Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Art Business

First Advisor

Kejia Wu

Second Advisor

Ann-Marie Richard

Abstract

Emperor Qianlong, whose original name is Aisin Gioro Hongli, was the sixth emperor of the Qing Dynasty. Qianlong was one of the most famous emperors in Chinese history. As the word “Qianlong” means in Manchu, he was truly blessed by the god: the Qing Empire was already very strong when Qianlong came into power; meanwhile, Qianlong had a relatively stable outside environment. It allows Qianlong to be able to focus on pushing his own governing policy. Qianlong’s policy of agricultural development and tax reduction was very effective, under sixty years of reign, the empire has expanded its territory, and the economy was growing in fast paces as well. Apart from his military and economic achievement, Qianlong has also earned a reputation as one of the greatest connoisseurs in history. Inherited a court collection that was already impressive, Qianlong revaluated, cataloged, and graded the whole collection. For pieces he liked, Qianlong will comment on, or even inscribed poems on those pieces. One of the most famous pieces he inscribed was a Southern Song Ru ware bowl (Figure 1). Among all different categories of court arts, Qianlong was particularly in favor of jade wares. Instead of being just a collector, Qianlong was an accomplished connoisseur of jades. He has written many books on the connoisseurship of jades. Of course, jade ware has become the most popular place where Qianlong inscribed his poems. There are over 800 pieces of jade wares that have Qianlong's poem inscribed1. No matter the wealth, no matter the social status, Jade always stands on an unshakeable position in the Chinese culture. For thousands of years, the Chinese have been particularly obsessed with the material, and emperors are no exception. Being a Manchu emperor, Qianlong knew the importance of understanding the Chinese Han culture. Thanks to the effort of Qianlong, Jade has welcomed its third golden age since the Warrior States and Western Han.

Snuff bottles, on another hand, didn’t appear before the Qing Dynasty; however, it took over Qing emperors’ favor like a whirlwind. Since the Kangxi period, Qing emperors have begun to give snuff bottles as gifts to the ministers. As an emperor known for the love of jade, hordes of jade snuff bottles were produced directly from the imperial order. From different carving schools, materials, shapes, and motifs, this thesis will discuss the archeological and aesthetic value of Qianlong jade snuff bottles. Meanwhile, this thesis will use the auction results from major auction houses to analyze the market preference and make predictions for interested readers. Through these handly jade snuff bottles, we can explore the inner world of this great emperor and the rationale behind his obsession with this delicate work of art.

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