He thought of his retirement which he had promised to take if his reign was to exceed 60 years. His grandfather Kangxi had reigned 61 years and this period should not be exceeded for a reason of respect. The emperor must be a model of virtue and can not change a wish or express a remorse. After a transitional year named Bingchen, the Qianlong Emperor abdicated in 1796 of our calendar.
Qianlong now becomes the Taishang Huang meaning the Emperor Supreme, a traditional title awarded in the Chinese empire to emperors who left the throne, but examples of an abdication like Qianlong's without a palace revolution are of course exceptional in Chinese history.
During his reign, Qianlong was a great lover of seals that he used to put his imperial mark on the documents and works of art that he had consulted. He had now changed his own denomination and ordered the execution of the Taishang Huangdi shi Bao seals meaning the seals of the treasure of the Emperor Supreme.
A very large seal 22.5 cm square is made for the purpose to serve as a model and will never be used. It is kept in the Palace Museum in Beijing. Copies are made in various smaller sizes using the finest jades.
The largest of the seals actually used by Taishang Huang is 13 cm square. It was carved in a boulder of green jade from Khotan on the motif of two addorsed dragons. This prestigious piece is estimated HK $ 80M for sale by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on October 5, lot 3304. It is offered with its original zitan stand but its box was lost. Please watch here below the video shared by the auction house.
We may take as references three results including premium recorded by Sotheby's. A Xintian Shuren seal of Qianlong also 13 cm square was sold for HK $ 120M on 7 October 2010. A cylindrical Bingchen seal in white jade was sold for HK $ 96M on April 8, 2010. A small Taishang Huandi seal improved with a poem explaining the abdication was sold for HK $ 64,5M on April 8, 2011.
SOLD for HK$ 91M including premium