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Auction of 'Golden Age'

ABOUT 1,000 artworks collected by Shanghai's prosperous families will be auctioned next Wednesday in a sale titled "Shanghai's Golden Age."

The Chongyuan Spring Auction will be held at the Garden Hotel, with pre-auction exhibitions on Monday and Tuesday.

The art pieces include traditional ink-wash paintings, calligraphy, Buddha statues, ceramics and other items.

Many of the works come from the overseas descendants of the rich and prosperous families of old Shanghai.

They have a clear provenance.

"The beautiful women and prosperous businessmen shared a high social class, rich art collections and outstanding connoisseurship," says Ji Chongjian, owner of Chongyuan Auction House.

"There's an advantage as these pieces have a clear provenance, which is very important in today's art market," he says.

One of the highlights is a pair of guqin (Chinese zither) played by famous lovers in old Shanghai.

Although the bidding price is set at 80,000 yuan (US$11,700) each, obviously not a costly figure at auction, the hidden value lies in the legend of its previous owner, Mrs Qiu Shui.

She was the cultivated and charismatic mistress of Shi Liangcai, a newspaper magnet during the Republic of China period (1911-1949).

They were deeply in love and each played a guqin.

She lived in the Shui Villa beside the West Lake in Hangzhou, capital city of Zhejiang Province, and this residence earned her the moniker "Mrs Qiu Shui."

She had many interests and was a talented musician, calligrapher, painter and chess player. And she was very sociable.

It is said that after Shi was assassinated in Shanghai in 1934, Mrs Qiu Shui heartbrokenly played a sad melody on their guqin in front of Shi's tomb.

Later Mrs Qiu Shui became a recluse. After 1949 she gave up the villa and its contents, retaining only a small pension for herself.

Mrs Qiu Shui had no children, so she adopted her nephew, Shen Bonian. Shen, the private photographer of Peking Opera master Mei Lanfang, inherited all the property.

"I was surprised to see the pair of guqin still in good condition even after the erosion of time," says Ji.

"The excellent craftsmanship and the beautiful music demonstrate the taste of the family from the Shui Villa," he says.

He hopes this pair of ancient instruments will be bought together. "They have never been separated before," Ji concludes.


Date: June 29-30, 10am-7pm


Date: July 1, 9:30am (traditional ink-wash painting); July 2, 9:30am (Shanghai's Golden Age)

Address: 2/F, Garden Hotel, 58 Maoming Rd S.


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