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Chinese Emperor's Imperial Jade Dragon Seal could reach record price

A stunning piece of China's history is expected to make millions at Bonhams' November sale

A unique seal believed to have been personally commissioned by the 18th century Chinese Qianlong Emperor is set to wow collectors at Bonhams Sale of Fine Chinese Art in London on November 11.

The jade seal measures four centimetres square and bears the inscription "Zi Qiang Bu Xi" or "Self Strengthening Never Ceases" and is related to the Emperor's 80th Birthday a celebration which was also the 55th year of his reign.

This iconic reminder of China's golden age is both simple and elegant in style.  Guo Fuxiang,a curator and expert on Chinese Imperial relics had this to say about the piece:

"The reason this inscription was chosen for the seal is revealed in the Emperor's personal comments which indicates a determination not to become indolent, but to remain mindful and diligent, doing his best to govern his subjects before relinquishing power. The term Ziqiang Buxi - Self Strengthening Never Ceases - served as a constant reminder to him."

The auction of this seal marks yet another chapter in the glorious legacy of stunning collectible artefacts and literature from the Qianlong era.

This unique object was the Emperor's personal seal and would have originally been one in a set of three jade seals used to make impressions at the right and left hand corners of calligraphy artworks.

These seals are so valuable that the imprints of all three can only be viewed within the Qianlong Baosou collection at the Beijing Palace Museum.

Asaph Hyman, a senior specialist within the Chinese Art Department at Bonhams commented:


"The discovery of this long lost symbol of Imperial China at its zenith is extremely important for all those passionate about the history of Imperial China. There is no other work of art with which the Emperor would have been as personally associated as with his personal seal. Bonhams is greatly honoured to be selling an Imperial seal of such importance. "


According to detailed Chinese records, the Imperial Edict for the jade carving was granted on the 25th day of the 12th month of the 57th year of the Qianlong Emperor's reign which dates the making of the piece to 1793.

Records also indicate that the quality of the jade piece is described as highly valuable 'White jade'.

Based on information gleaned from the well preserved Chinese label which accompanied the set, this particular seal was created specifically for Yanchunge and sent directly to the Imperial Court in Beijing from the jade workshops in Suzhou.

The Yanchunge was constructed in the 7th year of the Qianlong Emperor's reign (1742) and was noted for its elaborate interior design and fine furnishings.

The Ziqiang Buxi seal was stored there amongst other treasures from the Emperor's collection.

When the Jiaqing Emperor came to power (1799), the Qianlong Emperor's precious treasures were re-organised and his scattered seal collection was compiled and stored together.

This set of seals was probably removed during this period and kept in the Emperor's treasure box.

Come November 11, 2010, this hotly anticipated piece will come to auction at Bonhams and if previous sales are anything to go by, collectors could see the piece fetch millions.

In April 2010, Sotheby's saw a rare jade stamp from Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (pictured above) sell for a world record price of £7.9 ($12.2m).

You can keep up to date on any news regarding this truly unique sale here.


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Images: Sotheby's

Last updated: 15 September 2010