HONG KONG – The Mi Yun Hall, owned by entrepreneur Jiang Ruzao (1876–1954), was a renowned private library in Zhejiang province during the late Qing to early Republican period. The library’s title ‘Mi Yun’ was taken from the rare book Cao Chuang Yun Yu and its author Zhou Mi. At the time, Jiang’s copy of the book was the only copy in existence, making it one of the many rare titles there, in particular Song dynasty publications.

Born to a prestigious and scholarly family, Jiang Ruzao’s son Jiang Zuyi (1902–1973) followed his family’s interest and studied with the great master Wang Guowei – a Chinese scholar, writer and poet. As a result, Jiang Zuyi became a connoisseur of rubbings, paintings and calligraphy. Active in Shanghai during the Republican period, he introduced works of art to important collectors such as Wu Hufan, Pang Laichen, Ye Gongchao, Tan Jing and Zhang Heng. After moving to Taiwan in the 1940s, Jiang remained involved in art circles, serving as an expert assisting with the selection of pieces from Taipei’s National Palace Museum collection for a major American exhibition in 1961. Later in his life, Jiang Zuyi taught at a university in Taiwan and occasionally held scholarly gatherings with peers such as Zhuang Shangyan and Tai Jingnong.

Sotheby’s Hong Kong’s Classical Chinese Paintings Sale will take place on 30 May at Island Shangri-La’s Island Ballroom. Among the highlights are 11 works that have been kept in the revered Mi Yun Hall collection for decades, boasting not only impeccable provenance, but also significant artistic and historical value. Read below to learn more about the Top 3 lots from Mi Yun Hall Library.

Anonymous (Yuan Dynasty), The Lotus Sutra Gold on blue paper, a set of seven albums (detail). Estimate upon request.

The Lotus Sutra is an exceedingly rare full set of seven albums of key Mahayana Buddhism scriptures. This gold-on-paper version is of the highest quality, with perfectly formed calligraphy expertly executed in gold. The work passed through the hands of several influential Chinese collectors before it was acquired by the collection of Mi Yun Hall.

Zhang Wenjing (1084–1145), Letters Ink on paper. Estimate: HK$2,000,000 – 4,000,000 / US$260,000 – 510,000

Zhang Wenjing was a government official during the Song Dynasty and his tenure was documented in the History of Song, one of the official Chinese texts recording the history of Song Dynasty. Zheng once composed Letters to four other officials in a calligraphy style that reflects the Southern Song Dynasty mode of handwriting yet at the same time conveys an expressive personal style adapted from the ‘Two Wangs’ – famous calligraphers Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi. Lu Xinyuan, a leading book collector during the late Qing period, studied the letters, collated elaborate notes for each one including details on the context, period, background and biography, and, finally, assembled this handscroll. Today, this artistically as well as historically significant piece serves as a critical reference for studying the development of Chinese calligraphy as well as the history of Song Dynasty.

Shitao (1642–1718) Landscapes Ink and colour on paper (detail) Album of ten leaves. Estimate: HK$2,000,000 – 2,500,000 / US$260,000 – 320,000

Measuring ten pages in total yet just 20-by-15 centimetres per page, this early work by Shitao - Landscapes - vividly depicts a massive mountainscape. It carries annotations by renowned calligraphers and artists including Yi Bingshou and Weng Fanggang, who inscribed positive remarks on Shitao’s work. Landscapes passed through the hands of Guangdong-based Qing Dynasty collector Ye Menglong and renowned Republican Period artist Zhang Shanzi before joining the Mi Yun Hall collection.