Sage of Calligraphy's $46.3m scroll becomes '2nd most expensive' in China

You may be familiar with the 18th Century Qianlong vase which sold for £43m (£53.1m, or $84,826,700, including premium and charges) after being discovered during a house clearance, earlier this month.

But how about $46.40m for a Chinese scroll? The manuscript in question is based on a work by Chinese calligrapher Wang Xizhim, who lived in the Jin Dynasty around the 4th century and is generally regarded as China's Sage of Calligraphy.

Xizhi's work brought 308 million yuan at China Guardian's autumn auction in Beijing on Saturday (November 20). In doing so, it became the second most valuable scroll in the history of Chinese mainland art.

Calligrapher Huang Tingjian's hand scroll, Dizhu Ming, remains the markets' #1 after it was purchased for 436.8 million yuan (more than $65.7m) in June of this year.

Xizhim's scroll is especially valuable because none of his original works exist. Instead, this scroll, named Ping'an Tie (Safety Wish Script), is a rare high quality copy whose provenance can be traced via its various owners back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).

A copy of the Ping'an Tie scroll, originally by Wang Xizhim, possibly from the 7th century (Detail - click here to view the entire scroll)


While historians and archaeologists are unable to trace the exact year the scroll was created, it is thought to have been made in the 7th century, if not earlier. The oldest record of the scroll can be found the book Jiang Tie, dated to 1049-1063.

Otherwise, the manuscript is known to have been passed on by distinguished collectors of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties - with each owner adding their seal to the scroll. The scroll's latest distinguished owner in 2010 has chosen to stay anonymous.

In a sense, Ping'an Tie can possibly stake a claim to being the most expensive scroll in Chinese history because only half the scroll was sold, it having been torn into two parts. The 24.5-cm-long, 13.8-cm-wide piece auctioned on Saturday is its first part, with four lines comprising 41 characters.

According to reports, the scroll's total came to 308 million yuan ($46,328,400) with added 12 percent buyer's premium.

The China Guardian autumn auction in Beijing is still open and continues until tomorrow (November 23) including art, jewels and antiques. Watch this space for further news on the sale.


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