A Timeless Ode to Spring The Dr Alice Cheng Falangcai Bowl
Live Auction: 8 April 2023 • 10:50 AM HKT • Hong Kong

A Timeless Ode to Spring: The Dr Alice Cheng Falangcai Bowl 8 April 2023 • 10:50 AM HKT • Hong Kong

D r Alice Cheng’s Falangcai bowl ranks among the most legendary pieces ever to have been offered at auction and broke a world record for Chinese art when it was sold in 2006 for HK$151,320,000. It is a gem of Imperial porcelain, the delicate, creamy white body having been painted by master court enamellers in Beijing in close proximity of the Qianlong Emperor. The superb painting of two loving swallows beside a flowering apricot tree intertwined with a willow tree is complemented by a short poem evocative of the spring. During the latter years of the Qing dynasty, the bowl and its pair entered the collection of Captain Charles Oswald Liddell, whose collection was sold in 1929. One bowl entered the collection of Sir Percival David and is today the pride of the British Museum. The present bowl then entered the collections of Charles Ernest Russell, Barbara Hutton, J.T. Tai, Tianminlou, Robert Chang and since 2006 has been the crown jewel of the celebrated collection of Dr Alice Cheng.


Few collectors in recent history have enlivened the Hong Kong salerooms to the same extent as Dr Alice Cheng, and her dramatic entrance at an auction often heralds a new record price for Chinese porcelain. With great passion and style, Alice has assembled since the late 1990s a formidable collection of imperial Chinese porcelain that reflects her impeccable taste. Her discriminating eye has, over the years, mostly focused on the finest wares of the Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong periods, the Qing dynasty’s greatest emperors. When asked what motivates her acquisitions, Alice will say, “I buy what I like.” Indeed, most of the objects that grace her collection were acquired with passion and the sharpest instinct.

Dr Alice Cheng holding her Yongzheng famille-rose ‘peach’ vase at Sotheby’s Hong Kong May 2002
© AP / Anat Givon

Dr Alice Cheng was born in Shanghai and grew up surrounded by fine objects. Her grandfather, Zhang Jiru, was a famous carver who Empress Dowager Cixi once even commissioned to work. Her father, Zhang Zhongying, was a celebrated antique dealer, in whose footsteps her brother Robert would later follow and build the illustrious career that we know in the field of Chinese art. Alice, a free spirit, went on to build an extraordinary career in business and take an active role in various social issues. She is also very well-known in the world of philanthropy, generously supporting causes in Hong Kong and the mainland, such as improving cultural development, education, health, and wellness of ethnic minorities and fighting poverty. Alice Cheng has devoted much of her resources and time to charitable causes.

She was invited to participate in the Standing Committee of the 9th and 10th National Committees of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). She has also been honoured with the prestigious titles of Gold Bauhinia Star (GBS, Hong Kong) and the Magnolia Award of Shanghai. Alice is a long-term benefactor of the World Children’s Fund. She also champions promoting cultural and economic exchange between China and other countries. She was awarded by Sweden the Insignia of the Commander of the Royal Order of the Polar Star, and was later elevated to the Commander Grand Cross.

In 2002, Sotheby’s specialists discovered in Purchase, New York, a famille-rose vase with peaches, which had been mounted as a lamp in the 1960s and used as such ever since. The news of the discovery made headlines
around the world. When the piece came up at auction in Hong Kong, Alice Cheng, with her trademark cool and determined bidding, purchased the vase against fierce competition, then a world record for Chinese porcelain. She donated it to the Shanghai Museum in 2004, and the vase now stands proudly there, a testament to the generosity and refined taste of Dr Alice Cheng, one of Asia’s most inspiring collectors.

An illustrious provenance
A highly important and superbly enamelled imperial falangcai ‘swallow’ bowl, Blue enamel mark and period of Qianlong
The porcelain possibly Yongzheng period, the enamel painted circa 1736


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