'Jade Fever' in Bonhams Hong Kong HK$87m Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art sale

The ‘jade fever’ in the auction industry that started last year has yet to die down. Bonhams Hong Kong delivered spectacular results in Hong Kong spring sales. Their star lot was an 8.4cm archaic jade ritual vessel which was sold for HK$18m, ten times its opening bid.

The sale room was filled immediately after the sale opened at 2pm. Over 30 people were standing at the back and most of them are jade connoisseurs. The auctioneer’s voice was almost buried in the sounds of excitement of jade lovers in the saleroom.

Lot 1 was a 3.6 cm archaic jade dragon from the late Shang dynasty. Carved in the form of a circular coiled dragon, the jade’s body is incised with double-line scrolls, the top with a pierced hole, the stone of a buff tone with traces of cinnabar.

This artefact with unknown provenance had a starting bid of HK$40,000. After an intense competition between telephone bidders and room bidders, it was hammered down for HK$820,000, 20 times its opening bid, and sold for HK1.02m with premium. This stirred up even more excitement amongst the keen bidders.

Moving on to the star of the show – an archaic jade ritual vessel (cong) from the Neolithic Period, Liangzhu Culture. Measuring 8.4cm in width, the cong is cylindrical square is shape, with each projected corner finely and precisely depicted by two registers of stylised human and animal masks. It has a pre-sale estimate of HK3m - 4m and was part of the Peony Collection as well as an important Asian private collection.

The Liangzhu Culture (3400 - 2250 BC) was in the Yangtze River Delta of China, its center at the today’s Hangzhou. Scholars believed that humans could use jade congs to communicate with the Gods. The cylindrical shape inside represents sky while the outer surface represents land. The animal masks depict witchcraft activities.

The bidding started at HK$1.8m and bidders were raising their hands at the speed of lightning. Almost an overwhelming 30 bids later, the auctioneer finally put the hammer down at HK$18m. There was a burst of applause and everyone was capturing the moment with their phones. The ‘winner’ was a telephone bidder who acquired the star lot for HK$21.7m with premium.

Other jade wares, especially those craved in the shape of a raft, were also very popular. For instance, the Imperial white jade carving of Zhang Qian on a raft (above) was sold for HK$7.54m with premium to a lady in the room after 25 bids. It measures 23.5cm in height and belonged to a distinguished European private collection.

Many might be familiar with the stories of Zhang Qian’s expedition to Central Asia. The jade raft depicts another story – the story of Zhang Qian meeting the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl from a famous Chinese folktale when he was on the way to Daxia to find the source of the Yellow River.

Another popular lot was a white jade carving of two boats measuring 17.8cm long from a distinguished European private collection, circa 18th - 19th century. It was sold at HK$3m (HK$3.7m with premium), 6 times its estimate. The well-polished stone is carved as a long narrow boat detailed with an intricate reticulated interlocking chain at the side and the front. The deck is carved with a dog and two boatmen steering at the bow and stern, two boys leisurely crouching under the awning.

The original star lot – an Imperial white jade 'phoenix' vessel, gong, was also auctioned at a very high price. Carved on the vessel is a high-relief phoenix with claws clenched tightly underneath, its head crowned with a crest, its tail forming the handle.

The gong had a starting bid of HK$6.5m and was sold at HK$9.2m (HK$11.4m with premium) after 11 bids to a telephone bidder.

This sale’s exceptional results relied mostly on jade wares. Among 63 lots, 78% was sold, making a sale total of HK$87m. In the upcoming sales of Christie’s, we will see if the ‘jade fever’ continues.

Top lots- jade wares

A very rare archaic jade ritual vessel, cong

Lot no.: 4
Size: 8.4cm

  • The Peony Collection

  • An important Asian private collection

Estimate: HK$3,000,000 - 4,000,000
Hammer price: HK$18,000,000
Price realised: HK$21,700,000

A magnificent Imperial white jade 'phoenix' vessel, gong

Lot no.: 27
Height: 18.8cm

  • Luz Papasian (1915-2013), New York

  • Doyle, New York, 16 September 2013, lot 282

  • An important Asian private collection

Estimate: HK$8,000,000 - 12,000,000
Hammer price: HK$9,200,000
Price realised: HK$11,400,000

A magnificent Imperial white jade carving of Zhang Qian on a raft

Lot no.: 37
Size: 23.5cm
Provenance: A distinguished European private collection, acquired by the grandparents of the present owner, and thence by descent
Estimate: HK$1,200,000 - 1,500,000
Hammer price: HK$6,200,000
Price realised: HK$7,540,000

A very fine and rare white jade carving of two boats

Lot no.: 40
Size: 17.8cm
Provenance: A distinguished European private collection, acquired by the grandparents of the present owner and thence by descent
Estimate: HK$1,200,000 - 1,500,000
Hammer price: HK$3,000,000
Price realised: HK$3,700,000

A rare archaic jade dragon

Lot no.: 1
Size: 3.6cm
Estimate: HK$50,000 - 80,000
Hammer price: HK$820,000
Price realised: HK$1,025,000


Auction summary

Auction house: Bonhams Hong Kong
Sale: Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art
Date: 2018/5/29
Lots offered: 63
Lots sold: 49
Bought in: 14
Sold by lots: 78%
Sale total: HK$87,692,500