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Head of Asian Art and Managing Director, Lee Young with the $1.2 million (£1 million) Qianlong Chinese teapot. Source: Duke’s Auctions

Chinese Teapot Skyrockets From £1000 to £1 Million At Auction


A small Chinese teapot that was found by chance has made some lucky person a millionaire. The 18 th century teapot crafted in China has sold for a staggering and totally unpredicted £1 million, or over $1.2 million. The identity of the seller of the now ridiculously valuable piece of pottery has not been released to the public.

The teapot came from an ordinary house in the county of Dorset in England. Its importance was recognized when the owner of the house was getting items in his home appraised. The Daily Mail, reports that Mr. Lee Young, from Duke's Auctioneers in Dorchester, was “invited to the property in Dorset to value some ornaments by the owner”.

Million-Pound Chinese Teapot on the Shelf

The owner of the teapot, believed to be a businessman, was not aware of the importance of the item and had never given much thought to its value. The piece had been in the possession of his family for several generations and its provenance is not known. The expert immediately knew that it was an important antique and was excited by the find. Lee told The Daily Mail that “as the owner handed me the teapot for an opinion my heart missed a beat”.

“The teapot has a green glaze and it “stands 5 inches (13 centimeters) high” according to the BBC. Its shape has been likened to a pear. The Telegraph reports that “the spout is 'tied' to the body with a beautifully modeled tassel”. Its lid is slightly damaged as it is ever so slightly cracked, but this is only regarded as a minor blemish.

The fine and rare celadon-glaze Qing Dynasty pear shaped Chinese teapot sold for £1,000,000. (Duke’s Auctions)

A Chinese Emperor’s Teapot

On the lid is a ‘finial’, which is an ornament at the apex. This particular finial is that of a peach. The Daily Mail reports that this is “a symbol of immortality and unity in Imperial China”. In Chinese culture, “peach trees were considered to be the 'tree of life' and Chinese brides carried peach blossoms” according to The Telegraph.

The rare Chinese teapot is decorated with a peach and pip on its lid. (Duke’s Auctions)

There is also a blue stamp or seal on the base of the teapot, which allowed the specialist to date and to authenticate the piece. The Daily Mail reports that “Mr. Young identified the stamp on its base as being that of the Chinese emperor Qianlong”.

The stamp on the base of the Chinese teapot is that of the Chinese emperor Qianlong. (Duke’s Auctions)

He was the sixth emperor of the Qing or Manchu Empire and was the fourth Qing emperor to preside over all of China, from 1735 to 1796. Qianlong managed to greatly expand the borders of the empire and was a generous patron of the arts. After a long reign, he eventually abdicated in favor of his son the Emperor Jiaqing.

The Qianlong emperor in court dress. (Qingprof / Public Domain)

The blue seal on the base of the pot would indicate that it was made for this powerful Qing emperor. It is most likely that at one stage it was held in the Forbidden Palace in Beijing along with many other treasures of Chinese art. Lee told The Telegraph that the “combination of techniques and the outstanding quality of the potting is proof this piece was an Imperial masterpiece”.

Sensational Bidding War on the Chinese Teapot

The Chinese teapot was placed in an exhibition that was held by the Dorset based auctioneers in London and the piece immediately attracted a lot of attention. In fact, it caused something of a sensation and buyers were clearly not deterred by the slight crack on the lid and focused on its historical importance and beauty. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in Chinese art and antiques, especially from buyers from mainland China.

The teapot was one of the main attractions at the recent auction, and it attracted bidders from Britain and beyond. When the bidding started, the auction house was crowded. The bidding went on for an astonishing 10 minutes and the price increased by increments of £20,000 or roughly $22,000. “At one stage the price jumped by £100,000 as a buyer tried to frighten off other bidders” reports The Telegraph.

Life Changing Auction

The Daily Mail reports that the successful telephone bidder paid “a hammer price of £800,000 for it”. This is roughly $1 million. When the fees of the auctioneers were added this figure rose to just over £1 million or roughly or $1.28 million. When the piece was sold there was excited applause in the auction house.

The identity of the seller has not been released and it is not known what they intend to do with their amazing windfall. However, it is believed that their life will be changed because of the sale and that he is stunned by the outcome of the auction. The identity of the buyer is also not known, but presumably, the teapot will find a new home outside Britain.

The Chinese teapot stands just 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) high. (Duke’s Auctions)

Top image: Head of Asian Art and Managing Director, Lee Young with the $1.2 million (£1 million) Qianlong Chinese teapot. Source: Duke’s Auctions

By Ed Whelan

Ed Whelan's picture


My name is Edward Whelan and I graduated with a PhD in history in 2008. Between 2010-2012 I worked in the Limerick City Archives. I have written a book and several peer reviewed journal articles. At present I am a... Read More

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