As of course we all know, a robustly defensive armoury is essential for any great empire. Or indeed emperor. The Chinese Qianlong emperor (AD1735–1796) is no exception. One of his favourite weapons was – apparently – a musket, one that was auctioned in London for US$2.5 million (HK$19.4 million). This is perhaps unsurprising given that this particular weapon is said to be one of the finest items of its kind to go under the gavel for a very long time.
Its value is partly down to its intricate muzzle engravings, widely held to represent the pinnacle of such craftsmanship in Imperial China. Overall, the musket is decorated in gold and silver throughout, and has four Chinese characters inscribed on its barrel – said to be a testament to its outstanding accuracy.
This particular style of gun was far more reliable than the other firearms of the day, with many of them – notably the blunderbuss – not so much hit-and-miss as miss-and-miss. By contrast, this was a superbly crafted weapon, one that even inspired its owner to pen an ode to its efficacy. Clearly not one for false modesty, the poet even spared a verse or two to praise his own skills as a deer hunter.