A fine and rare Imperial white jade archaistic disc, bi, with the original box Jiaqing, the box cyclically dated Xinwei year corresponding to AD 1811 and of the period
Lot 171
A fine and rare Imperial white jade archaistic disc, bi, with the original box
Jiaqing, the box cyclically dated Xinwei year corresponding to AD 1811 and of the period
£60,000 - 100,000
US$ 98,000 - 160,000
withdrawn

Lot Details
A fine and rare Imperial white jade archaistic disc, bi, with the original box Jiaqing, the box cyclically dated Xinwei year corresponding to AD 1811 and of the period A fine and rare Imperial white jade archaistic disc, bi, with the original box Jiaqing, the box cyclically dated Xinwei year corresponding to AD 1811 and of the period A fine and rare Imperial white jade archaistic disc, bi, with the original box Jiaqing, the box cyclically dated Xinwei year corresponding to AD 1811 and of the period A fine and rare Imperial white jade archaistic disc, bi, with the original box Jiaqing, the box cyclically dated Xinwei year corresponding to AD 1811 and of the period A fine and rare Imperial white jade archaistic disc, bi, with the original box Jiaqing, the box cyclically dated Xinwei year corresponding to AD 1811 and of the period
The Property of a Scots Family 蘇格蘭家族藏品
A fine and rare Imperial white jade archaistic disc, bi, with the original box
Jiaqing, the box cyclically dated Xinwei year corresponding to AD 1811 and of the period
Finely carved and pierced in openwork as an archaistic bi disc surmounted by a pair of confronted phoenix beneath a ruyi-head motif, the disc enclosing four seal characters chang yi zi sun (benefit for sons and grandsons forever) in four directions flanked by two pairs of phoenix, the stone of even white tone, inscribed box. 13cm (5in) long (3).

Footnotes

  • Provenance: Captain Arthur Forbes-Robertson (1834-1863), 67th Regiment of Foot
    Sent home by Arthur to his mother Helen Forbes-Robertson (1796-1873) before 1863
    Colonel George Forbes-Robertson, Arthur's younger brother
    Mrs Laura Ann Forbes-Robertson, and by descent to the present owners

    According to a note provided by Arthur for his mother, this lot, described in the note as t'other thing; and the jade vase (lot 170), described in the note as [t]his piece of jade, were removed by him from the Summer Palace in October 1860.

    The note reads as follows:
    For my dear Mother
    Mrs Forbes-Robertson

    This piece of jade was taken from the Emperor of China's Summer Palace in October 1860. by. (also, t'other thing!)

    Your affect. Son,

    Arthur Forbes-Robertson


    清嘉慶 白玉鏤雕鳳紋長宜子孫牌 盒御題「辛未(1811年)孟秋御筆」楷書款

    Compare a white jade disc with an Imperial mark and series number '188', dated to the Qianlong period (1736-95) from the Qing Court collection, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Jadeware (III), Hong Kong, 1995, pl.127. The Fitzwilliam Museum collection also includes a similar jade disc with a series number '168', illustrated by J.C.S.Lin, The Immortal Stone: Chinese jades from the Neolithic period to the twentieth century, Cambridge, 2009, Cat. 77a&b.

    Another related jade disc, dated to the Qianlong period, was sold at Christie's New York, 16-17 September 2010, lot 1094.

    The Inscription on the box repeats the last two lines of the Tang poem 秋思二首 "Two poems on thoughts of autumn" by Wang Ya 王涯 (764-835):

    宮連太液見滄波,
    暑氣微消秋意多,
    一夜輕風蘋末起,
    露珠翻盡滿池荷.
    辛未孟秋御筆

    This may be translated as:

    In the Palace complex one sees Lake Taiye's deep blue ripples;
    As summer heat fades, more hints of autumn,
    On an evening the pollen of the apple blossom rises in the gentle breeze;
    Pearls of dew fall, filling the pond brimming with lotus.
    By the Imperial brush, The first month of Autumn, of the Xinwei year (1811).



    The cover of the box bears the following inscription:

    延喜闓祥 (Yan xi kai xiang)

    This may be translated as:

    The beautiful jade shall bring blessing and auspiciousness

    According to the book of Documents (one of the five Confucian classics), the founder of the legendary early Xia dynasty, Yu the Great, was given by Heaven an ancient jade gui, called Yanxi. Thus, yanxi also became an expression for 'beautiful jade', while literally meaning 'extending joy'.







    Provenance:

    This lot (and the jade vase offered as lot 170) were both retrieved from the abandoned Summer Palace in Beijing by Captain Arthur Forbes-Robertson, an officer in the 67th Regiment of Foot, after the fall of the Chinese capital in October 1860.

