Xu Beihong's Horses Drinking was the headline lot of a sale of Chinese art at Christie's Hong Kong on December 1, achieving $2.9m.
The work dates to 1934 and is dedicated to collector and close friend Huang Menggui, who was involved in the Fujian rebellion against the government that year.
Christie's comments: "In 1934, as a government official in Fujian Province, Huang Menggui was arrested for his involvement in the civil unrest.
"Xu Beihong often visited him, and after Huang's release, the artist created this image of Horses Drinking inscribed with a dedication to Huang Menggui to celebrate his newfound freedom.
"Although celebratory in mood, the painting also stands as an allegory reminding his friend to remain vigilant in difficult times."
The record for Xu Beihong's work is $9.2m, set for a realist oil painting titled Put Down Your Whip at Sotheby's in 2009.
Qi Baishi's Landscape of the Four Seasons sold for $2.5m.
The work was formerly part of the prestigious Feng Wen Tang collection. It consists of four hanging scrolls, each signed with the artist's seal.
Qi Baishi (1864-1957) was an influential figure in the development of traditional Chinese art during his lifetime.
His Eagle Standing on Pine Tree made $65m in a 2011 sale, making it the most valuable Chinese painting ever sold.
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