Poly Auction HK's Chinese antiques feast gathered US$28.6m, topped by Emperor Yongzheng's dragon vase

Yesterday, Poly Auction Hong Kong wrapped up their 10th anniversary celebration with a series of four Chinese works of art sales.

Collectively, they pulled in nearly HK$218.5 million (around US$27.8 million), with four lots selling for over HK$10 million. Among them, it was an imperial copper-red glazed vase from Yongzheng period (1723-1735) which fetched HK$30 million to take the crown.

A sale dedicated to Tang (618-907) Sancai ceramics from The Ten-views Lingbi Rock Retreat Collection turned out to be the most impressive. With an unexpectedly fervent bidding atmosphere, the 56 lots sold achieved a sale total of over HK$50 million  – while a leading sancai-glazed jar was hammered 20 times its low pre-sale estimate.

An 18th century Imperial Chinese copper red vase was hammered at HK$25 million dollars

Lot 3312 | Copper Red Glazed “Dragons at Sea” Vase, Meiping
Created during Yongzheng period (1723-1735)
Height: 27.8 cm

  • Collection of Sheelah M. Langan (1910-1993), thence by decent within the family

Estimate: HK$26,000,000 – 35,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$25,000,000
Sold: HK$30,000,000 (around US$3.8 million)


The auctioneer, Gigi Zhao, started the bidding at HK$22 million dollars. The hammer was dropped at HK$25 million dollars and the winning bid went to Ben Hu, Senior Specialist, Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Department; for his client with paddle number 1575. In the end, it garnered HK$30 million (around US$3.8 million) dollars with buyer’s premium.

Inspired by early 15th century porcelain prototypes, the present vase is a rare example of a small group of wares made for the early 18th-century Imperial Chinese court. They feature reserved dragons carved in low relief against a ground of crashing waves executed in variations of underglaze blue and red.

Ben Hu with the winning bid

A similar vase can be found at the Palace Museum, Beijing

It is potted in robust form with swelling shoulder, short cylindrical neck and flared lip and foot. The shoulder is carved in low relief with two dramatic sinuous five-clawed dragons, above a smaller pair of incised dragons at the foot. All dragons are reserved in white and depicted against stylized crashing wave in underglaze red. The underside is inscribed with a six-character mark within a double circle.

There are two similar vases from Yongzheng period, which can be found in distinguished public and private collections around the world. One version, slightly larger with more stylized crashing waves, is typified by the examples in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing. The second group, to which the present vase belongs, can also be found at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio.

Lot 3062 | Pair of Two Carved and Painted Wood Standing Bodhisattva
Created during Jin dynasty (12th – 13th century)
Height: 143cm and 142cm

  • Paul Houo-Ming-Tse, Paris
  • Hotel Drouot, Objets d’art de la Chine: Collection Paul Houo-Ming-Tse, Paris, 1932, Lot 84, Lot 85
  • Gerard Devillers, Paris
  • Eskenazi, London
  • The Ten-Views Lingbi Rock Retreat Collection, Nos. EK106, EK207

Estimate: HK$20,000,000 – 30,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$21,000,000
Sold: HK$25,200,000 (around US$3.2 million)

The bidding commenced at HK$16 million dollars. After five bids, the hammer was dropped at HK$21 million dollars. The winning bid went to Robin Lyu, Chief Financial Officer; for his client with paddle number 1590. In the end, it garnered HK$25.2 million (around US$3.2 million) dollars with buyer’s premium. 

Both sculptures’ surfaces are still preserved with gold, and faint remnants of green, red, and black can be seen. Standing on lotus pedestals, the pair are depicted with plump cheeks, slightly open lips, dark eyes, and a topknot – with hair hanging down from both sides. Their necks are richly ornamented with jewellery, while a lotus flower, jade buckles and parts of a small Buddha are shown in their crowns.

With bare upper bodies, two shawls drape over their left shoulders and hang down to the legs. Although both hands are damaged, it can still be seen that the left hand is relaxed and pointing downwards, whilst the right hand is raised. One has a belt around the waist, while the other has a belt loosely wrapped around the abdomen. 

Lot 3313 | Copper Red Decorated “Nine Dragons” Moonflask
Seal mark and of the Qianlong period (1735-1796)
Height: 25.8 cm

  • Private collection of a dealer in Cornwall, England
  • An important private collection, acquired in the 1970s
  • Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8 October 2008, Lot 2208 (Sold: HK$9,620,000)
  • Eskenazi, London
  • The Ten-views Lingbi Rock Retreat Collection, No. EK352

Estimate: HK$15,000,000 – 20,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$15,000,000
Sold: HK$18,000,000 (around US$2.2 million)

Previously in the collections of Eskenazi and the Ten-views Lingbi Rock Retreat Collection, the distinguished provenance of the work speaks for itself.

Highly respected by collectors and connoisseurs, Giuseppe Eskenazi is dubbed ‘the Godfather of Chinese Antiques’ and one of the world’s most esteemed dealers of Chinese Art.  His company – Eskenazi, based in London – has sold to more than eighty of the world’s major museums.

This moonflask was later acquired by the renowned Ten-views Lingbi Rock Retreat Collection. In 1989, a handscroll of Ten Views of Lingbi Rock was sold to an American collector in New York for US1.21 million – a whopping price during the late 80s and a record for the most expensive Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy auctioned for many years. Loving the work so much, the buyer decided to name the whole trove after it.

Giuseppe Eskenazi, ‘the Godfather of Chinese Antiques’

Moonflask – named after its resemblance to the full moon – was originated during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), when various Persian and Central Asian metalworks were imported into China along the Silk Road.

At the time, many of these metalwork shapes were reproduced in porcelain and adapted to Chinese tastes. Unlike their Persian prototypes, which functioned as practical vessels carrying liquids, Chinese moonflasks served purely as decorative objects.

