WHAT: Auction records fell like dominos early this month as Sotheby's Hong Kong sold imperial Chinese treasures, including a handscroll for $18.7 million. Created by imperial court painter Qian Weicheng (1720-1772) for the Qianlong emperor, the painted scroll titled "Ten Auspicious Landscapes of Taishan" contains a series of landscapes, each inscribed with poems written by the emperor. Artwork shows 10 detailed views of Mount Tiantai in Zhejiang province.

Known to exist but unseen for over 100 years, the scroll speaks to the relationship between Qian and his emperor. Qian Weicheng was an important and highly qualified court favorite, selected to accompany the emperor on official tours.

MORE: In the scroll, imperial poems record appreciation of the artwork and honor the artist. Originally kept in the Forbidden City, it was given by the last emperor to his younger brother in the early 1920s.

SMART COLLECTORS KNOW: Official seals are vital to imperial works. Signed by the artist, the scroll also has two seals of the artist and seals of the emperor on each poem. Nine additional imperial seals also signify "The Precious Collection of the Stone Canal Pavilion."

HOT TIP: The scroll sold after 40 minutes of fierce bidding, worldwide. More than 100 bids were logged. Anyone who has ever waited through a sizeable auction can imagine the sensation caused by stopping action for almost an hour of bids!

BOTTOM LINE: In the same blockbuster sale, records also fell for two sets of Ming dynasty imperial sutras (manuscripts) that brought $30.4 million.

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