines
Length 2 1/4 in., 6 cm, Width 2 1/4 in., 6 cm
The Qianlong emperor often had seals made to mark significant events in his life. The present lot was one of the seals made to commemorate his eightieth birthday in 1790. At that time, Qianlong had already been on the throne for fifty-five years. As a mark of repect, Qianlong decided that he would not reign longer than his grandfather the Kangxi emperor, and planned to hand over the throne in five years. The words Ba zheng mao nian zhi bao (Treasure of concern over phenomenon at eighty) carved on the seal, give us an indication as to Qianlong’s state of mind at the time.
The phrase was inspired by an explanation of the Way of Heaven found in the Hongfan chapter of the Shangshu (Classic of History, sixth century BC), and describes ‘concerned use of the common meteorological phenomena’ as one of the principles to be used when governing a country. As meteorological phenomena affected the lives of the people, Qianlong extended the meaning of the phrase to include concern for the people. It shows that although Qianlong was turning eighty and only five years from retirement, he was still very much concerned about the people in his realm and very involved in the governing of the country.
This phrase resonated with Qianlong and he had a series of over sixty-three seals made with these characters or a slightly shortened version. The present lot is one from this series. Another seal from the series with the same phrase, in green jade and of larger size, with the seal face carved in a different script, was sold in our London rooms, 4th November 2009, lot 136.
The present lot matches an impression in the Qianlong bao sou (Qianlong Treasures: A Catalogue of Impressions of the Qianlong Emperor’s Seals).