A magnificent and important documentary pale green jade mountain 18th century, dedicated by Li Hong Zhang to Prince Gong
Lot 54
A magnificent and important documentary pale green jade mountain
18th century, dedicated by Li Hong Zhang to Prince Gong
Sold for £ 481,250 (US$ 641,831) inc. premium

Fine Chinese Art

17 May 2012, 10:00 BST

London, New Bond Street

Lot Details
An English Family Collection of Important Jade Carvings
(Lots 47 to 54)
A magnificent and important documentary pale green jade mountain 18th century, dedicated by Li Hong Zhang to Prince Gong A magnificent and important documentary pale green jade mountain 18th century, dedicated by Li Hong Zhang to Prince Gong A magnificent and important documentary pale green jade mountain 18th century, dedicated by Li Hong Zhang to Prince Gong A magnificent and important documentary pale green jade mountain 18th century, dedicated by Li Hong Zhang to Prince Gong
A magnificent and important documentary pale green jade mountain
18th century, dedicated by Li Hong Zhang to Prince Gong
The magnificent and large jade boulder carved as a mountain peak, boldly carved in high relief with four sages and an attendant on a narrow ledge above a stream, amidst a mountainous landscape with pine and wutong trees, the reverse with bare rocky cliffs and pine trees, with a nine-character inscription incised on an overhanging precipice retaining traces of gilt, reading: Jin Feng Gong Qin Wang Chen Li Hong Zhang (Humbly Presented [to] Prince Gong [by] Minister Li Hong Zhang); together with a carved wood stand.
14½in wide; 7in high (2).


  • 十八世紀 青玉雕山水人物大山子 「謹奉恭親王 臣李鴻章」楷書刻款

    Provenance: Li Hong Zhang, GCVO (1823-1901), Premier of the Viceroyalty of Zhili, leading statesman during the late Qing Dynasty.

    Prince Gong, Yixin (1833-1898), formally known as Prince of the First Rank, the sixth son of the Daoguang Emperor (reigned 1821-1850) and half brother of the Xianfeng Emperor (reigned 1850-1861), served as Prince-Regent during the Tongzhi Emperor's reign (1861-1875)
    By descent to his grandson, Prince Gong
    Yamanaka & Co.
    The American Art Galleries, New York, 22 February 1913, The Remarkable Collection of the Imperial Prince Kung of China, lot 252.
    Christie's London, 27 May 1963, lot 118.
    An English Family Collection of Important Jade Carvings, and thence by descent.

    The present jade mountain is carved with four sages and an attendant in a mountainous river landscape. It is very possible that this scene represents the 'Four Sages of Mount Shang' (商山四皓): Dong Yuangong, Xia Huanggong, Qi Liji and Master Lu Li. They were Imperial ministers who served at Court during the Qin Dynasty in the 3rd century BC. Disillusioned with the corrupt Qin government, they retired to live their lives in reclusion on Mount Shang, Shaanxi Province. Following the establishment of the Han Dynasty they declined an invitation by Gaodi to return to official life. However, they reappeared at a banquet at Court in support of the succesion of the Crown Prince Liu Ying.

    PRINCE GONG, YIXIN (1833-1898)

    The first Prince Gong was the sixth son of the Daoguang Emperor and was conferred this title by his father in 1850; his mother was posthumously conferred the title of Dowager Empress by the Xianfeng Emperor. In 1852 he was given a palace of his own.

    During the Taiping Rebellion in 1853 Prince Gong commanded a patrol in the metropolitan area. In the same year he was made a Grand Councillor and in 1854 was given the posts of Lieutenant-General of a Banner and President Controller of the Imperial Clan Court. However, in 1855, a dispute arose between the Emperor and Prince Gong, and he was deprived of all his posts, the pretext being that he was negligent in observing the mourning ceremonies. Later in 1857 the tables turned once more and he was reappointed as Lieutenant-General of a Banner and in 1859 named a Senior Chamberlain of the Imperial Bodyguard.

    Following the invasion of the British and French forces in 1858, reaching Tianjin, Prince Gong opposed the opening of the Yangtze River to foreigners and proposed preparation for war. In 1860, the allied forces avenged their previous defeat and continued marching through Tongzhou, preparing to advance on Beijing. On 21 September the allied forces won the battle of Baliqiao and the Xianfeng Emperor ordered Prince Gong to make peace with the allies. On the following day the Emperor fled from the Yuanming Yuan to Rehe. On 26 September the allies reached the Yuanming Yuan and for three days pillaged the Summer Palace. Prince Gong, who resided near the Summer Palace, fled to Lugouqiao. The allies entered Beijing on 13 October and in retaliation for the death of thirteen British and eight French prisoners burned the Yuanming Yuan on 18 October.

