Chinese calligraphy letter sets new auction record

A picture of the letter Image copyright China Guardian/Weibo
Image caption The letter is 124 characters long and is signed by renowned scholar Zeng Gong

An 11th Century letter has set a new record price for a work of Chinese calligraphy, fetching 207m yuan ($32m; £22m) at an auction in Beijing.

The letter is the last surviving work of Chinese scholar Zeng Gong, who penned it around 936 years ago, popular news website reports. It was snapped up by film mogul Wang Zhongjun at the China Guardian auction house on Sunday evening.

Zeng is considered one of the greatest prose writers of the Song Dynasty era (960 to 1279 AD). In the letter, written in the later years of his life, Zeng tells a friend about his recent political difficulties and a feeling of isolation. "In this letter he pours his heart out," Yi Guanghua, a specialist at China Guardian, explained prior to the sale.

According to China Daily, the letter has almost doubled in value since it was last auctioned in 2009, when it fetched 108m yuan. It was a record breaker then, too, becoming the first piece of Chinese calligraphy to be sold for more than 100m yuan.

The price is unlikely to have fazed its new owner, though. Mr Wang is known for spending big on art, having shelled out $61.8m on the Van Gogh work Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies when it was auctioned in New York in 2014.

Read more: Chinese calligraphy: A thing of the past?

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