IMPERIAL BOARD OF RITES. Cast bronze seal with remnants of gold leaf. Forbidden City, Beijing, 14th year (May) of the reign of Emperor Qianlong, [c. 1750].
This seal, issued by the Board of Rites for the use by the Ministry of Justice in Shanxi Province with Manchu script measures 78 x 78 mm (seal base) and is 105 mm high; it has got light traces of use and is otherwise fine. Quianlong's reign lasted from 1735 to 1796 and this is considered the most prosperous era of Imperial China, characterized by territorial expansion, good administration and the strengthening of Confucian culture, preservation of Manchu heritage and integration of non-Chinese peoples. One of the primary functions of the Board of Rites was that of a Foreign Ministry, in Western terms. A seal similar to this might have been used during the admission of an audience of the British Macartney Embassy to China in 1793. The embassy did not achieve much (the Emperor was simply not interested to give the British more trade concession and access to markets), but George Cawthorn's 1798 Complete View of the Chinese Empire … Account of Earl Macartney's Embassy is the best Western source on that period and the organisation of the Imperial Court.
The Ashmolean Museum in holds a very similar seal with exactly the same measurements.