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Seal of the Emperor Emeritus

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Period: Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Medium: jade
Date: undated
Dimensions: height: 15 cm, height of the knob: 7.3 cm, seal surface: 22.5 × 22.5 cm

Made of jade, this seal, with an entwining-dragon-shaped knob and characters in both Manchu and Chinese seal script (zhuan shu), is contained in a red sandalwood case incised with dragons in clouds. The four sides of the seal were incised with a poem-Written for the Seal of the Emperor Emeritus (Ziti taishang huangdi zhibao)-composed by the Qianlong Emperor.   
  This seal was made in 1795, the last year of the Qianlong reign. In the ninth month of that year, the emperor announced his previous decree written in 1773 which appointed his fifteenth son as his successor. In the following year, the Jiaqing Emperor was enthroned. However, the emperor emeritus retained his power by staying in the Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxin dian), dealing with state affairs, and appointing or deposing officials. The new emperor continued to live in the Palace for Nurturing Joy (Yuqing gong). Inside the Forbidden City people were commanded to continue to use the "Qianlong" reign mark despite the empire having the new "Jiaqing" reign. Therefore, the Qianlong Emperor still ruled the Qing empire.   
  This one is the largest of all the seals for the emperors and empresses of the Qing dynasty. Its unusual size symbolized the sovereign status of the emperor emeritus. The seal was placed on the table in the Hall of Imperial Supremacy (Huangji dian) built for the emperor's retirement. The Qianlong Emperor also had several seals with the same characters for use on paintings and calligraphy.

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