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Buying Chinese artifacts in Hong Kong


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#1 Publius

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 05:03 PM

Hong Kong, especially in Central District along Cat Street and Hollywood Road, is littered with Chinese antiques, and when I went there in 2005, I was overwhelmed with the sheer size of the collections and with the smooth talking salesmen. So my question is, How do you know what's a good deal?

Here is a list of several of the shops that I was interested in:

Wing Fung Gallery owned by Jimmy Chung on 196 Hollywood Road. Jimmy is a third generation antiques dealer and his grandfather began seriously collecting during the 1949 flight of KMT Chinese from the mainland. I guess that's when many of the HK dealers began acquiring a majority of their wares from families selling their treasures for $ These Chinese treasures, supposedly dating from the Warring States Period through the Qing (Jimmy said his wares were predominately Ming and Qing) were litterally towering to the ceiling on stacked, makeshift shelves of wood and blocks. Jimmy said that he wasn't even sure of what they had because it would be impossible to clear enough artifacts away to see what's against the walls. Though this shop was packed with beautigul items and the Jimmy was wonderful to talk to, I wasn't sure if the artifacts were truly as old as he said.

Another shop I went to and heard a lot about was Dragon Culture on 184 & 231 Hollywood Road. Victor Choi was extremely knowledgable, and though his shop was more user-friendly, his artifacts were more expensive than Jimmy Chung's, so I still didn't buy anything at that time.
Posted Image

True Art's and Curios also had many things, but they were mostly nickknacks (curios, snuff bottles, ets). Here I was a beautifully crafted amber box that could just fit a ring inside. They wanted 1200 HK for it, and sadly I left without it.

The only things I bought were from Yue Hue and Chinese Arts and Crafts because at least I knew I was buying reproductions there. But I would like to return to HK and buy some authentic antiques, so does anyone have any tips, such as how to spot fakes, where to go, who to talk to, how to bargain, etc...

Thanks much for any help,

Posted Image
A Wooden Figure of a Seated Quan-yin from the Ming Dynasty, one of about 350 items from Dragon Culture's online catalog.
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#2 kelvin

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 12:30 PM

Hong Kong, especially in Central District along Cat Street and Hollywood Road, is littered with Chinese antiques, and when I went there in 2005, I was overwhelmed with the sheer size of the collections and with the smooth talking salesmen. So my question is, How do you know what's a good deal?

Here is a list of several of the shops that I was interested in:

Wing Fung Gallery owned by Jimmy Chung on 196 Hollywood Road. Jimmy is a third generation antiques dealer and his grandfather began seriously collecting during the 1949 flight of KMT Chinese from the mainland. I guess that's when many of the HK dealers began acquiring a majority of their wares from families selling their treasures for $ These Chinese treasures, supposedly dating from the Warring States Period through the Qing (Jimmy said his wares were predominately Ming and Qing) were litterally towering to the ceiling on stacked, makeshift shelves of wood and blocks. Jimmy said that he wasn't even sure of what they had because it would be impossible to clear enough artifacts away to see what's against the walls. Though this shop was packed with beautigul items and the Jimmy was wonderful to talk to, I wasn't sure if the artifacts were truly as old as he said.

Another shop I went to and heard a lot about was Dragon Culture on 184 & 231 Hollywood Road. Victor Choi was extremely knowledgable, and though his shop was more user-friendly, his artifacts were more expensive than Jimmy Chung's, so I still didn't buy anything at that time.
Posted Image

True Art's and Curios also had many things, but they were mostly nickknacks (curios, snuff bottles, ets). Here I was a beautifully crafted amber box that could just fit a ring inside. They wanted 1200 HK for it, and sadly I left without it.

The only things I bought were from Yue Hue and Chinese Arts and Crafts because at least I knew I was buying reproductions there. But I would like to return to HK and buy some authentic antiques, so does anyone have any tips, such as how to spot fakes, where to go, who to talk to, how to bargain, etc...

Thanks much for any help,

Posted Image
A Wooden Figure of a Seated Quan-yin from the Ming Dynasty, one of about 350 items from Dragon Culture's online catalog.


As far as I am told. If you can see them right outside at the door. 99% are not authentic. Antiques sales is regulated strictly in China now and since 1997 the HK market is also not as free as before. There are still authentic antiques from US$00-500 floating around. But you are not gonna be a walkin and see a Warring State item "stacking up" in a warehouse or even in a beautiful front room glass cabinet. Most of the stuff would be domestic replica or antique in Qing, maybe some Ming period. Most of them would be renovated furniture, home decor product and small things like snuff bottles and samll statues. Their true ages are very hard to tell.

There are still very good stuff in the area. But I remember when President Clinton came for his private visit he spend around half a million in a store not on the street, but one that is upstairs in an old building. One of the antique he brought was a Tang horse Tri-color glaze possibly.

I would look into a lot of those stores but would not believe a word the sales are saying which are often 70% false 30% true.

