unnamed (1)A 13th century Chinese sculpture is valuable enough but Mossgreen auction specialists in Australia discovered something even more precious tucked within the head of a large wooden sculpture of Luohan.

A rare Ming Dynasty banknote was discovered hidden within the cavity of a the sculpture which is headed to London for viewing on November 3– November 6 at The Beaumont Hotel, 8 Balderton Street, Brown Hart Gardens, London W1K 6TF (by appointment). Luohan is a Chinese word used to describe those who have completed the four stages of Enlightenment and reached the state of Nirvana. The facial features in this image of Luohan are superbly defined, and it wears a wise, serene expression as if it knew the secret it contained.

unnamedThe banknote found inside the sculpture is stamped with three official red seals and dated the third year of the Ming Dynasty, the Hong Wu period (1368-1398). The note is inscribed “Da Ming Tong Xing Bao Chao”, “Yi Guan” and the lower section is inscribed: “Authorized by the Department of Finance, this bank note has the same function of coins, those who use counterfeit bank note will be beheaded, the whistle-blower will be rewarded 250 Liang silvers plus all the properties of the criminal. The third year of Hong Wu period.”

The sculpture and banknote will be offered as one lot at auction by Mossgreen as part of The Raphy Star Collection of Important Asian Art on December 11th in Sydney. The value of the note alone is approx. AUD $3,000-5,000 but it will be sold as the one lot so the overall value is AUD$40,000-60,000 (around $25,000 to $45,000 in U.S. dollars).

Specialist Ray Tregaskis, Head of Asian Art at Mossgreen said, “It was a thrilling moment. While it was not unusual for consecration items such as semi-precious stones or scrolls to be left within the base or on the back of a sculpture, the discovery of this rare Ming Dynasty banknote is an exciting one and importantly, it verifies the date of the sculpture.”