Rongbaozhai autumn auction to be held this weekend

The autumn art auction run by one of the oldest auction houses in China will kick off this Friday at the Regal International East Asia.

A bamboo painting by Zheng Banqiao (1693-1765)

The Rongbaozhai Autumn Art Auction — run by one of the oldest auction houses in China — will kick off  this Friday at the Regal International East Asia.

Over 200 ancient and modern ink-wash paintings and calligraphy works are set to go under the hammer. Highlights include a bamboo painting by Zheng Banqiao (1693-1765) and a lotus painting by Qi Baishi (1864-1957).

In traditional Chinese culture, bamboo is often admired for its straight stalks and green color, even in winter. Since ancient times, Chinese scholars have seen bamboo as a symbol of firmness and tenacity. 

Zheng, a celebrated painter of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), is perhaps the most noteworthy for bamboo paintings.

Born into an impoverished scholar’s family in east China’s Jiangsu Province, Zheng began to study writing, calligraphy and painting at the age of eight. When he grew up, Zheng successfully passed the imperial civil service examination, first at the provincial level and then the highest national level in 1736.

However, because of his strong personality and uprightness, Zheng clashed with his colleagues and attempted to push back against the rampant corruption. He tried to change all that, but failed. Finally, after 12 years, Zheng resigned from his government post in disillusionment.

After his retirement, Zheng returned to Yangzhou, a prosperous, bustling city close to his hometown. The city also boasted beautiful scenery and an artist-friendly atmosphere. Back then, it attracted many noted scholars and artists from various parts of the country.

In Yangzhou, Zheng made a living selling paintings and calligraphy. Because of his unique and superb style, he became a key member of the Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou, a group of master painters who advocated an expressive and individualist painting style and shied away from orthodox ideas.

Zheng’s paintings, which usually feature simple compositions of bamboo, one or two slim stones and a couple of orchids, have long attracted people with their vitality, delicacy and gracefulness.

Apart from Zheng’s masterpieces, there are also special ancient and modern seal carvings in the Rongbaozhai auction, featuring nearly 200 chops dated from the late Qing Dynasty to modern time.

Auction details

Date: January 19-20, 9am-7pm (preview);  January 21, 9am (auction)

Venue: Regal Internation East Asia

Address: 516 Hengshan Rd

A piece of calligraphy work by Wang Duo (1592-1652)

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