Qianlong period zitan dragon box, £110,000 at Sworders.

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It was the top price of the designated Asian Art sale in Stansted Mountfitchet.

The 20in (49cm) wide casket, that would have been used to store books or other precious objects is made almost exclusively of zitan, a purplish-black, fine-grained timber (so dense that it sinks in water), that was the preferred wood of the imperial workshops.

Suitable for fine and intricate carving, in this case the box is adorned with the powerful dynastic images of the five-clawed dragon amid clouds (symbol of the emperor) and phoenixes (the empress).

By the early Qing period, zitan had become a very expensive commodity (many of the native species had been exhausted during the Ming dynasty) and its use was carefully controlled.

When this box was made by master Chinese carpenters in the 18th or early 19th century, it would have been extraordinarily expensive. It remains so today.

The box, which came for sale from a seller in Norfolk with a modest estimate of £1000-2000, attracted bids from multiple suitors before selling at a price that was akin to that of similar pieces offered at showpiece sales in Hong Kong.