10th Century Chinese Stringed Instrument Fees $ 1.2 Million | Auction news | THE VALUE

Last week, a string instrument was the most valuable lot among Chinese art auctions at Bonhams Hong Kong.

A lacquered qin around the 10th century was estimated at HK $ 5-8 million. In the end, it was sold for HK $ 9.8million (around US $ 1.2million). The instrument was owned by a prominent 19th century Chinese musician called Li Zizhao.

Returning to Europe, the 10th century was a period that saw the continuation of the Holy Roman Empire (962-1806 CE) and the Byzantine Empire (395-1453 CE), as well as the Viking expansion of the North Europe.

Lot 79 | Jingtao qin lacquered fengshi style

Created in the 10th century or before
Length: 121.6 cm

  • Li Zizhao Collection (1856-1938)
  • Hu Ruosi Collection (1916-2004)

Estimate: HK $ 5,000,000 – $ 8,000,000

Hammer price: HK $ 7,880,000

Sold: HK $ 9,852,500 (approx. US $ 1.2 million)

the qinbody of is slightly tapered from head to tail with multiple recessed shoulder and waist – supported by two hardwood goose feet (yanzu). The underside is secured with seven hardwood dowels (zhen), while the top is vertically encrusted with 13 yellow medal nails (hui); and finished with a hardwood rope holder (longyin).

This qinthe name of is written around the central area of ​​the instrument. It is signed by a calligrapher, Huang Tingjian (1045-1105). Another long inscription is incised by the 19th century musician Li Zizhao (1856-1938) in 1919. Its lacquered surface is adorned with a network of fine snakes and cracks in ice.

Originally from Sichuan and a former Taoist monk, Li spent his youth in the royal household from the 19th to the 20th century. He was a professional musician and teacher after secularizing himself from the Taoist temple.

Li quickly caught the eye of the qin circle in Shanghai and Suzhou. He was known by local practitioners and patrons as a distinguished qin musician among his contemporaries. His name appeared first in the Qinren zhengfanglu (List of Qin practitioners), which was published in 1937.

This qin is probably one of two known instruments he owned. Another one qin of his, Pili (love at first sight), was a piece produced during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Lot 20 | Large imperial dish in cloisonné enamel

Six-character enamel mark of Emperor Wanli (1572-1620)
Diameter: 57cm

  • Sotheby’s London, July 21, 1969, Lot 91
  • Cornelius Ruxton Love Jr. (1904-1971) and Audrey B. Love (1903-2003), New York
  • Christie’s New York, The C. Ruxton and Audrey B. Love Collection, October 20, 2004, Lot 612

Estimate: HK $ 3,500,000 – 4,500,000

Hammer price: HK $ 4,600,000

Sold: HK $ 5,752,500 (approx US $ 740,000)

This dish belongs to a small group of cloisonne enamel items bearing the marks of Emperor Wanli (1572-1620) at the bottom. He is represented in a rectangle in the center and surrounded by ruyi heads.

Cloisonne enamel is known for its vibrant colors and elegant, jewel-like decoration. Its interior is brilliantly and boldly decorated with multi-colored enamels with two five-claw dragons. They are depicted in a field of scattered flower sprigs – surrounded by a ruyi headband and multicolored lotus scrolls with buds.

Handicrafts were introduced from West Asia during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) and developed by Emperors Yongle and Xuande – who ruled in the early 15th century. Later, in the mid-15th century, the craftsmanship became more refined and prized by the Chinese court.

Lot 91 | Confucius style lacquered qin pianqiu

Created in the Southern Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE)
Length: 121.8 cm

  • The Yanqinzhai Collection, Hong Kong

Estimate: HK $ 1,500,000 – 1,800,000

Hammer price: HK $ 3,700,000

Sold: HK $ 4,627,500 (approx US $ 590,000)

Originating from the 12th to the 13th century, this Chinese qin was designed in a Confucius style form – its form would have been used and favored by the Sage.

Its dome-shaped body with two arched sections on both sides, the black lacquered surface finely cracked in small shefu lines. The top is inlaid with 13 mother of pearl nails (hui), the reserve above the longchi (dragon basin) incised and filled with cinnabar lacquer with a two character name reading pianqiu (an autumn leaf). At the bottom, the qin is incised with Jiajing marks reading jiajing sishisannian bayue zao guxian.

(This qin) of your guxien made in August 1564. It has a seal reading zhengfu zhibao (The treasure of the princely house of Zheng), and is also made up of seven pegs (zhen) and two crow’s feet (yanzu) of pale jade-celadon.

Summary of the auction:

Auction House: Bonhams Hong Kong


  • Color / Impact: Cloisonne enamel under the Ming and Qing dynasties
  • Elegant gatherings
  • Beautiful Chinese art objects

Date: December 2, 2021

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