Spring auction of Ming and Qing imperial seals in Hong Kong Qianlong white jade seal estimated at 180 million yuan

Sotheby’s Hong Kong‘s spring auction features the most sought-after trio of imperial seals from the Ming and Qing dynasties, including a posthumous green jade dragon button seal of Empress Yongle Ren and Xiaowen of the Ming dynasty (left), an imperial sandalwood beast button square seal of the Kangxi emperor (right), and a white jade seal with crossed dragon buttons of the Qianlong emperor (center).

Sotheby’s Hong Kong will hold its “Spring Sale of Chinese Art Treasures” in April, with the most highly anticipated of the three imperial seals from the Ming and Qing dynasties, with a total estimate of 230-310 million yuan (HK$, same below, approximately $30-30 million). The three imperial seals include the only surviving jade seal from the Ming dynasty and the most highly-valued seal in auction history, the Qianlong Emperor’s “White Jade Seal with Crossed Dragon Knob”, with a maximum estimate of 180 million yuan.

Three Ming and Qing imperial seals from private collections in Hong Kong, including the posthumous Qing jade dragon seal of Empress Yongle Ren and Xiaowen of the Ming dynasty, the imperial sandalwood seal of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing dynasty, and the imperial white jade seal of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty, “Ji’en tang”, will be auctioned on April 22. The auction will take place on April 22nd.

Sotheby’s Asia Chairman and International Head and Chairman of Chinese Art Qiu Guoshi said that the three imperial seals span two dynasties, witnessing the change of the Ming and Qing dynasties, and are of great historical significance.

The report pointed out that the Qing jade posthumous seal of Empress Yongle of the Ming dynasty is the only surviving imperial jade seal of the Ming dynasty, estimated at $25 million to $30 million, and was made in 1424; the seal was posthumously dedicated to Emperor Yongle’s Empress Xu and placed in the Imperial Temple. As Li Zicheng became emperor in 1644, the Ming dynasty was formally overthrown and the seal was damaged and burned, leaving only about half of the seal remaining. According to Li Jia, a senior expert in Chinese art, the orphaned seal is a testament to the Ming dynasty’s rise and fall and is of high value.

The second imperial seal belongs to the Kangxi emperor and is estimated to be worth between 80 million and 100 million yuan. The imperial seal is large in size and is estimated to have been carved in the early years of Kangxi’s reign. Li Jia pointed out that the seal is engraved with the words “respect for heaven and diligence”, which was placed in the Qianqing Palace of the Kangxi Emperor’s chambers to remind himself of the ways of the ruler.

The last imperial seal is of the highest value, belonging to the Qianlong emperor, made in the 31st year of the Qianlong reign (1766), and is estimated at 120 to 180 million yuan. The imperial seal is inscribed “Ji’en tang,” and on all four sides is engraved “Ji’en tang ji,” which was made by Qianlong. Li Jia said the white jade seal was placed in Ji’en Hall in the Yuanmingyuan, the very place where Qianlong first attended Kangxi; the jade seal was mainly in memory of his grandfather, Kangxi, and his grandfather-son relationship, so it was very rare.

According to Li Jia, it was rumored that Qianlong’s father, Yongzheng, had taken the throne, and the jade seal implied that Kangxi loved Qianlong and wanted Yongzheng to inherit the throne. During the late Qing Dynasty, the jade seal was also damaged by fire because of the destruction of Ji’en Hall.