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Calligraphy scroll goes for 308m yuan at auction

[ 2010-11-22 15:21]     字号 [] [] []  
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A rare hand scroll copy of ancient Chinese calligrapher Wang Xizhi's work fetched a staggering 308 million yuan ($46.40 million) at the China Guardian autumn auction in Beijing on Saturday.

The high auction price is only second in the history of Chinese mainland art market to calligrapher Huang Tingjian's hand scroll, Dizhu Ming, which was purchased for 436.8 million yuan in June.

Wang, who lived in the Jin Dynasty around the 4th century, is traditionally acclaimed as the Sage of Calligraphy. However, none of his original works exist, making this cursive script, named Ping'an Tie (Safety Wish Script), especially rare for its high quality copy and the clear history of the succession of its collectors, which date back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).

The script copy formerly constituted nine lines of characters. But it was torn into two parts, and the 24.5-cm-long, 13.8-cm-wide piece that was sold on Saturday is the first part with four lines composing 41 characters.

Although it was impossible to find out the exact year it was created, archaeologists believe the scroll came out in the 7th century, or even earlier.

One of the earliest records of this script dated back to a book named Jiang Tie, which was compiled between 1049 and 1063. Later the cursive script was passed on and on by distinguished collectors of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, with all the seals of the collectors' names printed on it.

"The exact record of who passed on the artwork to whom is a decisive factor for its price," said Li Feng, assistant to the director of the Shanghai-based Minsheng Art Museum.

The gavel fell at 275 million yuan at the auction. Adding in the 12 percent buyer's premium levied by the auction house, the total came to 308 million yuan, setting a record for the second highest amount paid at an auction for Chinese calligraphy and painting works.

The scroll was unveiled for the first time at the four-day auction, which comes to a close on Nov 23, together with other categories such as porcelain, jewels and Chinese oil painting.

The auction house refused to identify the buyer.

Earlier reports showed that the auction house expected the cursive script to go for about 100 million yuan.

"If it sells for close to the estimated price, then each of Wang's character will be the most expensive in the world," Deng Jing, the spokesperson of the China Guardian Auction House, had told reporters.

"I'm glad to see that Chinese calligraphy and painting works are getting higher prices because they have more information content and artistic value than some artworks, like chinaware, which are already expensive," Li said.

In early October, an 18th-century Chinese vase sold for HK$ 252 million ($32.5 million) at a Hong Kong auction, and another Chinese vase of the same period sold for 550 million yuan in London in November. Both antique pieces were bought by purchasers from the Chinese mainland.

"While Chinese people are getting richer, the current investment channel, like real estate and stock market, cannot meet their demand. So they transfer their capital to artworks for much larger appreciation space," said Liu Shangyong, general manager of the Rongbao Auction Company in Beijing.


1. What period is it estimated the calligraphy came from?

2. What is historically significant about the auction?

3. What was the estimated sale price before the auction?


1. 7th century.

2. It is the second highest price in modern history.

3. 100 million yuan.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Calligraphy scroll goes for 308m yuan at auction

Calligraphy scroll goes for 308m yuan at auction

Todd Balazovic is a reporter for the Metro Section of China Daily. Born in Mineapolis Minnesota in the US, he graduated from Central Michigan University and has worked for the China Daily for one year.