Who is Liu Yiqian?

Who is Liu Yiqian?

He is a Chinese billionaire collector. That is, he is Chinese. A collector. And a billionaire. He's in his 50s.

Should I have heard of him?

You should. This week at Christie's Hong Kong he bought a 15th century thangka which set a new record for a Chinese work of art at auction. 

A thangka?

Thangka record Christies
The thangka depicts Buddhist deity Raktayamari: the 'Red Killer of Death’

Do keep up. Thangka are embroidered silk or cotton paintings, and traditionally depict Buddhist deities or important figures of the day. Ancient ones make lots of money. Though not normally this much.

How much did he spend?

$45.2m - bidding lasted 22 minutes, something of an anomaly in the auction world.

Wow. Mr Moneybags. You say he's a collector, though. Which means he must have bought things before, right?

Right. Liu was the man who bought a 15th century chicken cup at Sotheby's Hong Kong in April. That is, a porcelain cup, featuring the likeness of a chicken. It sold for $36.2m and was the previous record holder prior to this week's sale.

He has a huge Chinese art and calligraphy collection, all told.

And what does Liu do with these pieces?

Well, he enjoyed a cup of tea out of the chicken cup immediately afterwards. He was more restrained on this occasion, I believe.

Yes, but what does he do with them on a daily basis?

He's planning to showcase both pieces in his recently opened Long Museum in Shanghai.

Ah, just the latest example of Chinese artefacts being repatriated - I've read about this.

Well done, yes. Chinese pieces are heading back east at an astonishing rate.

What does Liu have to say for himself?

Plenty. "I am proud to bring back to China this significant and historic century thangka which will be preserved in the Long museum for years to come," he announced following this week's auction.

Last thing. How did Liu make his money?

As a 14-year-old he started producing handbags. He made a decent amount of money and in the 80s bought shares in a company that operated near his handbag stall.  That 100 yuan speculation turned into 2m yuan - at a time when the average yearly wage was 300 yuan. From there he just kept on diversifying and investing.

Anything else I need to know about him?

When not selling handbags he used to drive a taxi. He shaves only occasionally.

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