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Cloisonné Ruyi Sceptres Inlaid with Corals

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Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Medium: Cloisonné enamel, coral
Dimensions: Length: 30.5 cm

This set of nine ruyi sceptres is made with gilt copper and decorated with cloisonné. Each sceptre has a total of three coral inlays—one at the head, middle, and end. The coral inlays are carved with the design of “Five Bats Supporting Longevity” (Wufu pengshou)—interpreted as “Five Fortunes Undergirding Longevity”. The handle is decorated with a peach pattern on the face and meander pattern on the sides. The sceptre has yellow tassels at the end of the handle.

Upholding her dominance and presenting an imposing status, Empress Dowager Cixi instructed provincial governors to prepare extravagant gifts for her “Sacred Longevity” celebrations. The coral embellishments on this set of ruyi sceptres was prepared for the occasion in the southern island province of Hainan. The set was then presented to the dowager by the island’s officials.

Editing and supplemental translation by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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