Antiques | Auction News

"Most important Chinese historical object" to sell at Sotheby’s

By
14 March 2016 12:00

Sotheby’s is set to sell what’s been described as "the most important Chinese historical object ever to be offered at auction".
The Seal of the Mandate of Heaven was carved for the Kangxi Emperor, the fourth emperor of the Qing dynasty and China’s longest-reigning emperor, who ruled from 1661 until 1722.

The Mandate of Heaven was the ‘divine right’ to rule bestowed upon Chinese Emperors, based on their righteousness and ability to govern. This belief led the Kangxi Emperor to prove his righteousness like no ruler before him, "driving his country to unprecedented heights" by emphasising both economic and cultural development.

The large, carved wooden seal bears the inscription “Revere Heaven and Serve thy People”, a tenet which informed his reign and inspired him to write:

"Heaven gave birth to the subjects and then established Emperorship, not simply to bestow exceptional status or fortune on the emperor, but also to entrust him with the responsibility of moral cultivation, so that nobody within the four seas and the nine continents would be deficient in it."

Now the seal will be offered at action for the first time in its remarkable history, where its expected to sell for in excess of HK$50 million (US$6.45 million).

"It is an unprecedented privilege for us to handle such an important historical relic of China’s Imperial past," said Nicolas Chow, Deputy Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia. "This seal is emblematic of the Mandate of Heaven, which has legitimised the authority of rulers in China since the dawn of recorded history.

"This almighty principle was also the single guiding light for the Kangxi Emperor, China’s longest reigning emperor, who is credited for completing the conquest of China, anchoring the Qing dynasty and ushering in a long period of great prosperity and peace. The Kangxi Emperor was the single most powerful person on earth at the time, ruling over a vast Kingdom and over 100 million subjects."

The special auction will also offer two further important artefacts from the Kangxi Emperor’s reign: a highly rare carved soapstone seal carved with the mark of the Imperial library, and one of just two known copies of the Kangxi Baosou, a catalogue recording all of the Emperor’s known seals commissioned in 1781 by his grandson, the Qianlong Emperor.

Kangxi – Emperorship and Power takes place at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong on April 6.