Christie’s Sues Chinese Billionaire for HK$120m Outstanding Payment

At Christie’s spring auction this year, a ‘double-dragon’ celadon-glazed amphora was hammered down at HK$124m and sold for an overwhelming price of HK$140m with buyer’s premium, setting the world record for Chinese monochrome porcelain. Just when everybody was savouring the moment of elation, a few days ago, Christie’s made a move that startled many. Christie’s filed a claim to the high court in respect of the outstanding sums of over HK$120m due and payable by the buyer. The claim addressed to two defendants, one of them is Wang Yonghong, the founder of Zhonghong Holding Co.Ltd with a net worth of RMB 10 billion.

Chi-Fan Tsang (Christie's Head of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art) gives high praise on the amphora

According to the writ of summons, the first defendant is Han Wenhong with the address of Centrestage Tower on Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. The second defendant is Wang Yonghong with two addresses: one is in Chaoyang district in Beijing and the other one is in Suzhou city in Anhui. The above two addresses in the mainland are registered as the addresses for Zhonghong Holding Co. Ltd. Christie’s filed claim for “the price and premium payable” for the “double-dragon” celadon-glazed amphora, together with the storage charges payable and interest on all sums found due etc.

Wang Yonghong, born and raised in Jiangxi, is a young and distinguished billionaire in Mainland China. He was born in 1972 and started his business in Beijing in his twenties. He founded Zhonghong Holding Co.Ltd and has been involving in real estate business. In 2015, he ranked 394th on the Forbes China rich list. A year later, in 2016, he ranked 277th on Xicaifu (New Fortune) 500 rich list with his net worth of RMB 10 billion.

Xu Xiang arrested in Ningbo

Though in his young age, Wang has earned himself great prominence and numerous awards in the industry with his remarkable achievements in business. He is also notable for his philanthropic work and has built a positive image as an influential and popular figure. With the emergence of the scandalous “Xu Xiang case”, Wang’s reputation was tarnished since rumour had it that he was involved in the crime.  Xu Xiang is a former Chinese private placement investor and once considered China’s hedge fund guru. Xu was arrested in 2015 on the charge of insider trading and market manipulation.

In January this year, Xu was sentenced to a five-and-a-half-year prison term and fined RMB 11 billion (US$1.66 billion). Reported by the mainland media, besides Xu, there are 23 big names in the business industry involved in the case, coming from 13 listed companies in Mainland China. They all hold the positions of the board of directors, actual controllers or of senior management. It is believed that Wang Yonghong, the chairman of Zhonghong Holding Co. Ltd, is one of them.

Based on the disclosed information, the current chairman of Zhonghong Holding Co. Ltd is Wang Jihong, brother of Wang Yonghong. Yet, the actual controller is Wang Yonghong, who holds 26.55% shares of the company. Zhonghong Holding Co. Ltd has quite a number of subsidiaries, in which more than twenty are based in the mainland, with business extended to Hong Kong as well. The trading of the company’s shares has been suspended in July this year.

Han Wenhong, the first defendant of the case, whose identity remains to be a mystery. In the year 2011, a famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou directed a movie titled The Flowers of War. An actress Han Xiting (Catherine Han) was cast in the movie. Rumour has it that the actress’s original name was Han Wenhong, alongside with a speculation that her husband could possibly be Wang Yonghong. It is with certainty that Wang Yonghong is married but no one knows the true identity of his wife.

The amphora was sold at its sole sale and the bidding started at HK$70m. After a 10-minute intense bidding war, it was hammered down at HK$124m and sold for HK$140,540,000. In 2004, this amphora was sold for HK$17,423,750, setting a new world record for Chinese monochrome porcelain. It was bought by Alan Chuang from Chuang's Consortium International Limited. He is also the present owner of the amphora.

The Value contacted Chuang's Consortium International Limited but no comment from their end so far. Christie’s has confirmed that it has taken legal action against a buyer in respect of the overdue payment of the “double-dragon” celadon-glazed amphora. Christie’s replied that this situation is rare but the move is necessary in order to protect their interest.

The official name of this lot is “An Exceptionally Fine Tang-Style “Double-Dragon” Celadon-Glazed Amphora”, impressed with Yongzheng six-character seal mark in under glazed blue and of the period. The baluster body is moulded with three sets of double bowstring bands, the uppermost band on the shoulder is overlaid with six tear-drop shaped appliqués with further two below each of the double-strap handles. The 51.8-cm-tall vase is covered overall with an even glaze of soft blue-green tone thinning on the extremities and pooling in the recesses.


Auction house: Christie’s Hong Kong
Sale: The Yongzheng Emperor’s Double Dragon Amphora
Date: 2017/5/31
Height: 51.8cm

  • Collection of Maruja Baldwin (1920-1997)
  • Sold at Christie’s New York, 22 March 1999, lot 331 (US$442,550)
  • Private Collection. 1999-2004. California.
  • A California private collection, 1999-2004
  • Sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 1 November 2004, lot 872 (HK$17,423,750. Auction record for a Chinese monochrome porcelain)
  • The Alan Chuang Collection, Hong Kong

Estimate: HK$120,000,000 - 150,000,000
Hammer price: HK$124,000,000
Price realized: HK$140,540,000 (with buyer’s premium)