Bonhams are privileged to offer on Tuesday 30 May in Hong Kong, the Songzhutang Collection of early Jades, dating from the Neolithic Period to 14th century. The remarkable and diverse collection (also including later jade carvings of the Ming and Qing dynasties) was published in 2011 and has since become an important reference work in the subject. It was formed over four decades from as early as the 1970s and is a testament to the connoisseurship and scholarship of the collector.
The collection comprises over 90 jade carvings, demonstrating the evolution of jade carving from the Liangzhu Culture during the Neolithic period (circa 3300 – 2250 BC) to the Yuan dynasty (AD 1279 – 1368). The carvings, of exceptional quality and rarity, capture the development of the diverse stylistic themes and workmanship of jades from those used for ritual purposes to those used as decorative and ornamental works of art; reflecting the high social status, political power and literati taste.
An outstanding and important early jade carving is that of an exceptionally rare mythical-bird scroll weight, Eastern Han dynasty (AD 25 – 220), estimated HK$800,000 – 1,200,000. During the Han dynasty, gilt-bronze weights or more exceptionally prized jade carvings, such as the present lot, were used to weigh the corners of mats on which the Imperial family and high nobility sat. These would have been in the form of animals or creatures associated with the four directions, including the phoenix marking the South, as demonstrated in this important example. It is evident this carving was highly prized during the revered Qianlong reign (1736-1795), as exemplified by an incised inscription on the underside, 'Dehui yunri', conveying the meaning of 'Virtue is as broad as the sky'.
A rare large jade 'grain-pattern' bi disc, Eastern Zhou dynasty (770 – 221 BC), estimated HK$1,000,000 – 1,500,000 is superbly carved with approximately 1650 individual bosses on both sides. It bears an exceptional provenance, having been exhibited between 1984 and 1986 in the travelling exhibition of 4000 Years of Chinese Jade sponsored by the National Museum of History, Taipei, and held in seven museums across the United States. Another superb jade bi disc, Han dynasty (206 BC – AD 220), estimated HK$80,000 – 120,000 is intricately carved with interlocking design of taotie motifs and rice-grain pattern, and was formerly in the collection of the renowned Hong Kong collector and one of the founders of the Min Chiu Society, Dr Ip Yee.
From the Yuan dynasty (AD 1279 – 1368) are two very rare carvings: a jade cup carved with a lady and a writhing dragon, estimated HK$300,000 – 400,000, carved with an inscription 'Yongbo changchun', carrying the auspicious wish of 'Spring forever'; and a jade carving of a foreigner riding on an elephant, estimated HK$300,000 – 400,000, which was included and published in the important jade exhibition Virtuous Treasures: Chinese Jades for the Scholar's Table in the University Museum & Art Gallery, Hong Kong.
The Songzhutang Collection will be sold alongside Bonhams auction of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art. Both sales will take place on Tuesday 30 May.
Bonhams International Head of Chinese Art, Asaph Hyman, commented: "This distinguished and outstanding collection, having been cherished for years, now offers collectors an exciting opportunity to acquire pieces of historical significance, rarity and provenance".