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Left: The Qianlong Emperor (public domain). Right: The vase which was bought from a charity shop for £1 could sell for £80,000 (Picture: Sworders /BNPS)

Man Buys Vase for £1, Finds Out it is £80,000 Treasure Belonging to Chinese Emperor

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A rare and beautiful Chinese vase was bought from a charity shop for £1 but is about to go up for auction with a reserve price of £80,000 after the lucky buyer found out it belonged to a Chinese Emperor.

The small, bright, spring daffodil, pear-shaped vase was made especially for a Qianlong Emperor who reigned from 1735 to 1796 AD, yet it somehow made its way to a charity shop in Hertfordshire in England where it was sold for only £1.

The tasteful and exceptionally lucky buyer attempted to sell the rare and unique Chinese vase on eBay and was soon “flooded with offers”, which encourage him to take the relic to Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers' in Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex, who surprised the buyer with its true value.

The vase, which sold for just £1 at a charity shop, is now listed in an auctioneers’ magazine with a reserve price of £80,000 because of its heritage linking it to the famous 18th century Qianlong Emperor. A report in The Daily Mail says “the eight inch vase has the family rose marked upon it”, which informs specialists that it “wasn't for export, but for one of the emperor's palaces.”

The vase which was bought from a charity shop for £1 could sell for £80,000 (Picture: Sworders /BNPS)

The vase which was bought from a charity shop for £1 could sell for £80,000 (Picture: Sworders /BNPS)

Wall Mounted Hand-Crafted Happiness

The delicate yellow vase, which encourages positive and hopeful emotions, was carefully designed to be hung from a wall and therefore has a flat back. It is decorated with carefully detailed floral decorations across its public face.

This most beautiful and intricately painted vase is inscribed with an imperial phrase which translates to “praise incense”. 

Two iron-red seal marks read “Qianlong chen han” - the Qianlong Emperor's own mark. Additionally, it says 'Weijing weiyi' which means “be precise, be undivided.”

Yexue Li is head of the Asian art department at Sworders and he told reporters that the owner was unaware of its significance so he “put it on eBay with a very low starting price to begin with and there was a lot of interest.” And this interest was no doubt partly inspired by similar events only last year concerning another chance discovery of rare Chinese porcelain.

The Chinese vase was designed to be wall-mounted. Picture: Sworders /BNPS

The Chinese vase was designed to be wall-mounted. Picture: Sworders /BNPS

The Shock of the $19 Million Chinese Vase

In July last year, an Ancient Origins article covered the incredible story of a Qing Dynasty  Chinese porcelain vase discovered in a French attic that sold for 16 million euros (US$19 million) at auction. The price stunned everyone, including all the associated experts, and this vase was valued so greatly because it promised to deepen specialists understanding of Qing porcelain vases in the 18th century, and according to reports at the time it was predicted to “boost interest even further in Chinese art.”

Going by the interest shown towards this new vase over its day or two on eBay, it would appear that last year’s one certainly did “boost interest in Chinese art” and we will all know to just what extent on 8th November when the vase goes under the hammer. And while it’s valued at £80,000, it might fetch a much higher price for it truly is a special handcraft.

According to Yexue Li “The enamel on the vase is special because it uses yangcai (foreign) enamels on a yellow ground - a special colour traditionally reserved for the emperor.”

The Chinese vase that sold for $19 million (Sotheby’s)

The Chinese vase that sold for $19 million (Sotheby’s)

Another Spectacular Price Possibly?

The shocking sale price of last year’s Chinese porcelain vase began with Sotheby’s placing a reserve price of €500,000 to €700,000 ($590,000 – $825,000) before the auction. However, Sotheby’s staff were amazed that the price eventually reached “20 times its guide price”, fetching 16 million euros ($19 million).

Last year’s vase was purchased by a mystery Asian buyer whose name and nationality are still unknown, and it makes you wonder if he might swoop in once again with his open cheque book, which is clearly targeted at snapping up Asian cultural treasures. If he is again prepared to pay 20 times the reserve price of £80,000, this £1 vase might reach £1.6 million pounds. Well, theoretically anyway!

And finally. Let’s have a moments silence for the charity shop worker who bagged up the rare Chinese vase and took that £1 for it. If he had just popped his own £1 into the till and taken it home… It is doubtless that this person is still rocking in a chair, knees grasped by arms, sucking their thumb in a darkened room. Thinking, a lot, about the sometimes brutally unfair nature of life.

Top image: Left: The Qianlong Emperor (public domain). Right: The vase which was bought from a charity shop for £1 could sell for £80,000 (Picture: Sworders /BNPS)

By Ashley Cowie

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