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Untold Story of the Qian Long Jadeite Mountains

Posted by Imperial Harvest on 10 September 2021

Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins

The abundant prosperity and success of the Qing dynasty is well-documented. Legendary rulers such as Emperors Kang Xi and Qian Long were well-known for their wisdom and foresight. Their timely and inspired decisions were responsible for numerous military conquests, as well as fiscal masterstrokes that greatly boosted the empire’s economic might. With their profound eminence and capable leadership, the Qing dynasty lasted and thrived for nearly three hundred years. Throughout this period, the reach and fiefdom of the Chinese empire increased by leaps and bounds, making it the largest in Chinese dynastic history.

The Qing dynasty was also a time of cultural renewal and increase. Emperor Qian Long, in particular, saw himself not only as a leader and military commander, but also as a custodian of the empire’s cultural artefacts and narratives. His passion for fine art led him to acquire numerous paintings, sculptures and carvings, which he installed around the Forbidden City as part of an endorsed imperial collection. To advise him on artistic trends and precious artefacts, Emperor Qian Long relied on research and advice from a trusted team of cultural aides.

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Throughout his reign, Emperor Qian Long became inextricably associated with his beloved collections of culturally-significant artwork. Pieces were strategically installed at specific locations within the Forbidden City, for Emperor Qian Long’s pleasure and to inspire and guide him in everyday imperial affairs.

The Qian Long Garden

The legacy of Emperor Qian Long and the Qing dynasty remains culturally significant even today. Beyond cultural artefacts and practices, a sprawling garden complex commissioned by Emperor Qian Long has been kept largely intact, and today offers unique insights into the golden age of his reign. 

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Commonly known as the Qian Long Garden, this complex was completed in the late 18th century, and is a testament to Emperor Qian Long’s exquisite tastes. It was also heavily influenced by European cultural and artistic elements, reflecting his embracement of cross-cultural exchange and interaction. This is further evidenced by his appointment of Giuseppe Castiglione, an Italian missionary and designer, as an imperial court artist. Over the years, Castiglione became known for the incorporation of Western artistic techniques into his paintings and building designs, imbuing the Forbidden City with a decidedly east-meets-west aesthetic. 

Qian Long Gardens being restored by WMF

The bold and innovative styles of Western art are reflected throughout the Qian Long Garden complex. An ongoing project by the World Monuments Fund (WMF) to restore and conserve the Qian Long Garden reveals the influence of Western artistic techniques introduced by Castiglione and his peers. A wall of trompe l’oeil silk paintings adeptly manipulates visual perception to generate desired perspectives of the artwork. Murals within the complex extensively employ chiaroscuro techniques, harnessing the interplay of darkness and light to accentuate contrasts and shadows. These Western influences existed alongside bamboo carvings and jade pieces that were a hallmark of prevailing Chinese art, seamlessly marrying these diverse cultural tropes within the garden compound. 

The cultural legacy of the Qian Long Garden complex

While the Qian Long Garden complex never fulfilled its original purpose as Emperor Qian Long’s retirement abode, it was nevertheless well-utilised by generations of emperors after him. Many of them turned the complex into a recreational space, using it as a retreat from the affairs of the imperial court.

Qian Long Garden being restored by WMF

Today, the Qian Long Garden complex is an enduring representation of the Qing dynasty’s outstanding success, as well as its unique fusion of Eastern and Western cultural elements. Its four courtyards, 27 building structures and elaborate landscaping proudly showcase the progressive and eminent leadership of Emperor Qian Long and other luminaries of the Qing dynasty. Led by the WMF, its conservation and upcoming public showcase heralds a new dawn not only for Qing-era cultural arts, but also for the Imperial Feng Shui tradition that flourished throughout the dynasty.

Preserving Imperial Feng Shui: The Imperial Harvest Mission

The preservation of the Qian Long Garden, along with the richness of its illustrious culture, resonates deeply with Imperial Harvest. Since conception, Imperial Harvest has been dedicated to preserving and promoting the art of Imperial Feng Shui, whose fabled history predates even Emperor Qian Long and the Qing dynasty.

Emperor Qian Long was well-known for his fervent patronage and endorsement of this venerable art. Throughout his distinguished reign, it grew in prominence and was harnessed to guide numerous affairs of the imperial court.  

Mountains and the Benefactor Sector in Imperial Feng Shui

In Imperial Feng Shui, each property such as a home or office is divided into a number of “sectors”. Each sector corresponds to a specific aspect of occupants’ lives, such as wealth and the presence of benefactors. The east-meets-west aesthetic of the Qian Long Garden provides the inspiration behind the Imperial Harvest Autumn 2021 Qian Long Jadeite Mountain collection, which powerfully activates the benefactor sector in homes and offices.

Mountains govern benefactors, authority  and harmony

According to Imperial Feng Shui classics, “Mountains govern benefactors, authority and harmony while water governs wealth” (山管人丁,水管财).  Being stable and immovable, mountains represent power and support from benefactors. The power of the benefactor sector is therefore harnessed by activating the mountain star.

In Chinese cosmology, mountains are regarded as one of the most powerful symbols, regulating cosmic order and ensuring permanence. In recognition of their monumental role, generations of Chinese emperors ensured mountain images were emblazoned alongside their royal thrones, mirroring their mandate and authority over the land. The activation of the mountain star also empowered emperors with benefactor support, authority and nobility, and symbolised their ability to rule with stability and steadfastness.

Emperor Qian Long with mountain in his backdrop

These considerations gave rise to the commissioning of the Qian Long Jadeite Mountain in the late 18th century. This powerful jadeite artefact was conceived by Emperor Qian Long’s Imperial Feng Shui masters as an ingenious alternative to building palace structures on mountainous terrain, which was inherently challenging with prevailing engineering and architectural capabilities. The mountain star was therefore activated by these visual representations of auspicious mountain landforms. In a nod to Emperor Qian Long’s artistic inclinations, these jadeite mountains were designed with reference to various pieces in his extensive art collection. 

The Heritage of Emperor Qian Long's Jadeite Mountains lives on at Imperial Harvest

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The Qian Long Jadeite Mountain was initially conceptualised as a practical means of leveraging auspicious mountain landforms. In the centuries since, it has come to be feted as a celebration of the innovation and craftsmanship of Emperor Qian Long’s Imperial Feng Shui artisans. 

Qian Long Metal Jadeite Mountain

Qian Long Metal Jadeite Mountain

Unlike other gemstones, jadeite production requires a laborious grinding process due to its exceptional hardness. Imperial Harvest’s Qian Long Jadeite Mountain collection bears witness to the meticulous process undertaken 300 years ago by Emperor Qian Long’s craftsmen, in which elegant and lifelike details were painstakingly relayed from paper outlines to jadeite sculptures. Today, Imperial Harvest’s timeless reimagination of Emperor Qian Long’s jadeite masterpieces adorn the homes and offices of numerous blessed clients, empowering them with amplified benefactor support, relationship harmony and success.

Your expert consultants are on hand to help you find the perfect Imperial Harvest treasure. Book a complimentary consultation today or contact us at +65 91221826

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