An 18th Century Chinese cannon was discovered in a family home in Dorchester being used as a garden ornament. An auctioneer who had come to visit the family to appraise other items in their home spotted the cannon in the garden and told them of its significance. The cannon was valued at The Duke's of Dorchester auction house at £100,000.
Lee Young, managing director and Head of Asian Art at Duke's called the discovery "incredibly rare" especially in the UK as these relics are rarely seen outside of Asia.
"You can see these a lot in places like Beijing but they are not things that will often find their way back from China. So to see it in someone's back garden is a bit of a surprise," he said.
In an article from the BBC, the cannon was said to have been acquired by the unnamed military family in the early 20th century and has been an heirloom handed down their descendants for over 120 years. They originally resided in Anglesey and had taken it with them when they moved from Wales to Dorchester..
The auction experts traced the relic's origins to the Quianlong period dating all the way back to 1789. This was the time when China was under the control of the Quianlong Emperor, a member of the Qing dynasty who ruled between 1711 and 1799.
The 258 kg cannon bears the inscription dating to the third month of the Quianlong 54th year, from the Guo Xing Fu merchant group. This was believed to have been used to protect the port of Xiamen where foreign merchants, including the British, bought goods. Guo Xing Fu headed the maritime trade across southeast China. Foreign merchants would usually buy Chinese export cargo straight from Xiamen seaport during the time of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
A great deal of international interest is still noticeable on auction lots like this despite the ongoing pandemic restrictions in the UK. Many interested buyers have since followed auction sales remotely as the auction house was forced to go digital.
The cannon will be up for auction on Monday, November 9. The five and a half foot long bronze cannon is among 770 lots for sale under Asian Art. The other lots include a throne chair valued at £40,000 from the late Ming dynasty.