Superbly potted with a compressed spherical body widening to a broad shoulder sweeping up to a tall slightly flaring cylindrical neck, flanked by a pair of ruyi handles, each handle terminating in an upturned ruyi head, all supported on a tall flared foot, the body divided by four fillets into three slightly concave horizontal registers, each register containing a row of different shou (longevity) characters, each written in seal script in slip and numbering one hundred in total, the shoulder carved with a collar of floral lappets and trefoils set between a key-fret band and ruyi heads, the neck carved on two sides and applied with a pair of confronting fish centred on a wan character suspended from the mouth of a bat above and a band of upright plantain leaves at the base of the neck, all below a wan-key-fret band and a floret diaper band around the mouth, the flared foot skirted by plantain leaves and further lappets, key-fret and ruyi heads, all beneath an even unctuous bright celadon green glaze thinning to white on the raised areas and pooling in recesses, the base carved with a six-character mark in relief within a recessed square\nOne Hundred Wishes for Longevity – the Celadon-Glazed Baishou Birthday Vase\nHajni Elias\n\nThis magnificent vase represents the height of ceramics production at the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, under the direction of China’s most famous superintendent, Tang Ying (1682-1756). It is an exceptional piece in many ways, outstanding for its fine celadon glaze, rare form and attractive relief design that conveys an auspicious birthday message. Only one other companion piece appears to be recorded – a vase in the Baur Collection, Geneva, illustrated in John Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, vol. 2, Geneva, 1999, pl. 295 (fig. 1). Tang Ying strove for technical perfection which is demonstrated in the potting and firing of pieces of this impressive size. The celadon glaze seen here, generally used for vases with relief decoration, is of bright sea-green tone, which Chinese connoisseurs designate as douqing (bean-green). This glaze achieves a distinct contrast between the ground and the relief design, as opposed to the bluish-green celadon glaze known as fenqing often found on early Qianlong wares which would not have brought out the design so clearly because of its paleness and was generally applied to undecorated or nearly plain pieces. The glaze on this vase is of striking deep sea-green tone. While it is generously applied all over the body, the decoration stands out due to the skilful application of a thinner layer over it. Monochromes of the early Qing period are unquestionably of first-rate quality, and this vase represents the remarkable achievement of potters whose refined and innovative approach to colours and glazes, combined with attractive decorations, made the creation of elegant and beautiful objects, such as the present piece, possible.\nThe shape of this vase is unusual, although it is reminiscent of archaic bronze vessels which often supplied models for Qianlong porcelain. Early Qing potters became masters at combining shapes and styles in myriad ways to create innovative pieces, and this vase is no exception. The form is possibly an adaptation of the Han ritual bronze vessel, hu, that were intended for use during ancestor worship rituals. This reference to archaic forms would also have been much appreciated by Qianlong who was a great connoisseur and a keen collector of archaic pieces.\nThe tubular neck here is flanked by a pair of handles in the shape of ruyi sceptres, which is also a response to the emperor’s infatuation with these portents of good fortune. During his reign thousands of sceptres were made in all possible materials. Although originally ruyi sceptres were symbols with Buddhist connotation, as is the twin-fish design found on the neck, by the Qianlong period they had become general auspicious emblems and can even be found in combination with Daoist symbols. Ruyi sceptre handles may be seen on a celadon-glazed double-gourd form vase, from the Qing court collection and still in Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Monochrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 156; on a large Qianlong turquoise-ground enamelled vase decorated with the bajixiang motif, from the collections of Lord Loch of Drylaw (1827-1900), Alfred Morrison (1821-1897, the Rt. Hon. The Lord Margadale of Islay and later in the collection of J.T. Tai, sold in these rooms 7th October 2010, lot 2132; and on a ruby-ground vase, included in the Zhongguo taoci quanji, vol. 15, Shanghai, 2000, pl. 50, in the Palace Museum, Beijing.\nThe body encircled by four ribs forming three bands that display in all a hundred forms of the shou (long life) character, known as the baishou motif, is a tour de force of the calligraphers at Jingdezhen. While some of the characters adhere more closely to conventional seal script than others, for its variety and highly devised nature, this motif became popular on birthday presents. The famous monumental blue and white jar in the Palace Museum, Beijing, included in the exhibition China. The Three Emperors 1662-1795, The Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2006, cat. no. 302, was made for the Kangxi emperor. The Kangxi vase may have served as an inspiration for this decoration, although it is unique as it is painted with precisely ten-thousand different shou characters, indicating an infinite number and signifying eternal life. The baishou motif remained popular throughout the Qing dynasty and may be found on Yongzheng wares, such as the stemcup decorated with the characters in gilt on a blue-ground, in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and illustrated in Teresa Tse Bartholomew, Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, San Francisco, 2006, p. 223; and on another Qianlong vase simulating lacquer ware with the characters carved in high relief around the body, included in the Illustrated Catalogue of Ch’ing Dynasty Porcelain in the National Palace Museum, vol. II, Tokyo, 1981, pl. 92.\nFor examples of impressive celadon-glazed wares decorated in high relief, see a hu-form vase with archaistic design band motif, from the collection of the T.Y. Chao Family Foundation, last sold in these rooms, 10th April 2006, lot 23; and another similar hu vase illustrated in John Ayers, op.cit., pl. 290, in the Baur collection. Compare also a vase of this glaze, decorated overall in relief carving with numerous pairs of confronted sinuous archaistic dragons, sold in these rooms, 2nd May 2005, lot 224; another, with lotus scrolls and bats in high relief from the A.E. Hippisley collection, sold in our New York rooms, 30th January 1925, lot 249, perhaps the same piece as later sold in these rooms, 20th May 1987, lot 488, and at Christie’s New York, 3rd June 1988, lot 282; the famous Fonthill jar, superbly carved with a single dragon, sold in these rooms, 17th May 1988, lot 75; and a further celadon-glazed baluster vase with bajixiang motif and dragon-form handles sold in our London rooms, 16th May 2007, lot 7210.