The censer is carved from an exceptional boulder of high shui fen or "water content". This precious material, with its remarkable degree of translucency has been regarded as the most valuable and rarest of all the many classifications for jadeite. Once polished, jadeite material with high shui fen is so vitreous, it can be described as liquid in quality. It has been noted that unlike other precious stones which reflect and refract light, jadeite of this quality is most appealing as it appears to absorb the surrounding illumination and glow from within.
Given the rarity, quality and value of the jadeite boulder used for this substantial censer, it is quite remarkable that the rough was used for a single object and not carved into smaller ornaments.
While most jade and jadeite censers are carved with a variety of archaistic themes around the body, the lapidary craftsmen chose to leave the body of this vessel plain and polished it to an attractive sheen to emphasize the beauty and colour of the material.
This censer compares very favorably with another important censer carved from nearly identical material, and possibly the same rough, included in the Jingguantang collection and sold in these Rooms, 3 November 1996, lot 601 (fig. 1). Although the proportions of both censers differ, there are many similarities including the quality and style of the carving of the finials and handles, and the decision to leave the majority of the vessel undecorated, which suggests both censers were carved in the same workshop.
Compare also with a further two important jadeite censers from American museum collections which exhibit many similarities, suggesting they too were crafted at the same workshop, the first from the T.B. Walker Foundation, sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 17 November 1988, lot 299; the other from the Cleveland Museum of Art Collection, sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 30 October 1992, lot 381. The carving of the Buddhist lion finials on all four censers are very closely related, the pairs of felines are depicted with the similar features and manes standing above the tall domed covers. The imposing animal mask handles exhibit the same boldness and crisp lines, the proportions of the ring handles are very closely related as well. Further similarities can be made when comparing the tripod feet, and the polish of each vessel. Only the Cleveland museum censer has been carved around the body and cover with stylised borders of archaic motifs, of all four censers, the rough material of this censer is most mottled in colour.