    On 24 and 25 October Prince Gong exchanged texts of the British and French Treaties of Tientsin and signed the Convention of Peking with the British Lord Elgin and French Baron Gros. The Convention guaranteed permanent residence for foreign envoys in Beijing, opened Tianjin as a treaty port and granted an increase in indemnities. The British obtained the lease of Kowloon, and the French the promise that all the confiscated property of the Catholic missions would be restored. Russia, due to her involvement in the negotiations, was conceded all the territory east of the Ussuri River.

    That the Prince achieved a settlement and effected the withdrawal of the Western Powers from Beijing, without the support of an army or navy, was considered by many an achievement. Prince Gong emerged as the leader in Beijing, whilst the Court still cowered in Rehe.

    On 20 January 1861 Prince Gong's proposal to establish an office in charge of foreign affairs was approved by the Emperor, with the result that the Zongli Geguo Shiwu Yamen (總理各國事務衙門), commonly known as the Zongli Yamen (Office for General Management), came into existence on 11 March 1861. The Zongli Yamen for some forty years played an important role not only in Foreign Affairs but also in the modernisation of China, promoting modern schools, Western science, industry and communications. Prince Gong was placed in charge of the Zongli Yamen.

    Prince Gong also established at this time the offices of Superintendencies of Trade of the North and South in Tianjin and Shanghai, which whilst not officially subordinate to the Zongli Yamen, nonetheless developed as the regional heads for Foreign Affairs duties. Li Hong Zhang was appointed as the Southern Superintendant of Trade in 1863.

    The settlements following the traumatic experience of 1860 changed altogether Prince Gong's attitude towards the foreign powers. Whereas before he was entirely anti-foreign, he now came to respect the British power, convinced that China had no alternative but to cooperate with the West. Prince Gong evolved a new policy for China of Self-Strengthening: diplomatically it would accommodate the West to gain a lasting period of peace, in which to build up (with Western aid) its military strength and navy. This policy was supported by the Manchu Grand Councillor Wen Xiang and by powerful leaders in the provinces including Li Hong Zhang.

    In 1861 the Xianfeng Emperor died and a Regency period began during the Tongzhi Emperor's minority, initially composed of eight Regents. However, the Empresses were denied their legal authority to approve the edicts of the Regents and an intense power struggle ensued. The Empresses conspired with Prince Gong, who had the support of the foreign troops and the power centre in Beijing, to remove the Regents. Following their arrival at Beijing with the boy Emperor, the Empresses accused the eight Regents of dominating rather than assisting the Court. Of the eight Regents, two princes were allowed to hang themselves, one was decapitated and the others were dismissed.

    In November a new arrangement was made in which the Empresses acted as Co-Regents and Prince Gong as Prince Counsellor. Prince Gong declined the offer to make his princedom 'perpetually inheritable', but accepted the double annual stipend of Prince of the First Degree. In addition to directing Foreign Affairs, he was now in charge of the Grand Council, which advised the throne on all important matters of state, had the supervision of the Emperor's education and was in charge of the Beijing field forces.

    In 1864 Prince Gong was praised for the recovery of Nanjing from the Taiping rebels and was given the additional rank of a Prince of the Third Degree. However, on 2 April 1865 the Dowager Empress Cixi deprived him of all his offices on the charge that he had shown partiality to his relatives and his careless conduct at Court. However, he was quickly reinstated as head of the Zongli Yamen and of the Grand Council, but he no longer held the rank of Prince Counsellor.

    In 1872, on the occasion of the Tongzhi Emperor's wedding, the Emperor conferred on Prince Gong's princedom the right of perpetual inheritance. By 10 September 1874, Prince Gong was deprived of all his ranks and offices and was reduced to a Prince of the Second Degree, accused of discourteous conduct in an audience. However, the real cause behind the dispute was the question of restoration of the Yuanming Yuan, to which Prince Gong was opposed as he believed the funds were necessary for the building of the navy. Nevertheless, on the following day the Emperor, by the order of the Empresses Dowagers, was compelled to restore to Prince Gong all his ranks and offices. It was also in the 1870s that Li Hong Zhang as Governor-General of Zhili, as Superintendent of Trade for the Northern ports (High Commissioner for the Northern Ocean; Beiyang Dachen) and as Imperial Commissioner (Qinchai), practically became the central figure in foreign affairs, pre-empting the function of the Zongli Yamen, for nearly a quarter of a century.

