Su Shi’s Handwritten Diamond Sutra Fetches RMB 2.5m, 500 Times Its Estimate

Rare books are not only important resources for academic research but also desirable gems long craved by many collectors. This craze for rare books can also be seen at China Guardian’s Rare Books & Rubbing Books, which realized a sale total of RMB 38m and a sell-through rate of 84%. The climax of the sale was Su Shi’s Diamond Sutra sold for RMB 2.58m, 500 times its low estimate of RMB 5,000.

The top lot of the sale fell to Ma Duanlin’s Wenxian Tongkao, also known as “Comprehensive Examination of Literature”. It was one of the model works of Tongdian (Chinese institutional encyclopaedia text) written by Ma Duanlin in the Yuan dynasty. Ma was an outstanding Chinese historical writer and encyclopaedist. He spent more than twenty years to finish the whole book consisting of 348 scrolls. Estimated at RMB 13m-18m, the highest estimate of the sale, the lot was sold for RMB 14.95m.

The second spot was taken by Li Bai Poetry with Annotation with an estimate of RMB 1m-1.8m. It was sold for RMB 2.58m. The book was a compilation of poems written by Li Bai (701-762), a prominent poet in the Tang dynasty. It was later compiled and annotated by Yang Qixian in Song Dynasty and Xiao Shiyun in Yuan Dynasty. This work is an output by scholars from three different dynasties, standing as a testimony of the thriving literature in imperial China.

Then it came to the focal point of the sale, Diamond Sutra by famous Chinese poet and calligrapher Su Shi, carrying an attractively low price of RMB 5,000-10,000. It came as no surprise that this work of calligraphy by Su Shi was hammered down for RMB 2.58m, far outstripping its pre-sale estimate. The low estimate was possibly a strategy adopted by the auction house to intrigue a larger group of potential buyers. 

Top Three Lots

Ma Duanlin, Wenxian Tongkao. Paper.
Yuan Dynasty

Lot no.: 2372
Size: 26 x 18 cm
Estimate: RMB 13,000,000 - 18,000,000
Price realized: RMB 14,950,000


Li Bai Poetry with Annotation. Paper.
Written by Li Bai (Tang Dynasty)
Annotated by Yang Qixian (Song Dynasty) and Xiao Shiyun (Yuan Dynasty)

Lot no.: 2425
Size: 20 x 13 cm
Estimate: RMB 1,000,000 - 1,800,000
Price realized: RMB 2,587,500

Su Shi, Diamond Sutra. Paper.
Song Dynasty

Lot no.: 2319
Size: 19.8 x 8 cm
Estimate: RMB 5,000 - 10,000
Price realized: RMB 2,587,500

Auction Summary

Auction house: China Guardian Beijing
Sale: Rare Books & Rubbing Books
Sale date: 2017/12/20
Sale total: RMB 38,775,700
Lots offered: 365
Sold: 305
Unsold: 60
Average price per lot: RMB 127,133
Sell-through rate: 84%

(All prices realized have included buyer’s premium unless otherwise specified)