It’s not often in Geology that you have an opportunity to personally link an item to a historical figure but thanks to Freeman’s auction house we can tie a beautiful piece of jade to one of the later Qing Dynasty emperors. Little did the Qianlong Emperor (born Aisin Gioro Hongli) and sixth emperor of the last Chinese imperial dynasty suspect one of his personal items would appear in an internet auction catalogue, but life is stranger than fiction. The item for sale is a gorgeous pale and luminous high relief carved jade seal in a celadon white tone. The carving depicts three qilong (unicorns) which are symbols of good luck among carved scrolling clouds which likely refers to the Chinese saying “Canlong jiaozi”, which may be translated as “The Eastern [blue] dragon teaching his son[s]”, probably referring to the personal situation of the emperor.
Jade is a traditional carving material in China. In ancient days in China jade was symbolized the inner beauty within humans. This certainly isn’t the first jade imperial seal. The first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang, created the first Imperial seal, in 221 B.C., also of Jade. By the time of the Ming dynasty (starting in 1368) the first imperial seal was lost. Until the Ming dynasty seals were typically reserved for Imperial use. A Chinese seal (印章 yìnzhāng) is a device used to mark important documents, pieces of art, contracts, or any other item that requires a signature – in effect similar to a signet ring or in modern times an ink signature stamp. These seals were usually carven stone, but sometimes were made of wood, bamboo, bone, or ceramic. They would be dipped in either red ink or cinnabar paste.
View a video of the seal below or visit the Freeman auction site to learn more about the seal.
We may not have any imperial seals, but we have plenty of jade for sale. Check out our selection of Jade. If you don’t see something that tickles your fancy, contact us as we only post only a portion of our inventory online.
The Qianlong Emperor in court dress. Top image by Giuseppe Castiglione – Palace Museum, Beijing, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15172620