Rare imperial Chinese cabinet sells for $19 million

BEIJING (AFP) - A rare wooden cabinet that was part of the Chinese imperial collection has sold for 93.15 million yuan (S$19 million) at auction, auction house Poly said on Wednesday.

The imposing three-metre high piece of furniture comprises four parts with finely carved dragons and lotuses on the doors.

Its high price was due to the fact that it is made from zitan, a rare dark tropical wood traditionally reserved for the emperor.

The cabinet was among other masterpieces sold Tuesday evening by Poly, which did not reveal the identity of the buyer.

A screen made of huanghuali, a rare tropical hardwood, sold for 39.1 million yuan.

Both pieces date from the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1735-1796), a period regarded as the golden age of Chinese civilisation and the height of the Qing dynasty.

Demand from Chinese collectors in recent years has spurred a surge in the prices of furniture and other items made from zitan and huanghuali.

Experts estimate there are fewer than 10,000 huanghuali items worldwide.