A magnificent imperial jade seal, which was created to mark the birthday of China's Qianlong emperor, sold with stunning results in Sotheby's Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art auction, held September 11-12 in New York.
One of the most impressive results of Asia week so far, the piece soared past its high estimate of $1.2m to achieve an impressive $3.4m. The sale saw the piece achieve a 191.5% increase on its valuation, boosted by its fascinating story.
The Qianlong emperor had many seals made to mark the most important events of his life. This seal was one of a series of sixty-three he had produced to mark his 80th birthday in 1790. Inscribed with the words "Ba zheng mao nian zhi bao", which translates as "Treasure of concern over phenomenon at eighty", the piece reflects the emperor's concern for his empire.
Qianlong's grandfather, the Kangxi emperor, had ruled for 60 years and Qianlong swore that he would not serve for longer than this as a mark of respect. By 1790, he had ruled for fifty-five years and was planning to hand over the throne as the 60th year approached.
The inscribed phrase was taken from an explanation of the Way of Heaven found in the Shangshu, a compilation of speeches and events in ancient China. The original phrase described how meteorological phenomena affected the lives of the people, and Qianlong extended the meaning of this to include his concern for the people.
Still deeply involved with the country's governance, the emperor was worried about giving up his throne and where that would lead the empire. The seal is a remarkable piece that shows the thoughts and pressures of one of China's greatest rulers.
More results from New York's Asia week can be found in our dedicated Art and Photography news section, along with expert investment advice.