Modified on April 3, 2021
The Kangxi emperor had a very high opinion of his political responsibilities. He was the only intercessor between the heaven and the people. His Qing dynasty was of Manchu origin and he had to maintain his authority against the ethnic Chinese. He succeeded marvelously since his reign combined with those of his son and his grandson assured peace and prosperity in an unprecedented effectiveness during more than hundred years.
Seals were used to improve the documents with the deep thinking of the emperor himself, so constituting a method to express and spread the imperial mottos. A politically important mark was the Jingtian Qinmin blessing : revere heaven and serve thy people. The emperor is not a despot. If he forgets his duty, he must be overthrown. Kangxi reigned during 61 years, from 1661 to 1722 CE.
Kangxi's Jingtian Qinmin seal was made for the use of the Qianqinggong, the Palace of Ultimate Purity within the Forbidden City. This is a monoxyle piece of sandalwood (tanxiangmu) 10 cm square surmounted by the a beast for a total height of 11 cm, a big size for any seal.
The bulky beast is imaginary, between pig and dog. It is quietly recumbent on the whole seal top and the nice caramel brown color of the wood makes it a sort of friendly pet, confirming that this emperor was more sympathetic than his successors.
This unique piece was sold for HK $ 93M including premium by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on April 6, 2016, lot 3101, and is now estimated HK $ 80M for sale in the same auction room on April 22, 2021, lot 3602.
It is not sure if the Jingtian Qinmin was ever used by Kangxi for stamping a document. Its high importance was assessed posthumously. A replica of the inscription was made in jade in the very first year of the reign of Yongzheng with an entirely different finial. When Qianlong established the Kangxi Baosou displaying all the marks used by his grandfather, it appeared in the first position.