    Arthur Forbes-Robertson was born at his family's Hampshire home in 1834 and joined the 67th Foot (the South Hampshires) as an Ensign on 20th October 1854. Whether or not he was inspired to enlist by the prevailing War with Russia is conjecture but, in the event, the men of the 67th were not sent to the Crimea and remained either at their depot in England or in Trinidad where some companies were garrisoned. It is unclear which option applied to young Arthur Forbes-Robertson but, wherever he was stationed, his training had progressed sufficiently well for him to be promoted Lieutenant a year later, on 30th October 1855. By 1858, Forbes-Robertson was with his regiment in the East Indies until, as a result of the escalating crisis in China, they were ordered there in September. Serving throughout the subsequent operations to capture Beijing, including the spirited action at Sinho, the taking of Tangku, and the storming of the (Inner) Taku Fort, Forbes-Robertson was then selected to be one of the officers who, with men under their command, formed part of the Guard of Honour for Lord Elgin, the British Plenipotentiary, at the formal signing of the Peace Treaty which ended hostilities on 24th October 1860. Between that date and 7th November, when the regiment marched out of Beijing, it is recorded that "some British officers and men (of the 67th) had made their way to the Summer Palace in hopes of securing some of the spoil before the French took everything" and it is clear from family records that Arthur Forbes-Robertson was one of their number.

    Whilst most of the China Expeditionary Force either returned home or were despatched to other stations, the 67th was amongst those units which remained in occupation to ensure Chinese compliance in their Treaty obligations. This occupation continued, in fact, for over three years, during which the 67th suffered more than its fair share of mortality due to the unhealthy summers and exceptionally cold winters. Sadly, Arthur Forbes-Robertson, by now promoted Captain (in July 1861), was one of these victims and he died of cholera in the Confucian Barracks at Shanghai, where the regiment was stationed, on 24th July 1863.

    The campaign medal for the Second China War (1857-60) was issued in 1861 and Captain Forbes-Robertson received his with the battle clasps for Taku Forts (1860) and Pekin (sic) (1860) to denote his participation in both operations.


    Historical background to the 67th Regiment's involvement in China:

    The first Anglo-Chinese War, the so-called 'Opium War', ended in August 1842 with Hong Kong Island ceded to Britain in perpetuity and China compelled to pay a huge indemnity of 21 million dollars. Not surprisingly, the Chinese bitterly resented these concessions and both nations soon found themselves involved in numerous perceived breaches of trading agreements, the frequency of which increased as time passed. After fourteen years of uneasy peace, matters came to a head in October 1856 when British forces mounted an attack on Canton, albeit with little success due to the shortage of troops caused by the demands of the Indian Mutiny. Once the Mutiny was quelled however, and seasoned troops could be despatched to China, events moved quickly; Canton was captured in January 1858 and a treaty was signed at Tientsin that May. Unfortunately, it rapidly became clear that the Chinese viewed the new treaty merely as a 'breathing space' to re-arm their forts and, the following year, additional Allied reinforcements were summoned.

    Embarking from Hong Kong on 21st September 1859, the 67th Foot, numbering 34 officers and 805 other ranks, landed at Canton on 23rd October. After wintering in barracks, the regiment, in company with the 99th, took and briefly occupied the island of Chusan as a precursor to Lieutenant-General Sir Hope Grant's intended advance up the Pei-Ho River towards Beijing. His first objective was to capture the strategic forts at Taku, which guarded the lower stretches of the river, and, although these were successfully stormed on 21st August 1860, the objective was only achieved after very heavy fighting at Sinho and Tangku where the 67th distinguished itself in both locations. Even though the walls of the formidable 'Inner' fort at Taku had earlier been damaged by British artillery, it still required the most intensive hand-to-hand fighting to gain entry but the officers and men of the 67th 'carried the day', and the regiment won four of the five Victoria Crosses awarded for the action.

    With the fall of the Taku Forts, the way to Beijing lay open and Hope Grant's force, including the 67th, reached the outskirts of the city on 5th October. Preparations for the assault commenced immediately and the 67th was assigned the task of taking the great north-east gate. Somewhat unexpectedly however, just before the expiry of the Allied ultimatum at noon on the 13th October, the Chinese capitulated and the 67th, instead of storming the gate, were able to take possession of it without a shot being fired. The visit of curious British officers and men to the Summer Palace soon afterwards was quickly regulated by General Hope Grant who ordered that "all plunder be pooled and distributed officially on a definite scale according to rank"; although this order was rigidly applied to coin and bullion, it does not seem to have been enforced with regard to objects and furnishings.

    Once the final Peace Treaty was in place, Hope Grant was anxious to get his troops out of Beijing before the winter set in and the 67th was ordered to Tianjin and Taku on occupation duties. Even though the 67th transferred to Shanghai in May 1862, some companies remained at Taku as late as January 1864 and were among the last British soldiers to leave China. Before that final withdrawal, the regiment lost numerous officers and men during a serious cholera epidemic in Shanghai in July 1863; although the 67th enjoyed its 'final hurrah' in the country helping to train and later serving alongside General 'Chinese' Gordon's 'Ever Victorious Army' during the Taiping Rebellion in the second half of 1863.

    Bonhams would like to thank Michael Naxton for compiling this footnote about Arthur Forbes-Robertson and the events in China.

Saleroom notices

  • This lot has been withdrawn
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