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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 80 

Lot 80

Lot 80
Treasury 2, no. 355 (‘The Celestial Terrace Palace Agate’)

Chalcedony; very well hollowed, with a flat lip and flat circular foot; carved with eight vertical lobes framed by a band of formalized lappets at the base and with formalized lingzhi heads around the shoulders, with three raised knobs beneath each to represent hanging jewels, the neck with a band of formalized flower heads of two different flowers, the lobes inscribed in regular script with a poem, the foot inscribed in seal script Qianlong nian zhi (‘Made during the Qianlong period’)
Imperial, palace workshops, Beijing, 1760–1799
Height: 5.39 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.52/1.29 cm
Stopper: tourmaline with integral finial and collar; probably original

Wing Hing (Hong Kong, 1987)

Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 216
Kleiner 1995, no. 250
JICSBS, Autumn 1995, p. 22, fig. 5
Treasury 2, no. 355

Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995
British Museum, London, June–October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

This is one of the late-Qianlong palace bottles of lobed form with inscriptions discussed in Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 164, where their previously questioned authenticity is established and references to others cited, one of which is in the Crane Collection, sold at Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 28 October 1992, lot 407. It is inscribed as having been made for the personal use of the Qianlong emperor in 1783.

The poem is by an eighth-century poet named Han Hong; it was written on the occasion of a visit to a Daoist temple, which he compares in the first line to a legendary dwelling of the immortals.

At the terrace of the immortals, my first glimpse of the Five-Wall Loft.
The scene is damp and cold, last night’s rain has stopped.
The colours of the mountains reach far away to the eventide trees of Qin.
The sounds of fulling blocks announce close by that autumn is in the
palace of Han.
Sparse pines: shadows scattered, an empty dais silent.
Fine grasses: fragrance wafted, a small grotto secluded.
Why go search beyond the world?
Cinnabar Mounds are also found in our human realm.

The Qin and Han capitals were both in the vicinity of modern Xi’an. Fulling blocks are used to flatten the seams of clothing that has been made for winter. Cinnabar Mounds are dwellings of the immortals. Once he actually enters the precincts of the temple, the poet finds silence and seclusion; he concludes that there is no need to depart from this human world to experience transcendence.

A number of these bottles are recorded, suggesting that they were made in reasonable quantities at the time. For other examples, see the commentary to this bottle in Treasury2. The size, material, and quality of this group of bottles vary quite considerably, although most are of this pale-grey material. This is one of the finer examples, with the bulging, tapering-cylindrical form that is found on the best of them, rather than the more straight-sided versions, which are not quite as elegant formally, although often as well carved. It is also beautifully hollowed and finely detailed.

The stopper is of an original type, fits perfectly, and is an ideal match; since it is of the shape of stopper found on so many court bottles, we can hazard a guess that it may have been the original.


This is not the Sotheby’s sale catalogue. This is a product of Hugh Moss for the purposes of this website. For the catalogue details please refer to Sotheby’s website or request a copy of a printed sale catalogue from Sotheby’s.


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