    After the succession of Cixi's nephew the Guangxu Emperor in 1875, the Dowager Empress' power was firmly established and although the Prince continued in office until 1884 his authority gradually diminished. Following the troubled relationship with France, he was later blamed for mismanagement of the government and consequently he and all members of the Zongli Yamen and the Grand Council were degraded. Prince Gong retained his princedom and perpetual inheritance, but was deprived of all his offices and added stipends which were later reinstated in 1886.

    During the Sino-Japanese War, he was called in October 1894 to head the Zongli Yamen and was ordered to serve on the board of the Admiralty and on the War Council and in December he was made head of the Grand Council. The war was lost and Prince Gong witnessed the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895. In February 1898 he was made acting Presiding Controller of the Imperial Clan Court, but died soon after.

    His passing was mourned by the Dowager Empress Cixi and he was eulogised for his contributions to the Empire. He was canonised as Zhong (loyal) and his name was celebrated in the Imperial Ancestral Temple and in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen.

    LI HONG ZHANG (1823-1901)

    In 1853 when the Taiping rebels reached Anhui, Li returned to organise the militia. Under the Governor of Anhui's direction, he led local recruits and won a battle at Yuxikou, gaining the decoration of a Sixth Grade Official. In 1854 he joined the staff of the new Governor of Anhui and a year later was promoted to the rank of Prefect. Following further successes by the army, he was given the rank of a Provincial Judge and was registered as prepared for the office of an Intendant in 1857.

    Victories revived the Taiping cause in 1860 and Li was persuaded to recruit forces and proceeded to Shanghai as the Acting Governor of Jiangsu and was later made Southern Superintendant of Trade. It was during this period that Li cooperated with Charles George ('Chinese') Gordon as head of the Ever Victorious Army. Together with the Hunan and Anhui 'Braves', Taicang, Kunshan, Jiangyin and Suzhou were captured. In 1864 Changzhou was captured and the Ever Victorious Army was disbanded.

    In 1865 Li was made Acting Governor-General at Nanjing where he established an arsenal and was later made Imperial Commissioner to subdue bandits. In 1867 he was made Governor-General of Hunan and Hubei and was awarded the minor hereditary rank of Qiduyu (騎都尉) and the title of Grand Guardian of the Heir Apparent and was made concurrently an Associate Grand Secretary. In 1869 Li became Governor-General at Wuchang.

    Following the Tianjin massacre on 21 June 1870 he was appointed as Governor-General of Zhili, serving concurrently as Grand Secretary (1872-1901) and after 1879 he held the honorary title of Grand Tutor of the Heir Apparent. As the Northern Superintendant of Trade almost any question involving Foreign Relations, the adoption of Western techniques or the dispatch of students abroad came to his attention.

    In 1871 Li negotiated and signed a treaty with Japan. In 1874, following the annexation of the Liuqiu (Ryukyu) islands by Japan, Li requested the American General Grant to plead in Japan for reconsideration of the issue, intimating that in return China would facilitate the proposed negotiations for limiting the emigration of Chinese to the United States. Grant was instrumental and Japan sent Takezoe Shinichiro to negotiate with Li. Li at first agreed to divide the islands, but when opposition grew, allowed the agreement to lapse.

    The official account of his campaign against the Nian rebels titled Jiaoping Nianfei Fanglue (剿平捻匪方略) was completed in 1872 and published by the Zongli Yamen, illustrating the strong connection between them.

    As Plenipotentiary, Li concluded the Chefoo Convention in 1876, opening new ports and regulating the trade between Burma and Yunnan. Li was further involved in 1882 in treaty negotiations between America and Korea.

    Li Hong Zhang, like Prince Gong, realised that China had to modernise its military capabilities, communications and machinery. He therefore became the patron of many new economic enterprises and technical innovations. In 1872 Li supported the proposal for the establishment of a steamship line, carrying rice from the South. From this developed China Merchant Line whose ships ran also to Japan, the Philippines and Singapore. In 1880 he advocated the resumption of railway building and he sponsored the first permanent telegraph lines in China, as well as proposals for schools to train Chinese to conduct these modern enterprises. A Military Academy was opened in Tianjin in 1885. Prior to that were the beginnings of the building of a modern navy, as he believed that if China did not catch up in shipbuilding and gun-making soon, Japan would imitate the West and take advantage of China. However, the arsenals and ship-building yards were considered as provincial rather than central enterprises, which created drawbacks. Up to 1888, Li as an Associate Controller of the Board of Admiralty secured funds to build a fleet of 28 vessels; however, the requisition of 2 million taels to celebrate the Empress Dowager's birthday crippled the navy.

