For sale: treasures from the 'Titanic of the East'

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When the Tek Sing sank in the South China Sea in 1822, it took to the seabed not only 1,800 lives but 350,000 pieces of Chinese porcelain. Now, this huge collection, much of it still good enough to be used on a 21st-century dining table, is to be sold in one of the largest auctions ever.

When the Tek Sing sank in the South China Sea in 1822, it took to the seabed not only 1,800 lives but 350,000 pieces of Chinese porcelain. Now, this huge collection, much of it still good enough to be used on a 21st-century dining table, is to be sold in one of the largest auctions ever.

The antiques, recovered from the " Titanic of the East" after the junk's wreck was discovered last year by treasure hunters aboard the Restless M, has been divided into 16,100 lots and will take eight days to sell. The sale, by Nagel Auctions, will be held next month in a tent in Stuttgart, Germany, and simultaneously on the internet. It is expected to raise more than £7m, with many items fetching five-figure sums.

Most of the lots will include many pieces and start at less than £1,000. On offer are blue-and-white porcelain, green celadon and white blanc-de-Chine, including items such as teapots, plates, dishes, cups, cosmetic jars, ginger pots, bird feeders, water carriers and oil lamps. A set of spoons may go for as little as £10 and a set of plates is expected to fetch £200.

"There are so many chances to buy that there will be some real bargains," said Sandy Mallet, the director of the auction house division of icollector.com, which is handling the internet bidding. "The sheer scale is bizarre. There have been finds of porcelain before and there have been huge sales but simply never of this amount of items.

"Chinese porcelain has a history of being regarded by Europeans as a hallowed and remarkable thing. Eighteenth-century Europeans were desperate to acquire it. It's in fine condition and this is stuff that can be used."

The first lot up for auction is an 18th-century red vase encrusted with coral. It is expected to fetch £10,000. Another item likely to be much sought-after is the captain's sextant, on which the estimate is £10,000. Figurines and "a small but remarkable collection of urinals" decorated with floral and landscape patterns are also for sale.

The porcelain was destined for the local market in the East Indies rather than for European collections, so it has a practical as well as a historical value.

The Tek Sing hit a reef after leaving Amoy harbour (now called Hseimen) en route for Jakarta, an unusual route for shipping at that time. Many of those who died were migrants seeking work in sugar cane fields of the East Indies. Barely 200 were saved.

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