Lot 3803 | A doucai iron-red decorated ‘dragon’ vase
Seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795)
Height: 28.7 cm

  • A Japanese private collection
  • The Huaihaitang Collection, Hong Kong
  • Sotheby's Hong Kong, 5 October 2011, lot 1947

Estimate: HK$8,000,000 - 12,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$9,000,000
Sold: HK$10,800,000

Exquisitely portrayed with two iron-red five-clawed dragons, the present lot boldly symbolizes the Emperor's supreme power.

Across many dynasties in imperial China, dragon with five claws had usually been a symbol for the Emperor. On the body of the present vase, the majestic five-clawed dragons are illustrated in confident brushstrokes to soar proudly against the contrasting-coloured spiralling clouds. What adds to the vase is its handles, which echo with the body and appear in the forms of a delicately-crafted dimensional dragon.

Although iron-red dragon is commonly seen on imperial porcelains during Qing dynasty, most of their surrounding decorations are painted in blue and white. Possibly due to the difficulty of the firing process, such a vase with the combination of iron-red, underglaze blue and enamels in different colours is rare – and even more so with the archaistic dragon handles.

Only one other vase of this design is known to exist, which is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, with its composition painted in mirror image to the present piece, suggesting that the two vases originally formed a pair.

The present lot (left); the counterpart in Victoria and Albert Museum, London (right)

Lot 3225 | A sancai-glazed jar
Tang dynasty, 618-907
Height: 52.5 cm

  • Eskenazi, London, 2001
  • The Ten-views Lingbi Rock Retreat Collection, purchased from Eskenazi, London, no. EK82

Estimate: HK$300,000 - 350,000
Sold: HK$7,200,000

While Tang Sancai is highly-prized all over the world, its market at auctions has been rather sluggish in recent years. With a sale dedicated to Tang Sancai ceramics, the auction house has indeed made a bold move.

The result, in the end, turned out to be jaw-dropping. Only 7 of 63 lots offered were unsold, gathering a sale total of over HK$50 million with a sell-through rate of 89%. Many of them achieved a hammer price far above the pre-sale estimate – with the present lot being the most impressive.

Rare and of high quality, it was hammered down at HK$6 million – exceeding its pre-sale low estimate at only HK$300,000 by 20 times. With buyer’s premium, it was sold for HK$7.2 million (around US$917,000).

One of the reasons for the success of this sale is perhaps the provenance of the collection, which either dates back nearly a century or owned by leading antique dealers, such as Eskenazi, Christian Deydier and J.J. Lally.

Other Hightlight Lots:

Lot 3322 | A doucai 'birds and flowers' basin
Kangxi period, 1662-1722
Diametre: 60.5 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8 April 2011, lot 3175 (Sold: HK$2.3 million; around US$17.94 million)

Estimate: HK$1,200,000 - 1,800,000
Sold: HK$3,360,000 (around US$428,000)

Lot 3059 | A carved stone head of Luohan 
Liao dynasty, 916-1125
Height: 66 cm

  • Christie's London, 11 June 1990, lot 109 2. The Ten-Views Lingbi Rock Retreat Collection No.FR89

Estimate: HK$900,000 - 1,500,000
Sold: HK$3,120,000 (around US$397,000)

Lot 3060 | A painted pottery figure of Kasyapa in the nirvana pose
Liao dynasty, 916-1125
69.2 x 30.5 x 31.1 cm

  • Christie's New York, 26 March 2003, lot 189
  • The Ten-Views Lingbi Rock Retreat Collection, purchased from Eskenazi, no.EK151

Estimate: HK$1,600,000 - 2,200,000
Sold: HK$3,120,000 (around US$397,000)

Lot 3310 | An important doucai 'chicken' cup
Yongzheng period, Qing dynasty, 1723-1735
Height: 5.8 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • Collection of N.C. Harrison
  • Sotheby's London, 16 May 1967, lot 153
  • Collection of J. Harris Phillips and Harris
  • Collection of Mr. Evans, acquired on 23 February 1970 (with record of purchase)
  • The Canterbury Auction Galleries, 22-23 May 2012, lot 77  (£155,000)

Estimate: HK$1,200,000 - 1,800,000
Sold: HK$3,000,000 (around US$382,000)

Lot 3214 | A blue and yellow-glazed cylindrical tripod jar
Tang dynasty, 618-907
Height: 15.4 cm

  • J.J. Lally, New York
  • Christie's New York, 22 March 2007, lot 258
  • The Ten-views Lingbi Rock Retreat Collection, no. CH244

Estimate: HK$350,000 - 450,000
Sold: HK$2,880,000 (around US$366,000)

Lot 3209 | A sancai-glazed 'goose' tripod dish
Tang dynasty, 618-907
Diametre: 28.6 cm

  • Christian Deydier, Oriental Bronzes Ltd., Paris
  • The Ten-views Lingbi Rock Retreat Collection, no. DD2

Estimate: HK$150,000 - 250,000
Sold: HK$1,080,000 (around US$137,000)

Lot 3304 | An incised 'pheasant' vase and cover
Meiping, Song dynasty, 960-1279
Height: 20.8 cm

  • An American private collection

Estimate: HK$50,000 - 80,000
Sold: HK$324,000 (around US$41,200)

Auction Summary:
Auction House: Poly Auction Hong Kong

  • Tang Sancai Ceramics From The Ten-views Lingbi Rock Retreat Collection
  • Colours Beyond Landscapes: Important Chinese Art including European and American Collections
  • Qianlong: The Huaihaitang Collection
  • Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art

Date: 14 July 2022
Sale Total: HK$218,526,000 (around US$27.8 million)