What Determines the Value of Chinese Paintings?

How does a buyer judge the value of Chinese calligraphy and paintings, which are the most popular categories of Chinese antique collections? Seven factors help determine their value:

1. Reputation

The reputation of the individual calligrapher or painter is arguably the most important value aspect. The artistic level / status of calligraphers and painters is calculated according to their popularity. But investors are advised to not automatically over-value famous artists and undervalue newer ones.

2. Subject Matter

Content is important. Collectors generally show great interest in auspicious and elegant themes, and rare subjects.

  • Auspicious themes concentrate on characters, flowers, and birds, with their traditionally metaphorical meaning relating to vitality and longevity.
  • Elegant themes include mountains and water, which express emotion and offer artistic escape from everyday troubles.
  • Rare subjects portray unique and unusual subjects where certain painters have stretched their creativity.
3. Style

There are many styles of Chinese calligraphy and paintings, including vertical scrolls, banners, lenses, screen strips, hand scrolls, albums, couplets, fans, etc. The vertical scrolls, banners, lenses, screen strips, and couplets are primarily used for interior decoration while hand scrolls, albums, and fans are more suitable for desk exhibitions.

4. Quality

Collectors must ensure that pieces are intact and undamaged, clean as new, and where there is a frame that it does not in any way intrude on or interfere with the art.

5. Inscriptions

The more inscriptions, the better. The single line seen on most Chinese works of art is called "Yizhuxiang," which translates as "a stick of incense." Additional lines are sometimes written by a famous artisan of the era and considered a "celebrity endorsement." These are called "Bangshou," which roughly translates as "helper." Additional, descriptions and seals can increase the value of Chinese art and calligraphy.

6. Exclusivity

The number of a particular piece currently remaining in existence through the world significantly affects its value. As the saying goes, "The rare thing is precious."

7. Age

Generally speaking, the older the piece, the higher its value and the newer the piece, the lower its value. Chinese paintings are difficult to preserve. There is a saying that artwork on paper can be preserved for one thousand years, while works on silk usually only last about 800 years.


The price of Chinese paintings is significantly higher than that of Chinese calligraphy, because paintings require more skill and demands more time per piece than calligraphy.