China’s antique lovers turn to TV for education

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The Independent Culture

China has in the past few years begun to buy back the antiques and art works that have for centuries been spread all over the world, and at the same time the country's new generation of collectors is learning how to recognize exactly what is real and what is not.

And much of that newfound knowledge has come thanks to a series of television shows which lift the lid on the nation's antique industry.

China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage claims there were 70 million antique collectors in the country in 2005 - but there are around 90 million now. And that increased interest has seen TV programmers acting fast.

China's state-run station CCTV launched the country's first show to deal directly with the antique industry - Artwork Investment - in 2001 but the country's media has this week reported there are now 50 such programs screening across the nation.

The top-rated Xun Bao - or "Treasure Hunt'' - airs weekly on CCTV-2 and claims 27 million viewers per episode.

That show features a team of experts searching for treasures in far-flung corners of China. They then explain how to identify what the piece is, when it was made - and what it might be worth.

Another top-rated show takes a different tact.

Tian Xia Shou Cang - or "World Collection'' - often gets collectors to bring their antiques in to the studio for appraisal. If they are found to be fakes, down comes a hammer to smash the offending piece to smithereens.

And the show's host, actor Wang Gang, makes no apologies. "This is done so the fakes never reappear on the market,'' he told the China Daily newspaper.

The common theme among the shows' producers is that they are helping protect Chinese culture. And Chinese collectors are doing the same.

Auction house Sotheby's will launch its massive Hong Kong Spring Auctions ( April 3-8 with 2,400 pieces up for grabs - including a significant Chinese antique section that organizers say has helped lift the estimated value of the entire collection to more than HK$1 billion (95 million euros).
And most of these items will stay in the region after the sale.

"In buying antiques [Chinese collectors] have a fixation about buying their own history,'' Nicholas Chow, International Head of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art at Sotheby's Hong Kong, told Chinese media this week.