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Shipwreck china to fetch £1m

More than 24,000 pieces of rare Chinese porcelain recovered from a merchant ship which mysteriously sank in the Malacca Straits in 1817 are to be auctioned for an estimated £1m.

The china was found intact in the hold of the Diana, which went aground off Malyasia. For 174 years the wreck lay almost forgotten, until the marine salvage company Malaysian Historical Salvors was issued a licence in 1991 to search for it.

In December last year the company located the ship, her cargo submerged in mud but intact inside the rice husks in which it had been packed.

The first plate, covered with coral, was brought to the surface five days before Christmas, followed by an array of formal china - dinner services, tureens, fruit baskets and coffee cups. Apparently protected by the mud, they were all unbroken. They willbe sold at Christie's in March.

A highlight will be 200 pieces from the official dinner service of the East India Company, expected to fetch £1,500 each.