House record breaking Chinese Qianlong Period carved zitan ruyi sceptre
11 Dec, 2010
An important Chinese Imperial Qing
Dynasty Qianlong Period (1736-1795) carved zitan ruyi sceptre broke
the house record for a work of art at Lacy Scott & Knights
salerooms in Bury St Edmunds this Saturday.
Ruyi ('As you wish') sceptres have
early links with Buddhism and may have originally been used as
back-scratchers. They evolved into symbols of power or
talisman to bestow good fortune and became favoured Imperial
gifts. Emperor Qianlong was particularly fond of Ruyi and
commissioned the Palace workshops to make them for his loyal
officials as well as for his own collection. In this period
Ruyi sceptres ranked top among officials' presents to the emperor
and his family.
This example was very finely carved in relief with sinuous
five-clawed dragons (representative of the Emperor) on cloud carved
head, the edge with Greek Key carving and the reverse with
important Imperial character marks and signed by the maker.
Such items are incredibly rare and apparently one was made each
year for the Emperor.
This example was consigned from a
property on the Suffolk/Essex border, having been purchased by the
owner a few years prior for a modest fee. Such is the
interest in Chinese works of art today, several telephone lines
were booked and numerous Chinese buyers were present in the
The cautious estimate of £8000-12,000
was left far behind as bidding rose in £2000 increments to an
From the same property, an
18th century Chinese celadon jade double gourd carved
with five bats for happiness realised £20,000 (again selling to a
Chinese buyer in the room), and a carved celadon jade boulder
realised £17,000 - selling live on the internet to a buyer in
These three items are perfect
illustrations of the booming demand for Chinese works of art.
Other notable prices in the sale included £7000 for a pair of
Chinese floor vases and £19,000 for a classic English Regency
mahogany Cumberland action triple pillar dining table.