Doubts over $35 million Han dynasty jade chair & stool

ART experts and historians are questioning the authenticity of a jade dressing table and stool said to date from the Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220) that were sold for hundreds of millions of yuan at auction in China last year.

The jade furniture fetched 220 million yuan (US$35 million) in January 2011.

The authenticity of the pieces was questioned because Chinese were thought to have sat on the floor, not on stools or chairs, during the Han Dynasty, academics say.

The set was sold by Beijing Zhongjia International Auctions, whose Web site describes the 138kg dressing table and 35kg stool as being from the Han Dynasty.

The company is quoted in Legal Mirror as saying the pieces are of high historical value and worthy of collection. They sold for 40 million yuan above the starting price.

“Chinese in the Han dynasty sat on the floor, not on stools,” said archaeologist Liu Qingzhu, a former director of the Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

A type of folding chair was introduced to China from countries in the West during the Han Dynasty, according to the newspaper report. However, it did not look like the jade stool in the set.

But one art collector in Beijing, Ma Weidu, says there is room for doubt. He said: “There’s a chance that the purpose of the auctioned pieces was misinterpreted.”

The controversy reflects a deep distrust of the art market. In extreme cases, art auctions have been used for money laundering, Xinhua said.

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