A Chinese Celadon-Glazed Bulb Bowl Fetches HK$3.72m, 46 Times Its Estimate HK$80,000

Sotheby’s winter edition of Chinese Art auction pulled off a remarkable result with a number of lots sold for prices way above the estimate, including a Ming mallow-shaped brush washer that sold for HK$3.72m (US$475,602), 46.5 times its estimate HK$80,000, and a Xuande celadon-glazed bulb bowl that sold for HK$3.96m (US$506,286), 10 times its estimate HK$400,000.

The Ge mallow-shaped brush washer, Ming dynasty or earlier, formerly belonged to Hong Kong shipping tycoon T.Y Chao, a renowned collector of Chinese art. The brushwasher is covered overall in a soft greyish glazed suffused with a matrix of iron-wire crackles. There are five spur marks on the countersunk base. It was hammered down at HK$3m and sold for HK$3.72m, 46.5 times its estimate HK$80,000.

T.Y Chao (left) was a renowned collector of Chinese art

'Ru, Guan, Ge, Ding, Jun' are known as The Five Great Kilns that produced Chinese ceramics during the Song dynasty (960-1279). Ceramics wares from these five kilns are highly prized by collectors and connoisseurs of Chinese ceramics. There are only around 300 pieces of Ge ware known to have survived.

The following piece was also from the collection of T.Y Chao. A celadon-glazed bulb bowl from the Xuande reign (1426-1435), estimated at HK$400,000-600,000, was hammered down for HK$3.2m and sold for HK$3.96m with premium included. The interior incised with leafy chrysanthemum sprays and the bowl is supported on three ruyi-shape bracket feet.


It is rare to find vessels of this form and glaze with a Xuande reign mark and of the period. Shallow tripod bowls of this type were based on bronze prototypes and popular luxury items in the late Yuan and early Ming dynasty, probably used to perfume a temple or home.

During the early Ming period, the Longquan kilns appear to have worked closely with the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen, thus making wares of similar form and decoration, perhaps under imperial instruction.

Another highlight of the sale was a pair of yellow-ground famille-rose lobed jardinieres from the Guanxu period (1875-1908), inscribed with three marks reading Dayazhai, Tiandi yijia chun (Springtime in Heaven and Earth, One Family) and Yongqing Changchun (Eternal Prosperity and Enduring Spring). Estimated at HK$80,000-120,000, the lobed jardinieres sold for HK$4.75m (US$60,729).

The mark Dayazhai (Studio of Greater Odes) and Tiandi yijia chun (Springtime in Heaven and Earth, One Family) have been associated with the Dowager Empress Cixi. Dayazhai is the name given by Dowager Empress Cixi to her studio. Tiandi yijia chun is where Empress Dowager Cixi lived in the Old Summer Palace when she was new in the palace. Porcelain bearing these two marks were imperial porcelain commissioned by the Empress Dowager Cixi.

A set of famille-rose sweetmeat trays from the Qing dynasty sold for HK$337,500 (US$43,149), more than five times its estimate of HK$50,000-70,000. It is formed of nine shaped porcelain compartments, each variously decorated with flower sprays and figural cartouches reserved on a variety of coloured grounds.

In general, sweetmeat tray is commonly formed of three or five or nine compartments. The one with three compartments are used by commoners. The present one, with nine compartments, was used by the imperial family or nobles. Sweetmeat trays are still used by Chinese people in Chinese Lunar New Year to treat friends and relatives with confectionery.

Highlights from the sale

A Rare Incised Celadon-Glazed Bulb Bowl, Mark and Period of Xuande

Lot no.: 310

  • Sotheby's Hong Kong, 15th/16th November 1988, lot 149.
  • Collection of T.Y. Chao (1912-1999).

Estimate: HK$400,000 - 600,000
Price realised: HK$3,960,000

A Geyao Mallow-Shaped Brush Washer, Ming Dynasty or Earlier

Lot no.: 312
Size: 10.2cm

  • Sotheby's Hong Kong, 15th/16th November 1988, lot 149.
  • Collection of T.Y. Chao (1912-1999).

Estimate: HK$80,000 - 120,000
Price realised: HK$3,720,000

An Impressive Sancai 'Lotus' Dish, Tang Dynasty

Lot no.: 309
Size: 23.6cm

  • Collection of K.M. Semon.
  • Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Bernat.
  • Sotheby's New York, 7th November 1980, lot 58.
  • Collection of Dr. Ip Yee.
  • Sotheby's Hong Kong, 19th November 1984, lot 140.
  • Collection of T.Y. Chao (1912-1999).

Estimate: HK$60,000 - 100,000
Price realised: HK$1,025,000

A Rare Pair of Yellow-Ground Famille-Rose 'Dayazhai' Lobed Jardinieres
Qing Dynasty, Guangxu Period

Lot no.: 427
Size: 21.5cm、21.8cm
Estimate: HK$80,000 - 120,000
Price realised: HK$475,000

A Rare Set of Famille-Rose Sweetmeat Trays, Qing Dynasty, 19th Century

Lot no.: 421
Size: 41.5cm
Estimate: HK$50,000 - 70,000
Price realised: HK$337,500

An Underglaze-Blue and Copper-Red 'Prunus' Bottle Vase, Qing Dynasty, 18th Century

Lot no.: 691
Size: 33.6cm
Collection of Tang Shaoyi, the first prime minister of the Republic of China, and thence by descent, by repute.
Estimate: HK$140,000 - 180,000
Price realised: HK$237,500

A Black-Glazed 'Oil Spot' Jar and Cover, Song Dynasty

Lot no.: 379
Size: 14.2cm
Estimate: HK$20,000 - 30,000
Price realised: HK$225,000

Auction summary

Auction house: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sale: Chinese Art
Sale date: 29 November 2018
Lots offered: 531
Sold: 399
Unsold: 132
Sold by lot: 75%
Sale total: HK$71,000,500