Rare imperial bowl creates stir in China

Rare imperial bowl creates stir in China

Unique utensil

A rare Chinese imperial ceramic bowl that was made around 900 years ago and could fetch $10 million when it goes under the hammer next month has triggered huge excitement among Asian art collectors.

The interest generated by this small, modest-looking flower-shaped bowl -- and its potentially sky-high sales price—are a testament to the vitality of Asia's art market, which has witnessed explosive growth over the past decade.

The antique was due to go on public display in Beijing over the weekend on a pre-sale roadshow. But organisers, fearing a stampede after it drew big crowds in Shanghai, decided at the last minute to show it to potential buyers only. "An object has rarely generated so much excitement and for security reasons, we thought it would be preferable for our clients to view it within the confines of a private room," said Nicolas Chow, deputy head of Sotheby's Asia division.

The flower-shaped "Ru" bowl from the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) sports a pale blue-green translucent matte glaze that imitates the colour of jade, and is believed to be the only one of its type in the world. "Ru" ceramics—named after one of five large kilns operating under the Song—are the rarest in China, and it is estimated that only 79 complete pieces remain in the world, most in museums.

“There are very few of these as they were imperial pieces and also because they were made over a very short period of time—20 years,” said Jean-Paul Desroches, curator at the Guimet Museum in Paris.

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