A rare and important Imperial green jade musical stone, qing Incised Qianlong mark corresponding to AD 1764 and of the period
Lot 219*
A rare Imperial green jade musical stone, qing Incised Qianlong seven-character mark corresponding to AD 1764 and of the period
Sold for £96,000 (US$ 117,273) inc. premium

Lot Details
Property from an Important Australian Private Collection (lots 219-257)
Property from an Important Australian Private Collection (lots 219-257)

The impressive collection of Chinese and Tibetan art offered in this auction was formed primarily during the 1950s and 60s in Sydney, and represents the discerning taste and inquisitive eye of two collectors who were buying at a time, and in a part of the world, where relatively little was known about Chinese art. The collectors spent afternoons and weekends browsing the selections of works of art available at local antique dealers and auctions, and quickly developed a sophisticated eye for fine workmanship, beauty and rarity.

The collection expanded over the years to include not only fine examples of Chinese Imperial jades, bronzes and ceramics, but also Japanese art - inro, tsuba and prints; as well as European Old Master drawings and Pre-Columbian works of art.

Despite the discreet nature of their collecting, the owners were nonetheless generous in agreeing to lend items from their collection to various exhibitions in Australia, including to the 28th International Congress of Orientalists, Exhibition of Asian Documentary and Art Materials, in Canberra in 1971; to the ground- breaking show, Archaic Chinese Bronzes in Australian and New Zealand Collections, held at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1975; to the Exhibition of Antique Treasures, organised by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales in 1986; and to both The Floating World and the Heroes and Villains exhibitions, both held at the National Gallery of New South Wales in 1994 and 2001 respectively. They also agreed for selections from the collection to be photographed and published in the 1975 publication Antiques in Australia from private collections. They were always happy and willing to invite like-minded collectors and experts into their home to view, handle and discuss their objects, and always meticulously recorded their opinions on small notes which have, to this day, remained with the items. It is a delight to find such a quantity of retained printed and hand-written references relating to a collection. It is these references which have allowed us to trace the provenance of the Qianlong-dated jade chime (lot 219) right back to a historical moment in Beijing in 1924, recalling how remarkable Imperial works of art like this musical stone were leaving the Palaces and falling into the hands of private collectors and antique dealers in Beijing and abroad.
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A rare and important Imperial green jade musical stone, qing Incised Qianlong mark corresponding to AD 1764 and of the period A rare and important Imperial green jade musical stone A rare and important Imperial green jade musical stone, qing Incised Qianlong mark corresponding to AD 1764 and of the period
A rare Imperial green jade musical stone, qing
Incised Qianlong seven-character mark corresponding to AD 1764 and of the period
The thick spinach-green stone with one longer tapering side, pierced with a circular suspension hole, each face gilt with a pair of writhing five-clawed dragons amidst clouds, the upper edge of the longer side inscribed with two characters reading Gu xi, the shorter side inscribed Qianlong ershijiunian zhi (made in the twenty-ninth year of Qianlong).
48.9cm (19¼in) wide


  • Provenance: an Imperial Palace or temple, Beijing, by repute.
    Acquired in Beijing in 1924 by Mr A.V.Harvey, an accountant at Yuin Yeh bank in Beijing, who was able to purchase it from part of the Imperial collateral given to the bank.
    Purchased directly from Mr A.V.Harvey in Sydney, where he was by then working as stockbroker, on 7 June 1960.

    Exhibited: 28th International Congress of Orientalists, Exhibition of Asian Documentary and Art Materials, Canberra, 6-12 January 1971

    Illustrated: J.Rogan, Antiques in Australia from private collections, Milton, Queensland, 1975, p.81.

    Qing Dynasty musical stones, qing, are based on archaic prototypes dating from as early as the Shang Dynasty. A set of ten chimes was excavated at the Warring States Period site of Miaoqian Zun, Shanxi province, and was published in Wenwu, 1958, p.35. Another set of eight limestone chimes was excavated in 1979 from another Warring States burial site at Dafuguan village in Shandong province, illustrated by Lu Wensheng and J.K.Murray, Confucius. His Life and Legacy in Art, New York, 2010, Catalogue no.18. The complete set would have originally consisted of sixteen stones, representing twelve tones and four half tones. A complete set from the Palace Collection in Beijing, also inscribed and dated to the 29th year of Qianlong (1764) is illustrated in Life in the Forbidden City of Qing Dynasty, Beijing, 2007, pp.28-29, figs.42-44 and again by E.Rawski and J.Rawson, China: The Three Emperors 1662-1795, London, 2006, Catalogue no.31, where it is noted that sonorous stones of dark green nephrite were reserved for the Grand Sacrifices performed at the Altar of Heaven and the Altar of Land and Grain, see ibid, p.396.

    The two-character inscription reading guxi refers to the name of the fifth note of the Chinese scale. A Kangxi-period example (dated 1720) inscribed with these same two characters indicating the fifth note was sold at Sotheby's New York, 28 February 1980, lot 371.

    A small number of spinach-green jade chimes inscribed with the same Qianlong date (corresponding to 1764) as the present example have been published and it is possible that they all originally belonged to the same complete group. One example, inscribed with the note 'lin zhong' was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8-9 November 1982, lot 364. Another, inscribed 'huang zhong', was sold at Sotheby's 16 June 1999, lot 761. The China Institute in America exhibited another example inscribed 'nan lu', see Chinese Jades Through the Centuries, New York, 1968, Catalogue no.66. An additional stone was included in the 1948 Oriental Ceramic Society exhibition, however the catalogue entry does not mention the tone, see The Oriental Ceramic Society, Chinese Jades, London, 1948, Catalogue no.235.

    A further group of individual chimes, dated to the twenty-sixth year of Qianlong, is also known. See two examples in the Norton Museum of Art, illustrated by J.R.Finlay, ed., The Chinese Collection. Selected works from the Norton Museum of Art, Florida, 2003, p.220, Catalogue nos.91 and 92.
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  1. Asaph Hyman
    Specialist - Chinese Works of Art
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 5888
    FaxFax: +44 20 7468 5840
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