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Chinese calligraphy letter sells for $32 million

  • 03
  • 06
  • 2016

Old letters can be very valuable. Not just for those who find a bundle of old love letters and love reading through them and reminiscing, but sometimes the value is translated into hard cash. A Chinese calligraphy letter with 124 characters from the 11th century recently sold for a record-breaking 207 million yuan ($32 million) at auction. To most people, that’s worth a lot more than good old memories.

Though it is not the first time this letter has been auctioned, it is by far the most it has sold for. The letter has doubled in value since its last auction in 2009. The previous owner bought it for 108 million yuan only 7 years ago and saw its price double in value. That sale also was a record-breaking auction sale at that time for Chinese calligraphy. The ancient art form whose earliest known examples go back over 4,000 years is known for its delicate movement and the influence in the entire world over time.

Calligraphy brushes

Zeng Gong, a highly respected prose writer of the Song Dynasty and the author of this letter, ‘pours his heart out’ as he tells a friend about his feeling of isolation and depression during his political difficulties and exile from Beijing for 12 years.

Zeng titled the letter ‘Jushi Tie,’ which could roughly translate into ‘a letter on happenings.’ The letter was meant to be a private conversation with a close friend.

If it weren’t for Zeng’s signature on the letter, it would have been devalued by a considerable amount and maybe wouldn’t have made headlines.

According to China Daily, “Jushi Tie exemplifies Zeng’s elegant and neat penmanship.” It’s the last of his original letters to have survived.


The avid art collector Wang Zhongjun launched himself at the opportunity to purchase the highly valuable piece of Chinese calligraphy at the China Garden auction house in Beijing.

Mr. Wang, the happy new owner of the ancient letter, is a renowned collector and auction winner. He is a businessman who made his money in the movie industry and is well known for collecting famous art works. His last remarkable buy before he bought this letter was a $68 million Vincent van Gogh still life painting.

Note: This post was co-authored by Bas Boshuizen and Victor Calderon.


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