There are books which will educate you on how to identify true antiques, where to buy and current rules and regulations. Antique salers have no respect and appreciation of their wares, it is business! You have to be willing to part with every single stock you have in order to make your living. So the most important thing for their professional career is to make you fall in love with their stock, so they could "let go" with it and cash in.

A true antique lover never sales. If you appreciate the culture and the history behind each artifact then you will not want to part with it. Some of the most beautiful artifacts are still in meseums so the best way to appreciate them is to buy a replica so that the real stuff stay in meseum. And you can educate others by using a replica all the same, save the heartbreak when it breaks, and discourage antique market for the rich and ignorant.

I hate the fact that 90% of antique buyers are egotisitcal snob or ignorant wives/mistresses of the rich who do not understand an once of the item's true value but flaunt it in their bathroom, living room or bedroom. Like stolen budda heads or black market tomb relics in their house hold. To me that is just sacriliage.

If you have the knowledge and appreciation and the money then maybe you are ready to be one of those few people who truly deserve to handle and treasure antiques. But I am still saving up before I prowl the Hollywood street in HK. I would say US $ 5000-10000 per year (disposable income, not your life money). in the first 5 years is a good start. You have to be able to accept the fact that with every precaution you will still end up with about 4/10 items not entirely authentic. So you have to able to accept the fact that you will lose alot of those disposable income each year.

For a good reference you can check out CHina's antiques sales record. They have an offical antique sales record each year and is published as a small book. You can buy from most meseums in China, same goes for in Taiwan.

#3 Publius

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Posted 05 November 2006 - 08:31 PM

Kelvin,

thank you very much for your input. I suspected that if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. I had the same problem when I was jade shopping. So much is so cheap, so I went with the more expensive stuff at Chinese Arts and Crafts. I've had it appraised here in the States and they say I got a pretty good deal.

Similarly, many of the "antiques" seemed authentic and to my untrained eye I couldn't tell them apart--Kenneth probably could. And yes, I did see several "Tang horses" scattered about. So, I will follow your advice and educate myself a little more before I go back to buy. Maybe, I'll bring a more knowledgable friend with me.

I still had a good time browsing and talking to the shop owners, even if they are smooth talking salesmen.

If I buy anything in the future, I'll post it for you.

Regards,

Publius
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#4 changsham

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 10:36 PM

Hi Pubulis, the chances of buying any quality antique in China is very slim. It is common knowledge amongst collectors that the best Chinese antiques are found outside China, mainly in Europe and America. Most quality antiques left the country during the 19th and 20th century and a vast quantity were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. In fact quality Chinese antiques are now more expensive in China than in the west. Then there are the new export regulations which prohibit cultural artifacts made before 1911 to be exported for consideration. The Chinese are now buying back these treasures from overseas and the prices have gone up a lot.

Nearly all of the traders in Hollywood Road and elsewhere in China sell fakes and copies. They know there is a lack of knowledge for the real stuff and there are many gullible people about for them to rip off. Perhaps 98% of what they sell is fake. Some do sell genuine antiques but they are mostly lower quality ceramic burial or shipwreck finds. These are relatively cheap because there are many about because recent excavations due to China's rapid development with the building of freeways and the like have unearthed ancient tombs. With modern technology many shipwrecks are being found with many pieces of fine ceramics. The best pieces go to museums and high end auction houses. The lesser stuff goes to dealers. Many also appear on the black market. But you will need shady connections to be able to access this market and buy the best stuff. Anything that looks too good to be true is. A Ming vase that sells for $10, $1000 or even $5000 is likely a fake. A real Ming vase would be worth much more.

If you want to collect genuine quality antiques you must have lots of money and shop at places like Sotheby's or other reputuble auction houses and dealers. Expect to pay premium prices. Or else develop a sharp eye and extensive knowledge which takes a long time. This is the only way you will find a bargain unless you are extremely lucky.

Most collectors including myself have been duped many times early in our collecting in buying fakes because of a lack of knowledge. It happens to everybody. Be prepared to buy a lot of fakes until you know your stuff. If you buy a fake for $50 then not much harm is done and a lesson learn't. But I am aware of persons who have paid over $50.000 for fakes worth $50.

Edited by changsham, 25 July 2008 - 12:23 AM.

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#5 chineseantiquesspecialist

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Posted 17 October 2010 - 11:55 PM

Hollywood has really changed a lot over the past few years and there are not nearly as many shops there as there once were. I think its a mixture now of genuine antiques, fakes and low value provincial items. I did a post on this a while back called Antiques Shopping on Hollywood Road in Hong Kong which has my take on it. I have to say there IS some genuine Han dynasty items to be found if you know what you are doing and able to distinguish them.
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#6 AsianArtLife

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 09:28 PM

For the original poster-

I'd suggest you begin with purchasing a stack of Sothebys and Christies Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art auction catalogs. This would be a great way for you to start! While nothing beats handling the real thing, seeing hundreds and hundreds of images in catalogs is a fast way to begin to get a feel for Chinese art and antiques. And above all, have fun with it!




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