Celadonish Jade Ruyi with Qianlong's Poem in Heshen's Clerical Script
Among numerous collections in Palace Museum, a Jade Ruyi is extremely attractive. It is made of celandines jade and carved dedicatedly. Its head is in cloud pattern. The hand grip is bent naturally and matched with green braid. It is carved with a poem inscribed by the Qianlong Emperor, Ode to White Jade Ruyi. The characters are in clerical script and are filled with gold color, looking very luxurious. The copier of the poem is Heshen, a great scholar in Qianlong Period. Thus people call this Ruyi, Celadonish Jade Ruyi with Qianlong's Poem in Heshen's Clerical Script. The Qianlong Emperor was fond of calligraphy. In order to win pleasure of the emperor, Heshen worked hard in calligraphy. The poem of Qianlong on the celadonish jade Ruyi was transcribed by Heshen. The character style was neat and vigorous, showing Heshen's profound foundation of calligraphy. Heshen also learned the calligraphy of the Qianlong Emperor deliberately.
Ruyi appeared in China as early as in Warring States Period, its shape was like itch scratchier. "Classified Edition of Bai History", described Ruyi of the time vividly. "Ruyi was a scratchier in ancient times. It may be made of bamboo cut into a claw in the shape of human's finger. The hand grip could be as long as 3 chi. When one's back itched and it was beyond reach of hands, it can be used to scratch, which just met people's desire." The name of Ruyi was originated from this.
Till Qing and Ming Dynasties of China, pragmatic value of Ruyi began to fade gradually. Good implications of good wished and auspiciousness became more and more outstanding. Finally Ruyi was diverged from claw scratch, and evolved into traditional mascot of Chinese nation. In Qing Dynasty, Ruyi was more delicate, and was favored by imperial family. After Qing Dynasty controlled Beijing. At each festival or on birthday of Emperor or Empress Dowager all the ministers would dedicate Ruyi to show their wishes. There were many requirements on what kind of Ruyi should be dedicated. Ministers racked their brains to make various innovative and delicate Ruyi for pleasure Empress and concubines.
In the heart of Chinese people, green pines and crane stand for longevity. Since Fu in Bian Fu (bat) has same pronunciation with that in Xing Fu (happiness), it implies the meaning of happiness. This Ruyi with style of pine, bat, crane and ganoderma lucidum, is carved with pine trees bats and cranes. The implied meaning of wishing longevity is self-evident. On this Ruyi five bats surround a large character of Shou. People call it Ruyi of Five Lucks Holding the Longevity.
This set of Ruyi has nine pieces of Ruyi in total. They are made of jade stone of different colors, including green, yellow and white jade stones. They are vivid in shape and dainty and exquisite in luster. They were originally tributes to the Qianlong Emperor offered by ministers. In the 15th year in Qianlong Period, i.e. A.D. 1750, when the Qianlong Emperor inspected Henan Province, he gave them to the Zhouyue Temple in Songshan Mountain as a gift. On his 60th birthday, the ministers collectively contributed which contains 60 pieces of Ruyi to the Emperor as a gift. This set of Ruyi is made of spun gold. There is year of lunar calendar on the Ruyi. 60 pieces of Ruyi mean exactly a circle of sixty years. The set of Ruyi is ingenious in design, conveying the meaning of auspiciousness.
Compared to those Ruyi mentioned above, this Celadonish Jade Ruyi with Qianlong's Poem in Heshen's Clerical Script, though is not luxury, it is ingenious in design and indicates the obsequious manner of dealing with things of Heshen.
The Qianlong Emperor was very fond of collection. So he had original opinions on the appreciation of jade articles. One day in 1789, when he was playing and appreciating jade articles, he was inspired and wrote down his feeling in a poem, "Ode to White Jade Ruyi". The Qianlong Emperor quoted an allusion of Taozhu Duke selling jade in his poetry. Taozhu Duck, named Fan Li, was a famous minister of the State of Yue in the Spring and Autumn Period. He was an assisting minister of Gou Jian, the King of the State of Yue. After defeating the State of Wu and achieving success he resigned and began to go into business. Fan Li not only had outstanding statesmanship, but also was good at doing business. It was said that he had two pieces of jade for sale, on had a worth of thousand pieces of gold and the other five hundred. Somebody asked him what the different between the two pieces of jade. He responded that the one worthy of one thousand pieces of gold was one times thicker than the other. The Qianlong Emperor presented his opinion on this event in his poetry "Ode to White Jade Ruyi". In his point of view, besides the size of jade, the quality and the craftsmanship were more important o evaluate the vale of jade. If we cared only for the size and weight and overlooked the texture and craftsmanship, it was more like asking someone to imitate Xishi, which would overreach oneself, making people sick. Heshen knew well the preference of the Qianlong Emperor. He selected a piece of fine celadonish jade and ordered a jade carving craftsman in south of the Yangtze River to elaborately make it into a Ruyi. He also wrote down the poetry of "Ode to White Jade Ruyi" in clerical script created by Qianlong and asked the craftsman to carve it on the Ruyi. He contributed the Ruyi to the Emperor. He was very happy after receiving the gift. He repeatedly praised the ingenious design of the Ruyi, and stored it up meticulously.
The craftsmanship and the shape of the Celadonish Jade Ruyi with Qianlong's Poem in Heshen's Clerical Script is exquisite and elegant. The poetry,” Ode to White Jade Ruyi" of Qianlong and the delicate calligraphy of Heshen bring out the best of each other, which add historical value to the Ruyi and make it a rare and precious jade article.