Chinese porcelain recovered from sea bed on sale
A TREASURE trove of Chinese porcelain, which lay on the sea bed for more than 100 years after a Titanic-scale shipwreck, is going on sale in Dartington.
A total of 350,000 items of porcelain were snapped up at a Stuttgart auction ten years ago by a businessman who lives in the Buckfastleigh area and refuses to reveal his identity.
Now he is planning to put part of the unique collection on sale through the former Cider Press Centre at Dartington — recently re-named The Shops at Dartington.
The porcelain collection consisting of bowls, plates, saucers, carafes, tea bowls and trinket boxes went on sale at the Home Bazaar shop on Saturday with prices ranging from £45 to £175 per item.
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The sale is set to continue until the end of January.
The centre's managing director, Barbara King, explained: "We were offered the unusual opportunity to exhibit and sell these beautiful and very collectable antiques and we jumped at the chance.
"They're a perfect fit for our Home Bazaar store and will make a fantastic Christmas gift."
The collection of porcelain was on board the huge merchant sailing junk Tek Sing (meaning True Star) in 1822 when the ship ran aground on the Belvedere Shoals in the South China Sea.
Only 208 people out of the 1,600 on board survived — earning the wreck the title of the Titanic of the East.
A large cargo of silk and tea went to the bottom along with the porcelain.
In May 1999, the wreck was discovered by British marine salvor Mike Hatcher and much of the cargo was recovered and later described as the largest sunken cache of Chinese porcelain ever recovered.
Remarkably, much of the delicate porcelain remained in perfect condition and it was put up for auction in Germany in 2000.
A large portion of the recovered porcelain was bought by the Buckfastleigh businessman for an undisclosed price.
The Tek Sing was a huge ship for her time and weighed more than 1,000 tonnes but when she set sail with her cargo of porcelain she was so overloaded that sections of cargo had been strapped to the outside of her hull.
Also on board were 1,600 Chinese emigrants heading for a new life in the sugar plantations of Java.
Disaster struck when the captain decided to take a short cut through the Gaspar Straits and hit a reef.
The recovered porcelain comes from the South of China, mostly from the neighbourhoods of Dehua in Fujian province, Yixing in Jiangsu province and Swatow in Guandong province.
Bowls and dishes predominate, but there are also large quantities of pouring vessels as well as a small number of decorative objects.
One description of the works declared: "One of the great revelations is the unexpectedly high standard of painting on blue and white wares, mostly dishes, boxes, and bowls, and a small but remarkable collection of urinals.
"The designs are varied and charming, and are of a quality not usually associated with provincial wares destined for the East Indies.
"The rarity of some dishes and bowls derives partly from a decorative technique, where a variety of motifs were applied not with the brush but with the block-print technique."