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Emperor's seal sets new auction record
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By Celine Chen

A batch of rare Chinese imperial treasures including an emperor's seal and a scroll painting were auctioned in Sotheby's "Legacies of Imperial Power" sale in Hong Kong on October 8. The total auction proceeds reached more than HK$383 million (about US$49 million) and the eye-catching white-jade seal of Emperor Qianlong broke the world white jade auction record with HK$63.38 (US$8.2 million).

The white jade seal of Emperor Qianlong 

The four characters on the face read "Qianlong yubi" (in the Imperial hand of Qianlong), and were impressed on monumental calligraphies of the Emperor to be hung in the palace halls of the Forbidden City. Although there are other seals in the Palace Museum of Beijing carved with the characters "Qianlong yubi", according to the imperial archives, this particular seal, measuring 12.5 cm², is the largest one of its type.

The seal belonged to the Guimet family of France. The family owns a private museum of Asian art. 8 special lots of Qianlong Imperial Seals from the Estate of Emile Guimet were all auctioned. The total price attained was HK$164.64 million (about US$21 million).

Another Qing treasure, a 15-meter-long Qianlong military handscroll – the "Dayue Tu" – painted with 16,000 miniature figures including the emperor himself on a white stallion in a "Grand Parade" of troops, sold for HK$67.86 million (US$8.7 million), a world record for any Qing imperial painting.

Qiu Guoshi, the director of Sotheby's Chinese Art Department said he was delighted with the result of yesterday's auction. The proceeds reflect the collector's desire for rare historic antiques and the market demand for Chinese imperial treasures.

In Sotheby's Hong Kong autumn 2007 sale, the six-centimeter "Tai Shang Huang Di" white-jade seal, which was carved in 1796 to mark the abdication of the Emperor Qianlong, was sold to a Chinese collector for more than HK$46 million (about US$5.92 million), setting the previous record for white jade at auction.

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