An exceptional album depicting Haizhuang Si Anonymous, Guangdong School, 1796
Lot 123
An exceptional album depicting Haizhuang Si
Anonymous, Guangdong School, 1796
HK$ 1.8 million - 2.5 million
US$ 230,000 - 320,000
Lot Details
An exceptional album depicting Haizhuang Si
Anonymous, Guangdong School, 1796
Ink and colour on Whatman rag paper, a bound album of forty-eight leaves, comprising forty-four painted leaves, ink and gouache with gilt highlights on English paper, depicting the architecture and statuary of the temple complex, a calligraphic title page, and a large fold-out map of the temple, each pictorial leaf with a long, inscribed caption in Spanish, with two additional leaves with extensive descriptions in Spanish, brief captions in Chinese throughout, the album with a contemporary pale leather binding over thin boards, with a modern custom red Morocco box with raised bands, captioned in gilt 'Chinese Water-Colour Album / 1796'.
Each leaf: 41.3cm x 50.2cm ; the fold-out map: 56cm x 80cm


  • 清乾隆(1796年) 佚名《海幢寺》水彩紙本冊頁 廣東

    Provenance 來源:
    Manuel de Agote (d.1803)
    A New York private collection

    This outstandingly detailed survey of the Haizhuang Si in Guangdong offers a remarkable exploration of a single Buddhist temple complex and its iconography in the late 18th century. Opening with a beautifully penned title page that states the album was created at the request of Manuel de Agote in 1796, a detailed fold-out map follows, with the individual buildings named and many of the building dimensions provided. Thereafter, each leaf has a visually stunning view of the architecture followed by careful depictions of the statues contained within.

    As viewed in the album, the temple complex was constructed in the early years of the Kangxi period, and rose to become one of four principal Buddhist monasteries in Guangdong, housing over one thousand monks at its peak. Leaf 28 in the present album 'the Cooking Pan for a Thousand Monks' is a testament to the monastery's impressive population. However, as evinced by a number of leaves in this compelling study, the monastery and iconography of Haizhuang Si did not strictly adhere to the Buddhist canon. Daoist figures are also represented, along with local Cantonese deities. Furthermore, the interior views showing calligraphic couplets and ink landscape hanging scrolls complemented by scholar's rocks suggest that a literati aesthetic also influenced the interior design.

    In addition to its role as a centre for Buddhist study, Haizhuang Si was also an important site in the history of China's relationship with Europe and North America. Following the Qianlong Emperor's 1757 implementation of the Canton System, Westerners were prohibited from entering China beyond the foreign factory sites along a limited stretch of the bank of the Pearl River in Guangdong from 1760 onward. From the year 1795, there were two exceptions to this ban, including the Canton flower market and Haizhuang Si. These two sites could be visited by curious Westerners, but then only on the 8th, 18th and 28th days of the month, and in only in groups of ten or less. As a result Haizhuang Si, or, the Honam Joss House or 'Sea Screen Temple' as it was known to English speakers, makes appearances in numerous late 18th and early 19th century writings about China by European and North American authors; see a long description of the temple by Julius Klaproth (1783-1835) Nouvelles Annales des Voyages, 1829 (tome 41) pp.217-233.

    Prior to publishing his influential study Designs of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines and Utensils in 1757, William Chambers (1723-1796) visited the Haizhuang temple in 1740. Plates 1 and 3 of his book record the 'Pagoda at Ho-nang'. In addition to its role as a tourist destination, the temple also served a diplomatic function, hosting the 1793 Macartney embassy, the 1794/1795 Dutch embassy, and the 1817 Amherst embassy. All groups took advantage of the monastery's location in the Pearl River Delta prior to beginning their journey north to Beijing.

    As stated on the title page, the first owner of the album Manuel de Agote (died 1803), was the chief agent in Canton for the Spanish Royal Philippine Company. Agote had been stationed in China since 1787, and his name is remembered today as the draftsman for one of the early maps of Macao (1792) reproduced in George Staunton's 1797 published record of the Macartney embassy.

