Choice of the week: putting China on the golf course

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Silver tankards

A silver tankard engraved for the 1903 Shanghai Golf Club’s Captain’s Cup, £ 14,000 on the Bourne End auction rooms.

Image by Roland Arkell

  • Roland Arkell
  • 13.09.2021

It will be on sale in the auction rooms at Bourne End in Buckinghamshire on September 1st and is marked with the base Luen Wo. This Shanghai retailer on Nanking Road gave work to a network of designers and artisans in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century.

The demographics of the Chinese silver market has changed significantly in recent years. The days of the American collectors who ruled the neighborhood have given way to Chinese collectors demonstrating their willingness to outbid everyone else. However, the height of the price tag for this piece suggests that the event it was thought of could be more significant than the piece itself.

It was engraved in a sans-serif font Shanghai Golf Club 1903 Captain’s Cup. Presented by HG Gardner. Won by JRT McMurtrie.

The game of golf in China has only a short history. While chuiwan, a stick and ball game with some similarities, was played as early as the Song Dynasty, the sport effectively reached China with the advent of the Shanghai Club in 1896.

Back then, the so-called Paris of the East with its dance halls, international clubs and foreign racetracks was the meeting place for rich Europeans. However, with the rise of communism (the party held its first meeting in Shanghai in 1921), golf was banned for many years as being too bourgeois. The first of the modern golf courses in China (in Chung Shan Hot Springs) was only opened in 1984.

This trophy thus marks the brief heyday of a game that is becoming increasingly popular as a top recreational sport for business people and officials. It was put up for sale with other pieces on Chinese silver and was contested by a number of buyers up to about £ 4,000 before two American bidders swapped hits up to £ 14,000 (plus 17.5% buyer’s commission).

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