A magnificent jade ruyi sceptre. Qing dynasty
A magnificent pale seladon jade ruyi sceptre carved in relief with a five-clawed dragon and a flaming pearl, its writhing body intertwined with peony leaves and blossoms. The elegantly curved handle carved in low relief to the centre with a phoenix standing on clouds with a peony branch in its beak, and to the front and back with five bats in clouds, one bearing rohdea japonica. Brocade-covered fitted stand.
Length 42.5 cm
Dating back to pre-Tang times, the ruyi sceptre, initially connected to Buddhism, is popularly thought to have originated as a back-scratcher or from the hu tablets held by officials. Over time however it came to be associated with Daoism and lost its practical function to become an ornamental, auspicious object favoured particularly by the emperors of the Qing dynasty, often presented to worthy or loyal subjects as a talisman to bestow good fortune. Emperor Qianlong in particular possessed a large collection of sceptres and was often depicted in paintings with this symbol of political power.
This sceptre is drenched in propitious imagery enhancing the power of the auspicious stone: the combination of the dragon and phoenix form the well-known rebus of the emperor and empress as well as conjugal bliss (longfeng chengxiang), the phoenix and peony (fugui jixiang) for wealth, rank and good fortune, and five bats represent the 'Five Blessings' (wufu).
Private collection, Düsseldorf
Compare a very similar dragon on a vase in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. no. 02.18.606a, b, and further dragons on a sceptre sold at Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 9.10.2007, lot 1310, and one sold at Christie’s, Hong Kong, 1.12.2010, lot 3028