Silver tankard
A silver tankard engraved for the Shanghai Golf Club 1903 Captain’s Cup, £14,000 at Bourne End Auction Rooms.

Offered at Bourne End Auction Rooms in Buckinghamshire on September 1, it is marked to the base Luen Wo. This Shanghai retailer on the Nanking Road provided work for 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 market for Chinese silver have changed markedly in recent years. The days of American collectors ruling the roost has given way to Chinese collectors, demonstrating their willingness to outbid all others. However, the magnitude of the price for this piece suggested the event it commemorated may 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 has only a brief history in China. While chuiwan, a stick and ball game with some similarities, was played as early as the Song dynasty, the sport effectively arrived in China with the advent of the Shanghai club in 1896.

At the time, the so-called Paris of the East with its dance halls, international clubs and foreign-run racetrack, was the place to be for rich Europeans. However, with the advent 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-day golf courses in China (at Chung Shan Hot Springs) did not open until 1984.

This trophy, therefore, marks a brief flowering of a game that is growing in popularity as the top recreational sport for businesspeople and officials. Brought in for sale with other pieces on Chinese silver, it was competed for by a range of buyers up to around £4000 before two American bidders exchanged blows up to £14,000 (plus 17.5% buyer’s premium).