The value of traditional Chinese art grew by 20.6% in 2011, according to the well-respected Mei Moses index.
The figures, gathered from analysis of Christie's and Sotheby's sales, were the best of a strong set of numbers from Mei Moses: global sales of all types of art were up 10.2% in the year.
It is the sixth time in the past 10 years that the global index has outperformed the S&P 500, and suggests that those buying high-quality art, whether at auction, or at Paul Fraser Collectibles, are investing wisely.
The growing prosperity of China is a key factor in the buoyant Chinese art market.
There are more than 960,000 millionaires in the country, with numbers up 9.7% in 2010 compared with the previous year, according to data from the Hurun Research Institute.
Among these growing numbers exist aspirational collectors keen to repatriate their country's rich artistic heritage.
"With China there is massive wealth. And the new wealthy want to show off their prized works to friends. It doesn't take many to cause a surge in prices," Philip Hoffman, chief executive of the Fine Art Fund Group, told the Financial Times.
China's Zhang Daqian and Qi Baishi were first and second in terms of global sale values in 2011, according to Artprice: only the second time in 15 years that Picasso has not taken the top spot.
Daqian's Lotus and Mandarin Ducks made $24.6m at Sotheby's in 2011, setting a new record for the artist.
Qi Baishi had the biggest single art sale last year, with his depiction of an eagle on a pine tree, Long Life, Peaceful World, selling for $65.5m in June: a world record for a contemporary Chinese painting.