A unique auction of 300 pieces of Chinese art and antiques is featuring a Ming gilded-bronze Buddha dating back more than 600 years.
Known as an Amitayus Buddha, the gold-covered bronze is just over 26-centimetres high. The Buddha is sitting cross-legged with the back of his right hand resting in the palm of his left hand in his lap. His robe is draped over his torso to reveal his right breast and nipple. The Buddha is depicted as a distinct individual with a serene, welcoming smile on his face.
The bronze is valued at $250,000, but may go for as much as $1 million at the auction being held Tuesday at Jade d’Art in Steveston.
Jade d’Art’s chief executive officer and appraiser is Dichen Hu, who is known as Dichen. He said the bronze was likely made in the Imperial Palace workshop in Beijing in the 14th century.
Amitayus, or Amitabha, Buddha is the Buddha followed in Pure Land Buddhism, which spread from India to China and Japan. Its tenets include faith and trust, as well as a personal relationship with the Buddha. Amitayus means Buddha of boundless life and light.
Dichen said the gilded-covered bronze Buddha is considered rare because of its high quality. It comes from a Buddhist art collector in California. It’s missing its base and what were likely semi-precious stones, plus a prayer that at one time would have been inside the hollow bronze statue.
The auction in Richmond is the first for Jade d’Art. The auction features Ming and Qing-dynasty bronze statues, ancient jade carvings and royal porcelain. Most works are from Chinese and Asian art collectors in Metro Vancouver.
Operations manager Diamond Zhou described Jade d’Art as the leading Canadian auction house dealing with Asian art and antiques.
Dichen said the auction reflects a return to his roots. He was a youngster in a rural Tibetan area of China during the heyday of totalitarian rule by the Communist party. He’s a product of a mixed background having grown up with a Tibetan mother in a traditional Chinese household. He recalls a childhood in a cultured home surrounded by books, carvings, sculptural works and paintings.
But all that changed during the Cultural Revolution. Many thousands of works of art, relics and artifacts of traditional Chinese and Tibetan culture were physically destroyed by Communists during the extreme period of the Cultural Revolution that lasted for 10 years starting in 1966.
Dichen arrived in Vancouver about 20 years ago.
“It’s a new environment,” he said in an interview about coming to Canada. “I feel so grateful to be here. I still always think about my childhood and my roots and what I saw around me growing up. I started collecting.”
But in large part due to the physical and cultural damage caused by the Cultural Revolution, traditional Chinese arts and crafts were almost totally forgotten.
“I feel I’m a Canadian, but I’m proud of my Chinese roots,” he said. “I started collecting and learning and appreciating the best of Chinese art. I felt I had to tell people, show people what real Asian art is — especially Chinese art.”
The idea behind Jade d’art is to focus on high-quality, authentic Chinese and Asian art. “I want to show people what is real from Chinese history.”
Another unique piece in the auction is a small white jade boulder from the 18th century. On one side, it depicts two boys walking an elephant to take a bath. Above, a crane flies. On the reverse are more trees and rocks.
Its base is made out of Zitan wood, a rare type of wood that’s so dense that it sinks in water. But the dark-coloured base is as light as a piece of balsa because it’s been honeycombed by intricate carving. It’s estimated auction price is $15,000.
Another gilded bronze is unique because it depicts a revered Buddhist lama made by the monastery where he lived. It has an inscription in Tibetan on the front of the base. It’s estimated auction value is $14,000.
The auction starts Tuesday at 6 p.m. at 3551 Moncton St. in Steveston. The two-storey building is famous for anyone who watches Once Upon a Time, the ABC fantasy TV series now in its seventh season. Fans often walk into the building to take a photo of its curving staircase inside its front entrance.
Dichen said the goal is to have at least two auctions of Asian art a year. He also wants to convert the first floor of the building into an antiques mall.