    Agote's Haizhuang Si album impressed his fellow Europeans, including the Mauritius-based French naturalist J. Macé. In his diary entry of 22 August 1797 Macé writes that amongst 'les curieux dessins de sa collection, j'ai remarqué différentes perspectives des environs et l'intérieur de la grande pagode d'Yan-tshan-seu de Canton, immense construction dont le sanctuaire renferme un grand nombre d'idoles' ([In] the curious drawings in his collection, I noticed a variety of perspectives of the surroundings and the interior of the Haizhuang Si in Canton, the sanctuary of monumental construction which holds a vast number of religious sculptures. (Bulletin de la Société de Géographie, Paris, 1849, 3rd series, p.91.)

    The fact that the temple was a meeting point in interactions between China and the West is reiterated with an art historical examination of the album's aesthetic technique. Given the overt Western influences in the aesthetics of the gouaches, it should come as no surprise that the high quality paper on which the album is painted is English, rather than Chinese, paper, with at least two of the leaves bearing a 'Whatman Turkey Hill Kent' watermark.

    When compared with other Guangdong School paintings from the late 18th and early 19th century, this detailed study of Huazhuang Si seems unique. Unlike scenes of porcelain and tea production which were produced and copied in large numbers, the level of detail and accuracy in the present album make it rarer and more remarkable. However there is another study recorded also of 48 leaves, produced one year earlier in 1795 at the request of the American visitor to China, Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest (1739-1801). This second album was sent to the United States and exhibited with the rest of his Chinese objects at his home in Philadelphia in the years 1796-1797. Due to a change in fortune, the van Braam album was sold with the rest of his collection at a Christie's London sale on 16 February 1799. The current whereabouts of the Van Braam album is not known.


    該冊頁為身處廣東的西班牙皇家菲律賓公司首席代表曼紐爾•阿格特(卒於1803)(Manuel de Agote)於1796年定制。阿格特自1787年起駐守中國,並於1792年參與澳門地圖樣稿的繪製,此樣稿五年後被喬治•斯坦頓複製在為英國使館團製作的地圖冊中。


    十八世紀中葉,海幢寺不單只是宗教傳播中心,更成為促進中西關係的重要據點。乾隆二十二年(1757年),乾隆皇帝發布鎖國令,實行「一口通商」政策,並從1760年開始禁止所有洋人進入中國,除其開設洋行及珠江邊少數區域以外。除此之外,花市及海幢寺則在每月特定的第八、第十八以及第二十八日允許洋人最少以十人組團形式進入,海幢寺因此在西方聞名。歐美十八至十九世紀文學作品中,亦經常見到海幢寺的踪影,例如Julius Klaproth (1783 – 1835)在其1829年著作《Nouvelles Annales des Voyages》第217-233頁中就提及海幢寺。


    此本《海幢寺》冊頁當時被阿格特帶回歐洲之後即引起轟動,其中包括旅居毛里求斯的法國自然學家馬塞(J.Macé),並在他1797年8月22日的日記中提到該冊頁,見《Bulletin de la Sociéié de Géographie》,巴黎,1849年,系列三,頁91。

    海幢寺作為連接十八世紀中西方的橋樑對西方世界影響深遠,而西方之審美也在此冊頁上得到完美體現。此冊頁並非選用中國宣紙,為突出其色彩及精工之筆,而是採用上等英國紙張作畫,其中紙張下亦可見到「Whatman Turkey Hill Kent」的水印。

    《海幢寺》冊頁繪畫不可與普通廣東外銷畫相提並論,其繪畫之精細程度遠超於其他十八至十九世紀廣東畫師所作例如《製瓷圖》或《採茶圖》等外銷畫作品。唯一所見能與此畫冊筆法相比擬的冊頁,為1795年美國人安德列斯(1739 – 1801)(Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest)所定制之四十八開冊頁,該冊頁後於1799年2月16日在倫敦佳士得售出,現暫不知何人收藏。
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  1. Xibo Wang
    Specialist - Asian Art
    Suite 2001, One Pacific Place
    Hong Kong
    Work +852 3607 0010
  2. John Chong
    Specialist - Asian Art
    Suite 2001, One Pacific Place
    Hong Kong
    Work +852 3607 0013