On sale: China's 'seal of heaven'

It is a chance to own a valuable piece of history but only wannabe emperors need apply.

For what is being put up for sale by Sotheby's auction house next month is no mere historical trinket.

It is the Seal of the Mandate of Heaven - the most powerful seal ever carved for Emperor Kangxi, the longest-reigning monarch of China.

Said Sotheby's Asia deputy chairman Nicolas Chow (left): "This is a seal that really crystalises the 'Mandate of Heaven', the mandate to rule."

The seal bears an inscription that reads: "Revere heaven and serve thy people."

Emperor Kangxi, who ruled Qing dynasty China from 1661 to 1722 and oversaw an extended period of prosperity in the country, is considered one of China's greatest rulers.

Mr Chow, who is also Sotheby's international head and chairman of Chinese works of art, said: "It is really a seal that says 'I am... the legitimate ruler of this empire'.

"It is incredibly important and I would say on a par with the most important works of art you would find in the Forbidden City today."

The ancient seal will be auctioned in Hong Kong on April 6, with a starting price of HK$15 million (S$2.7 million).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2016, with the headline 'On sale: China's 'seal of heaven''. Print Edition | Subscribe