Chinese Treasure

Chinese Watercolor


Laura Hill with watercolor by Zao Wou-Ki

           A very young lady named Laura Hill in my west central Texas hometown was recently written up in the local paper about the good fortune of buying a watercolor painting at an estate sale only to find out later it was quite valuable.  The estate auction was at her neighbor’s house across the street and an unusual painting caught her interest which she purchased for $12.  She had recently graduated college with a history degree but was nurturing an interest in antiques and art.  

            Five years after acquiring the watercolor Laura began to check on the internet and auction houses as to whether or not it had any value.  To her pleasant surprise she found the art work had been done by a Chinese artist named Zao Wou-Ki around 1950.  He is now one of asia’s most famous  artists.  Some of his paintings by the Chinese-French artist have sold for over $5 million.  Laura choose Christie’s New York auction house to help appraise her piece and place it up for action.  Bidding started at $11,000.  The painting sold for $76,000 on May 29th 2011.  Laura was thrilled as any of us would be.  Her interest, you could say hobby, in art and antiques has now become much more intense.  I love hearing about people whose hobbies are not only fun but bring them good fortune.  Laura has a lot of years to continue her quest for art treasure.  I wish her the best.

Zao Wao-Ki

China Pot O’ Gold

Chinese pocelain vase in China museum

China porcelain in Chinese museum

   An 18th century porcelain Chinese vase auctioned on Nov, 11, 2010 in London for 83 million dollars.  An article by Jill Lawless of the Associated Press called it a “pot o’ gold.”  The auction house noted that the buyer wished to remain anonymous as did the sellers.  As for the buyer, the auction house hinted that it is difficult to gauge the Asian market.  Asian pottery and art from past centuries has been bringing in higher than expected prices at auction for some time.  The market for such works does not look like it will cool down for now.  The sellers were a sister and a niece of a deceased lady who lived in a modest London suburb.  It is unknown how the vase came into the family which had passed it down for generations. 

              The article mentioned that the sixteen inch vase was made for Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty when Chinese porcelain making was at it’s zenith.  British troops looted artifacts from Beijing’s Summer Palace in 1860 in one of the Opium Wars.  It is speculated an event such as this might explain how it came to be in London.  It reminded me of an episode of Antiques Roadshow I saw several months ago.  A lady brought in some Chinese porcelain that her father had purchased shortly after World War II when he was stationed with the American occupation forces in Japan.  She had four pieces and together they were valued at possibly over one million dollars.  She had no idea they were valued at that price. 

      I had heard of a pot o’ gold at the end of a rainbow but had never believed it, even as a child.  However, if someday I find myself in possession of an 18th century Chinese porcelain vase, I promise I will become a believer in a such a thing as a pot o’gold.

Chinese Junk



I cannot recall the first time I heard, “Chinese junk.”  It may have been in the early 1960’s when my father visited the orient with an assignment for the military and talked about people living on little boats called Chinese junks.  Maybe I saw it in some movie about the orient.  I  do recall my brothers and I had a curious giggle about what Chinese junk was.  Dad told us it was not what we thought, but actually little wooden boats that the people of the orient use to fish with.  I also recall hearing the phrase, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”

When I was originally thinking of treasure spaces for the game board of TreasureTrove I thought it would be interesting to have one called, “Chinese Junk.”  In the booklet included with the game describing each treasure space I wrote:

“Chinese  Junk:  One man’s junk is another man’s treasure,

especially if it is an old sunk junk.”…………collect a treasure note.

chinese junk

I was trying to appeal to the mind of child who may be playing the game and actually learn what a Chinese junk really is.  I was pleasantly surprised when that is exactly what happened. 38CAP5N6COCADZAOJLCAO70VQNCAYSFRLHCAECG8XOCAQOXZBUCAQQB39BCAV1P4Y4CAURIYNVCAZY58A4CAESSV24CAJ1TI9OCA6MCIN4CAR06KPYCAKP02PRCANB69DFCAUGVRPBCAVU0DPMCAIQOZR1

An eight year old was looking at the game one day and asked, “What is, Chinese Junk?”  I explained that it is a small wooden Chinese boat used for fishing.  To be honest I often think of the boat people of Hong Kong that work and live on small junks.  For centuries Hong Kong used to have thousands of junks in its harbor where the people would live on them.  Called the boat people they would pass on the family tradition from one generation to the next.  As Hong Kong has modernized the last 60 years the numbers of the boat people have dwindled.  Probably less than a few hundred junks are in the harbor today.  The city is desperately trying to keep this rich cultural heritage alive.  I visited Honk Kong once, found it to be a beautiful city with friendly people and I enjoyed my one hour journey on a Chinese junk.


Ships of the Orient were called junks for centuries but more recently it seems that only the Chinese have been connected to the term.  As sea going vessels they were well built, sturdy, large, and sailed the oceans many centuries ago.  Chinese junks were known to have been sailing as early as the 3rd century.  Some of the biggest vessels to have ever sailed the high seas came from China; some actually hundreds of feet long.  They traveled great distances and are known to have reached the southern tip of Africa before Europeans sailed the Cape of Good Hope.  They were excellent cargo ships which transported goods such as porcelain from China all throughout the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean.

chinese porcelainLong after I started playing Treasure Trove with my family did I find that within recent years several Chinese junks have been salvaged and the cargos have been quite valuable?   In 2004, a 400 year old Chinese junk was found off the coast of Vietnam.  The porcelain cargo is valued at over one million dollars.  By coincidence that is almost exactly where I originally placed the treasure space on the board back in 1989.boxtop

To learn more about the game go to