    Around 1883 Li negotiated a treaty with France, securing recognition of Chinese suzerainty over Vietnam and placing a neutral zone between Chinese and French spheres. This treaty was repudiated by France and following the war, a new treaty was signed by Li in 1885 though without great loss of prestige to China. Following riots in Korea in 1882, Li was involved in the negotiations and attempted in the next nine years to recover Chinese prestige and control of Korea.

    In 1886 Li succeeded in removing the Catholic Church which overlooked the Forbidden City; this required direct negotiations in Rome and with the bishop in Beijing.

    On Li Hong Zhang's seventieth birthday in 1892, the Empress Dowager and the Emperor showered him with gifts and honours. A work containing pictures of the celebration and eulogies by his friends was published in 6 volumes under the title Hefei Xiangguo Qishi Cishoutu (合肥相國七十賜壽圖).

    Following the Sino-Japanese War in which Li's fleet was defeated and his Korean policy shattered, Li was deprived of honours but held his post. In the ensuing negotiations with Japan, Li was appointed as Plenipotentiary and travelled to Shimonoseki. He was shot and wounded by a fanatic, and profuse apologies were made and a limited armistice was granted. Li's nephew continued the negotiations and in 1895 China was compelled to accept the Japanese terms.

    In 1896 Li represented China on the occasion of the Tsar's coronation in Moscow, where he negotiated a secret treaty aimed against Japan. From Russia, Li proceeded to visit the Kaiser and Chancellor Bismarck in Germany, further stopping at The Hague, Brussels and Paris. He had an audience with Queen Victoria, and was introduced to President Cleveland in Washington.

    In the summer of 1898, during the 'Hundred Days of Reform', Li was dismissed from the Zongli Yamen and was sent to supervise conservation work along the Yellow River. He retained his position as Superintendant for the North and in 1899 made a tour of inspection of the main northern seaports. Soon afterwards he was appointed Acting Governor-General of Guangdong and Guangxi, and was then made a full Governor-General. He set out to curb the gambling but did not accomplish much before the outbreak of the Boxer Rebellion, when he was recalled to Beijing to negotiate with the Western powers. Appointed Governor-General and Plenipotentiary of Zhili he strove to minimise the indemnities and make the conditions free from undue humiliation, but the power lay in the hands of the triumphant Western powers and the onerous treaty was signed on 7 September 1901. He died on 7 November.

    Li was posthumously given the title of Grand Tutor, the name Wenzhong (文忠) and the hereditary rank of Marquis of the First Class. His name was entered in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen, and in later years temples were erected to his memory in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Nanjing, Suzhou and other places.


    Prince Gong and Li Hong Zhang would have crossed paths many times, given the former's position as head of the Zongli Yamen and the Grand Council (as well as being Grand Counsellor during the Regency period), and the latter's position as Superintendant of Trade in the South and North as well as Governor-General of various provinces and Zhili in particular. The connection between the two personages can be traced as early as circa 1860, when Li Hong Zhang was appointed Superintendant of Trade in the South, and would have continued and strengthened for the next four decades throughout Li Hong Zhang's advancement until Prince Gong's death in 1898.

    Both men were the leading spirits of the Self-Strengthening Movement, advocating the modernisation of China, the build-up of its military capability, the necessity of a peaceful relationship with the Western powers whilst China strengthened itself, and both negotiated with foreign powers as China's representatives.

    Prince Gong and Li Hong Zhang, the former the son of an Emperor, the latter an official's son, were two pivotal statesmen during one of the most troubled centuries in Chinese history, who held similar convictions and would have undoubtedly held each other in the highest regard. The present magnificent jade boulder is a unique testament to this special and important relationship.


    A.W.Hummel, ed., Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period (1644-1912), vol. I, Washington D.C., 1943, pp.380-383 and 464-471
    E.C.Y.Hsu, The Rise of Modern China, Oxford, 1995, pp.263-287
    J.M.Rudolph, Negotiated Power in Late Imperial China: The Zongli Yamen and the Politics of Reform, New York, 2008, pp.101-125
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