Ruyi Scepter

Object nr. 678 China, Jiaqing period (1796-1820) Length: 38.2 cm

With Roger Keverne, UK

€ 7,500

This object can be viewed in our gallery.

Additional Information

Ruyi Scepter

This ruyi scepter has a long, gently curved, handle and naturalistically shaped head. It is made of bamboo, with its distinctive sections clearly identifiable on the upper side of the handle. The head is carved in the form of a lingzhi fungus and it is embellished with a long green silk tassel.

A ruyi ( ru yi ) – which translates as ´according to your wishes´- is a well-known symbolic ceremonial object in Chinese culture. They generally have a long curved handle and a club-shaped head, often in the form of a lingzhi fungus. Due to their symbolic nature, they were considered very appropriate birthday gifts, particularly for conveying wishes of good luck and longevity. Ruyi were made in many different materials such as gold, lacquer, semi-precious stone or wood; ranging from simple forms to elaborately adorned models with gold and gems. Depending who was holding it, it could signify different things; either a symbol of authority or just an elegant and auspicious plaything. They were also used on a scholar’s desk as a paper weight or luxury ornament. For the Chinese scholar plainer ruyi, made of natural materials - such as wood or bamboo - were particularly desirable. These reflected the scholar’s desire to retreat into nature, away from the distractions and politics of government bureaucracy.

The very symbolic lingzhi 灵芝(Glossy Ganoderma), is actually a woody fungus which grows on the trunks or roots of trees in southern China. This mushroom is associated with Daoism, as it is believed to offer eternal life. In China, it has been appreciated for its great medicinal qualities for thousands of years. Because of these powerful associations, the Lingzhi became a very popular symbolic motif for longevity.

Ruyi sceptres are found in many major collection. Such was their popularity at the Qing court, that the Palace Museum (Beijing) has over 3000 Ruyi in its collection. Bamboo examples in the shape of lingzhi are in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (.FE 21-1976) and British Museum, London (2004,0630.2).


Floris van der Ven