An undated file photo of ancient Chinese calligrapher Huang Tingjian's hand scroll "Pillar Ming," which is copy of ancient Chinese calligrapher Wang Xizhi's work. [Photo/Xinhua]
BEIJING -- A rare hand scroll copy of ancient Chinese calligrapher Wang Xizhi's work was sold Saturday for a staggering 308 million yuan ($46.38 million) at the autumn auction of the Beijing-based China Guardian.
The high auction price was, in the history of the Chinese mainland art market, only second to calligrapher Huang Tingjian's hand scroll "Pillar Ming," which was purchased for 436.8 million yuan in 2009.
Wang, from the Jin Dynasty around the 4th century, is traditionally acclaimed as the Sage of Calligraphy. However, none of his original works exist, making this cursive script, named "Safety Wish Script," especially rare for its high quality copy and the clear history of the succession of its collectors, which date back to the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368).
According to China Guardian Vice President Hu Yanyan, the copy of the original script had nine lines and was later divided into two parts. The item at Saturday's auction was the first half, with four lines and forty-one characters.
The Chinese fine art market has seen strong growth in recent years. According to a report released early this year by artprice.com, while the fine art markets in the United States and Britain both contracted in 2009, China reported an annual revenue of $830 million, accounting for 17.4 percent of the global market, up from 7.7 percent in 2008.
The autumn auction at China Guardian runs from November 20 to 23 and includes categories such as Chinese painting and calligraphy, porcelain, jewels, stamps and coins, Chinese oil painting and sculpture, rare books and manuscripts, among others.