Beijing, in the heart of September, is playing host to a unique congregation. Antique aficionados, hailing from local regions to distant international shores, gather with a shared love for ancient art and commerce. The Beijing China Art International Fair, set in the iconic Panjiayuan Antique Market, commenced with a grand opening, blending both physical and digital realms for enthusiasts.
The event, which spans until the end of September, boasts of an expansive agenda: exhibitions, auctions, seminars, and intimate sessions of antique appreciation. On the inaugural day, visitors were treated to a visual delight as over 400 esteemed art pieces and cultural relics, borrowed from elite collectors and prestigious domestic cultural institutions, were unveiled. The spectrum of exhibited artifacts is vast, from the delicacy of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) porcelain to the spiritual depth of Tibetan Buddhist sculptures.
What’s particularly striking about the fair is its inclusive international appeal. Over 100 cultural exchange institutions from 10 different countries have gathered, alongside more than 20 state-owned cultural relic stores. The virtual gallery, a nod to the digital era, displays nearly 10,000 Chinese and Western relics, enabling online trading and appreciation.
The grandeur of this fair isn’t restricted to its sheer scale but also its monetary magnitude. Zhang Jun, a representative from the Beijing Municipal Cultural Heritage Bureau, estimated the value of the showcased relics to exceed a staggering 1 billion yuan ($136 million). She underscored the prominence of the auctioning phase, expecting enthusiastic participation from over 230 international and domestic companies, with a special emphasis on nations affiliated with the Belt and Road Initiative.
Highlighting the fair’s significance, Zhang emphasized that it accounts for an astonishing 70% of China’s cultural relics trade volume, often securing top global rankings.
To enrich the fair’s experience, attendees can look forward to 10 large-scale public appraisal events. Renowned industry veterans, representing eminent associations and committees from Beijing, will guide enthusiasts, offering insights into a diverse array of categories.
In the event’s backdrop, there’s a hustle-bustle in the parking vicinity of the Beijing Antique City. Temporary tents are erected, filled with a myriad of wares: Chinese calligraphy, intricate handicrafts, porcelain masterpieces, and unique artifacts from Central Asia and Europe.
Among the numerous vendors was Michael from Poland, who found the Beijing market conducive for trading his amber collections. He confessed that sometimes, the response here surpasses his experiences in Las Vegas. Another trader from Pakistan praised the Chinese trading ambiance, which has lured him back to various Chinese fairs annually.
However, amid commerce, there’s a deeper emotional resonance. An intriguing stall, bearing the sign “repatriation from Europe,” caught the eyes of many. Its owner, a passionate Chinese porcelain collector named Yang, had spent a decade in the UK. The antiques he offered were sourced from various European fairs. Despite the commerce, Yang’s heart ached at the sight of historical Chinese relics, reminders of past plunders, being traded overseas. Reflecting on recent news about stolen artifacts, he poignantly remarked on his hope to see stolen Chinese treasures in the British Museum return home someday.