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SHUNZHI PERIOD (1644-1661)

SHUNZHI PERIOD (1644-1661)
The square seal is surmounted by a crouching dragon on its four legs and its tail coiled behind. The seal face is carved in relief with a four-character inscription Zhi Huanghou bao (Treasure of Empress Zhi) in seal script, followed by an inscription in Manchu script. The stone is of a pale celadon tone with some russet inclusions.
5 7⁄16 x 5 3⁄8 x 5 3⁄4 in. (13.9 x 13.8 x 14.6 cm)
Collection of Sir George Sheppard Murray (d. 1928), Managing Director of the Mercantile Bank of India in Singapore, acquired circa 1900, and thence by descent (by repute)
Woolley & Wallis, Salisbury, 13 November 2013, lot 96

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Marco Almeida (安偉達)
Marco Almeida (安偉達) SVP, Senior International Specialist, Head of Department

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Lot Essay

The inscription reads Zhi Huanghou Bao (seal of Empress Zhi), written in both Manchu regular script and Chinese seal script, each in two vertical lines. According to Guo Fuxiang of the Palace Museum, Beijing, the present seal is a posthumous seal that Emperor Shunzhi installed at the Imperial Ancestral Temple in the ninth year of his reign (in 1652). It is also one of the seals that he commissioned to venerate the four preceding generations of ancestors before Nurhaci (1559-1626), the founder of the Qing Dynasty.

Shibao, or posthumous seals, were made when the ruling emperors venerated the past emperors and empresses with posthumous titles. They were designated to be offered in the Imperial Ancestral Temple to praise the virtue of the past emperors or empresses. Zhi Huanghou (Empress Zhi) was the posthumous title bestowed upon Fuman’s wife from the Hitara clan. Fuman of the Aisin Gioro clan was the great-grandfather of Emperor Taizu Nurhaci. Fuman served as the commander of the Left Guard of Jian Prefecture between 1522 and 1542 after inheriting the title from his father. He led the migration of the Jian Prefecture Jurchen to Hetu Ala, where they transitioned into a sedentary society with developed agricultural practice. Fuman established a firm economic basis for the formation of the Manchu state. In the first year of Emperor Hong Taiji’s reign (1636), Fuman was given the posthumous title of Qingwang, the King of Qing. In the fifth year of Emperor Shunzhi’s reign (1647), Emperor Shunzhi bestowed a further title on him as Zhi Huangdi, or Emperor Zhi, and his wife Hitara as Empress Zhi.

According to the historical record, there were two posthumous seals commissioned for each of the four emperors and empresses before Nurhaci. The first set was made in the ninth year of Emperor Shunzhi’s reign (1652) and had finials?in the form?of crouching dragons. The second set was made in the second year of Emperor Xuantong’s reign (1910) and had finials?in the form?of entwined dragons. The present seal with finial in the style of crouching dragon, was of Empress Zhi thus was made in the style of Emperor Shunzhi’s crouching dragons.

The present seal is generously proportioned. The dragon is carved with a raised head, a robust and arched body, and a tail pointing up. Its slender body is supported by four claws. The bold carving of the finial and the crisp inscription, coupled with the heaviness of the overall form, all suggest a strong sense of power. The engraved lines on the dragon-form finial were gilded, although most of the gilding has been lost over the years the exception of an area on the back of the front left leg. The style of carving of the present seal is consistent with the posthumous seal of Zhaoyuanzu Huangdi (Emperor Zhaoyuanzu) in the Palace Museum, Beijing commissioned in the same year, see ‘Qingdai dihou yifa yu Gugong Bowuyuan cang Qingdai dihou yice yibao,'?Palace Museum Bulletin, 1994, vol. 4, both of these seals are important historical and art objects demonstrating the bold style of jade carvings from the Shunzhi period.

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