China lost heaps of artwork in the last century due to historical turmoil, but now that the country is an economic power, the rich are buying back some of their heritage.
Ancient porcelain and old ink paintings are all fair game with major 20th Century Chinese ink painters Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong and Zhang Daqian drawing the big bucks.
On Dec. 18, a collection of 12 landscapes by Qi sold for 931 million Chinese yuan ($171 million) at a Beijing auction, setting a record for Chinese artwork sold at an auction worldwide, China Daily reported.
Last year, Zhang generated $31 million more in auction sales last year than abstract genius Pablo Picasso, according to French database Artprice, making the Chinese artist the top in auction turnover.
According to a report from art website Artnet and the China Association of Auctioneers, the market for Chinese art and antiques is moving toward Asia, with major auction houses shifting inventory to Hong Kong. In the category, 78 percent of the work was sold in Asia last year — up from 66 percent in 2011.
Art dealers tell CNBC that many of the transactions take place outside of the mainland and are increasingly stored overseas so as not to incur taxes and issues with Chinese customs.