Incense Burner Cast In Bronze, Chinese, with Qianlong Mark.

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Incense Burner Cast In Bronze, Chinese, with Qianlong Mark.

 

The Qianlong Emperor, like his predecessors, took his cultural role seriously. First of all, he worked to preserve the Manchu heritage, which he saw as the basis of the moral character of the Manchus and thus of the dynasty's power. He ordered the compilation of Manchu language genealogies, histories, and ritual handbooks and in 1747 secretly ordered the compilation of the Shamanic Code, published later in the Siku Quan Su. He further solidified the dynasty's cultural and religious claims in Central Asia by ordering a replica of the Potala Palace, the Tibetan temple, to be built on the grounds of the Imperial Summer Palace in Chengde In order to present himself to Tibetans and Mongols in Buddhist rather than in Confucian terms, he commissioned a thangka, or sacred painting, depicting him as Manjusri the Bodhisattva of Wisdom.

The Qianlong Emperor was a major patron and important "preserver and restorer" of Confucian culture. He had an insatiable appetite for collecting, and acquired much of China's "great private collections" by any means necessary, and "reintegrated their treasures into the imperial collection."The Qianlong Emperor, more than any other Manchu emperor, lavished the imperial collection with his attention and effort.

The imperial collection had its origins in the first century BC and had gone through many vicissitudes of fire, civil wars and foreign invasions in the centuries that followed. But it was Qianlong who lavished the greatest attention on it, certainly of any of the Manchu rulers. One of the many roles played by Qianlong, with his customary diligence, was that of the emperor as collector and curator, how carefully Qianlong followed the art market in rare paintings and antiquities, using a team of cultural advisers, from elderly Chinese literati to newly fledged Manchu connoisseurs. These men would help the emperor spot which great private collections might be coming up for sale, either because the fortunes of some previously rich merchant family were unravelling or because the precious objects acquired by Manchu or Chinese grandees during the chaos of the conquest period were no longer valued by those families' surviving heirs. Sometimes, too, Qianlong would pressure or even force wealthy courtiers into yielding up choice art objects, he did this by pointing out failings in their work, which might be excused if they made a certain "gift", or, in a couple of celebrated cases, by persuading the current owners that only the secure walls of the Forbidden City and its guardians could save some precious painting from theft or from fire.

The Qianlong Emperor's massive art collection became an intimate part of his life, he took landscape paintings with him on his travels in order to compare them with the actual landscapes, or to hang them in special rooms in places where he lodged, to inscribe them on every visit there. "He also regularly added poetic inscriptions to the paintings of the imperial collection, following the example of the emperors of the Song Dynasty and the literati painters of the Ming Dynasty. They were a mark of distinction between the work and a visible sign of his rightful role as emperor. Most particular to the Qianlong Emperor is another type of inscription, revealing a unique practice of dealing with works of art that he seems to have developed for himself. On certain fixed occasions over a long period, he contemplated a number of paintings or works of calligraphy which possessed special meaning for him, inscribing each regularly with mostly private notes on the circumstances of enjoying them, using them almost like a diary."

"Most of the several thousand jade items in the imperial collection date from his reign. The (Qianlong) Emperor was also particularly interested in collecting ancient bronzes, bronze mirrors, and seals," in addition to pottery, ceramics, and applied arts such as enamelling, metalwork and Laquer work, which flourished during his reign, a substantial part of his collection is in the Percival David Foundation in London. The Victoria and Albert Museum and British Museum also have collections of art from the Qianlong era.

"The Qianlong Emperor was a passionate poet and essayist. In his collected writings, which were published in a tenfold series between 1749 and 1800, over 40,000 poems and 1,300 prose texts are listed, making him one of the most prolific writers of all time. There is a long tradition of poems of this sort in praise of particular objects ('Yong Wu shi), and the Qianlong Emperor used it in order to link his name both physically and intellectually with ancient artistic tradition."

One of the Qianlong Emperor's grandest projects was to "assemble a team of China's finest scholars for the purpose of assembling, editing, and printing the largest collection ever made of Chinese philosophy, history, and literature."Known as the Four Treasuries Project (or Siku Quanshu), it was published in 36,000 volumes, containing about 3450 complete works and employing as many as 15,000 copyists. It preserved numerous books but was also intended as a way to ferret out and suppress political opponents, requiring the "careful examination of private libraries to assemble a list of around eleven thousand works from the past, of which about a third were chosen for publication. The works not included were either summarized or in a good many cases scheduled for destruction."

Item Code - BRO2B242QRG

Width: 5 5/8"  Height: 4"  Depth: 4 1/4"  Weight: 574 g


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