Golden script

songscholar w

How much would a ‘thank you’ note from William Shakespeare get at auction? No such letter exists, but in China a billionaire tycoon has just bid Rmb207 million ($31.6 million) for a rough equivalent, setting the record for a piece of ancient calligraphy. This week Huayi Brothers movie mogul boss Wang Zhongjun bought the 124-character letter, which was written 936 years ago.

The letter was sent by Song Dynasty scholar Zeng Gong, and according to is his only surviving work. Entitled Jushi Tie it was written to a friend thanking him for his support during the lowest point in his career as a government official. Zeng was regarded as one of the eight ‘great prose masters’ of the Tang and Song Dynasties – a period regarded by many as the high point of Chinese civilisation (when China was far more advanced than the West, both economically and culturally).

The purchase marks a change of direction for collector Wang, who’d previously focused his attention on Western art, buying a Van Gogh for $61.8 million in 2014 and a Picasso for $29.9 million last year.

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