A billionaire film tycoon has splashed out nearly £22m ($32m) on an 11th-century letter just 124-characters long. Media mogul Wang Zhongjun, chairman of Huayi Brothers Media, bought the letter at an auction in Beijing on Sunday (15 May).
Written in 1080, the piece is thought to be the last surviving work of Chinese scholar Zeng Gong. He is considered one of the greatest prose writers of the Song Dynasty era (960 to 1279) and helped write the Wujing Zongyao – translated as the Complete Essentials for the Military Classics – which contained the earliest known written ingredients for gunpowder.
His letter, titled Jushi Tie, which means "a letter of happenings", is written to a close friend of Gong's, according to the China Daily. It declares his gratitude to his friend for his long-time support after being assigned to work in various local administrations.
Yin Guanghua, a Beijing-based art expert, said the letter was "important to understanding the official's life because it expresses deep personal feelings". It also conveys Gong's frustration with how high-ranking officials were running the country.
Penned in the calligraphic script kaishu, Gong's writings are rare and highly sought after in the global art market. Wang paid almost double what it cost when it was last auctioned by Belgian couple Guy and Myriam Ullens in 2009, who sold it for 108.64m yuan (£11m).
Auction experts said the sale had marked the first time an ancient Chinese calligraphy artwork had fetched more than 100m yuan.
But the price is unlikely to put too much of a dent in Wang's bank balance, with the 55-year-old currently enjoying a net-worth of $1bn, according to Forbes. He is currently 309th on the China Rich List.
Wang made his first significant mark in the global art market in 2014 after paying $61.8m for Vincent Van Gogh's Still Life: Vase with Daisies and Poppies at an auction in New York.