Mao Zedong's letter
Mao Zedong's letter to UK Labour leader sells for £605,000. Sotherby's London

A letter dated 1 November 1937 from China's Mao Zedong asking for the then Labour leader Clement Attlee for help in fighting the Japanese invaders, has been sold at an auction for £605,000. The letter, which was typed in English and signed by the founder of Communist China was sold to a Chinese private collector, according to auction house Sotheby's.

The letter sold far above the initial valuation of between £100,000 and £150,000. The letter to the future UK prime minister, says: "We would ask you especially to lend the support of your Party to any measures of practical assistance to China that may be organised in Great Britain.

Mao adds: "We believe that the British people, when they know the truth about Japanese aggression in China, will rise in support of the Chinese people, will organise practical assistance on their behalf and will compel their own Government to adopt a policy of active resistance to a danger that ultimately threatens them no less than ourselves." He ends the letter with: "Long live the Peace Front of the Democratic Nations against Fascism and Imperialist War!" The letter was also signed by the founder of the Red Army, Zhu De.

Sotheby's noted that the letter is "an extraordinarily early instance of Mao engaging in international diplomacy and is an exceptionally rare example of Mao's signature." In its catalogue note, the auction house said that only one letter signed by Mao has been sold at auction on the international auction market in recent decades.

The letter was originally written in Chinese and was then translated and typed. It is believed that the typist and presumably the translator was James Munro Bertram, a New Zealand-born journalist and writer who visited Yan'an at that time. The original letter in Chinese is not believed to have survived.