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Qianlong Emperor's seal from Beijing's Forbidden City heads Bonhams Fine Chinese Art sale
The rare double-gourd shaped seal, measuring 8.7cm long, has been authenticated by the leading Chinese academic in this field, Guo Fuxiang, of the Palace Museum, Beijing. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- An important Imperial spinach green jade double-gourd ‘San Xi Tang’ seal, of the revered Qianlong period (1736-1795), estimated to sell for over £1m, is one of the outstanding items in Bonhams Fine Chinese Art sale on 17th May, in London.

The rare double-gourd shaped seal, measuring 8.7cm long, has been authenticated by the leading Chinese academic in this field, Guo Fuxiang, of the Palace Museum, Beijing.

San Xi Tang, (the Hall of the Three Rarities), is situated in the Forbidden City in the western side of the Yangxin Dian (Hall of Mental Cultivation). The Qianlong Emperor kept three prized rare scrolls in the building: Wang Xizhi’s Kuaixue Shiqing Tie (timely clearing after snowfall), Wang Xianzhi’s Zhongqiu (Mid-Autumn festival), and Wang Xun’s Bai Yuan Tie (letter to Boyuan), amongst other important antiquities. The actual size of the San Xi Tang hall in which the seal was kept is only 4 square meters but it was an important personal space of the Qianlong Emperor.

The seal is carved in an auspicious double-gourd form, associated with longevity as well as representing Heaven and Earth. The upper section is carved with three chi dragons (chilong), analogous to the hall name.

The forthcoming Fine Chinese Art sale also includes a large and important Imperial jade mountain dedicated by Li Hong Zhang to Prince Gong (6th son of the Daoguang Emperor), estimated at £400,000-600,000.

Asaph Hyman, Director of Chinese Art at Bonhams, comments: “We are delighted to have brought to light this important and long lost Imperial seal. Until this moment only the impression of the seal was recorded in the Imperial archives, but now academics and distinguished collectors can study and cherish the actual work of art. It was almost certainly commissioned and personally handled by the Qianlong Emperor himself, and provides a direct link to one of the most important Emperors in China”s history.”

Further research by Bonhams Chinese Art Department has revealed another exciting aspect of the Qianlong Imnperial seal’s history. An album of seals of the Emperor Qianlong, presently in the Musée Guimet in Paris (ref. BG31149) records an impression of the seal.

Bonhams Chinese Art Department Director, Asaph Hyman, notes: “This is an exciting discovery which lends further depth to the history of the seal.”

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