• Fine Chinese Ceramics and Work auction at Christies

    Sale 7762

    Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art

    3 November 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 235


    JIAJING PERIOD (1522-66)

    Price Realised  


    JIAJING PERIOD (1522-66)
    Deeply carved on rounded body and cover with four equidistant shou medallions interspersed with long-bodied stylised chilong and leafy tendrils, the centre with four tripartite rockwork amidst turbulent waves
    7¾ in. (19.8 cm.) diam.

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    This rare box is covered in very well-carved, deep red lacquer, which is almost chestnut in tone. Such deep red colour can be seen on a number of lacquer dating to the Jiajing reign, as noted by Derek Clifford in Chinese Carved Lacquer, London, 1992, in which he discusses the current box (p. 97, pl. 72). Clifford proposes that this box would have been used to contain a headband or a bracelet. This proposition possibly stems from the fact that this box is of smaller diameter than the porcelain necklace boxes of the same period. However the smooth and well-rounded interior of the current box would have comfortably accommodated a necklace, so long as it was not of too great a length, or was of a structure that allowed it to be folded or doubled inside the box. Similarly-shaped lacquer boxes were used to contain chaozhu court necklaces in the Qing dynasty. These Qing chaozhu necklaces, which were worn by both men and women, were very long - composed of 108 beads in four sections of 27 separated by larger 'Buddha head' beads with an additional three strings attached - and they thus required a somewhat larger box.

    The decoration on this box has been carefully designed to maximise its auspicious wishes. In the interior of the ring are mountains and waves. The mountains represent the southern mountains, which are the 'mountains of longevity' shoushan, which rise from the 'sea of blessings' fuhai. This combination of mountains and sea was particularly popular on the Chinese decorative arts during the reign of the Jiajing emperor, especially when combined with other auspicious emblems, and is often seen on the blue and white porcelains of the period. The Jiajing emperor became obsessed with the notion of longevity and went to great, if futile, lengths in order to achieve it. To emphasise the notion of the 'mountains of longevity', a circular longevity character tuanshou has been carved above each mountain peak. The fact that the character is circular is significant, since this the circular shape yuan represents fulfilment or completeness, and thus the character provides a wish for longevity and fulfilment. The shape of the box echoes the circular form of the character, and emphasises the wish for fulfilment. Four young dragons have been carved between the shou characters. They are in archaistic style and can only be identified by their eyes, their manes and their bifurcated tails. Their heads flank two of the shou characters, while their tails flank the other two. The dragons are surrounded by wish-granting clouds. The decoration on this box therefore represents a wish for longevity, fulfilment, and all your wishes granted.

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    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Derek Clifford, Chinese Carved Lacquer, London, 1992, p.97, pl. 72.