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A FINE AND EXTREMELY RARE FAMILLE ROSE BALUSTER VASE\nYONGZHENG SIX-CHARACTER MARK WITHIN DOUBLE CIRCLES AND OF THE PERIOD (1723-1735)\nThe vase is elegantly potted with broad shoulders, flaring mouth and stands on a splayed, stepped foot. The fine white porcelain is masterfully enamelled on one side with a circular panel depicting Fuxi holding the Taiji tu, wearing his characteristic robe fringed by leaf collars and carrying a double gourd at his waist; and on the other with a lingzhi spray bearing several multi-coloured fungi flanked by leafy bamboo stems.\n9 5/8 in. (24.5 cm.) high, Japanese wood box


The current vase is a unique and fine example of early Yongzheng enamelled wares, and its subject matter is of considerable interests. The main decoration on the vase is reminiscent of a painting by the Chenghua Emperor (r. 1465-1487) now in the Palace Museum, Beijing (fig. 1). This painting was painted in the first year of the Chenghua reign, soon after he ascended the throne. The painting depicts three figures- the Confucian as represented by Tao Yuanming, the Daoist as represented by Lu Xiujing and the Buddhist as represented by monk Huiyuan - in a mutual embrace that renders the three to merge in one. The title of the painting, Yi tuan he qi (A Full Circle of Harmony) and its accompanying colophon written by the Emperor, show the express wish of the newly enthroned ruler for a peaceful reign, in which all different fractions exist together without the bitter infighting and political purging seen in his predecessors' time. This painting became widely copied in the succeeding periods in the popular culture, where it was often depicted as a single child-like laughing figure holding a scroll inscribed with the four characters Yi Tuan He Qi, to be used as auspicious New Year's paintings.

Although the two compositions appear remarkably similar, the iconography depicted on the current vase is undoubtedly that of Fuxi, one of the Three Emperors of Chinese mythology. He is wearing the characteristic leaf-collared robe, such as can be seen on a painting by Qiu Ying (1494-1552) now in the National Palace Museum in Taipei (ref. 330155N0000001), entitled Diwang daotong wannian tu (The Legitimacy of Emperors and Kings for Ten Thousand Years)(fig.2). The scroll he is holding in his hands is painted with a unique taiji symbol, which was said to have been invented by Fuxi himself, symbolising the beginning of universe. The legitimacy to rule was a grave issue for the Qing rulers ever since they assumed power. In the Confucian tradition, as shown in the paintings by Qiu Ying, the line of emperors starts with Fuxi, who was considered the first Emperor. Conscious of this, the Kangxi Emperor specifically commissioned the building of Chuanxindian in the Palace, where The Three Emperors Fuxi, Shennong and Huangdi were enshrined, and sacrifices were offered to them before each jingyan (Lectures in Classics for the Emperor) session. The unique taiji symbol painted on the scroll is a design first transmitted by neo-Confucian scholar Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073) in his Taiji tu shuo (A Discourse on the Taiji diagram), which was extensively studied and expounded by the great Southern Song scholar Zhu Xi (1130-1200). Both of these scholars were pivotal in the establishment of the lineage of legitimate rule that became embedded in the Chinese psyche of the succeeding generations, and the choice of this taiji symbol is by no means a coincidence.

The commissioning of this vase is therefore imbued with several layers of meaning. Like the Chenghua Emperor who painted the Yi tuan he qi painting in the first year of his reign, the Yongzheng Emperor commissioned this vase in the hope for a peaceful reign in which all different fractions can exist in harmony, especially after witnessing the tragic and bloody struggle for succession between his brothers. It is a wish for a new beginning, as symbolised by the taiji tu. It is also an attempt to assert his legitimacy in ascending the throne, amidst rampant rumors of him forcibly and illegally obtaining it. The lingzhi fungus, symbol of longevity, can be seen not only as a wish for his own long life, but also for the longevity of the Manchu rule, a legitimate continuation of the lineage established by Fuxi, for ten thousand years.




9 5/8 in. (24.5 cm.) high, Japanese wood box




18th Century, landscape, All other categories of objects, vases, ceramic, China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911)


Enamelled Polychrome Porcelain of the Manchu Dynasty, Oriental Ceramics Society, London, 1951, cat. no. 185




9 5/8 in. (24.5 cm.) high, Japanese wood box


Soame Jenyns, Later Chinese Porcelain, London, 1951, pl. XLIX


Collection of A. de la Narde

Collection of Charles Russell

Sold at Sotheby's London, 25th June 1946, lot 78

Collection of Robert C. Bruce

Sold at Sotheby's London, 12th May 1953, lot 142

Sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 23rd March 1993, lot 756

Sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 9th October 2007, lot 1503

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.