Yuan Dynasty scroll sells for $A58 million

The Five Drunken Princes Returning on Horseback was removed from the Forbidden City in 1922.
The Five Drunken Princes Returning on Horseback was removed from the Forbidden City in 1922.

A 700-year-old Chinese painted scroll from the Yuan Dynasty has fetched 306.6 million Hong Kong dollars ($A58.3 million) at a Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong.

The two-metre scroll, titled Five Drunken Princes Returning on Horseback, is by Ren Renfa, a renowned Chinese artist and government official.

The painting depicts the princes riding horses, together with four attendants.

One of the princes is Li Longji, who later became the longest-reigning Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.

The scroll has been documented in imperial collections and bears a collection of seals, including those of several emperors.

In 1922, the Five Drunken Princes Returning on Horseback was transported out of the Forbidden City by Pu Yi, the last emperor of China, after the fall of Qing dynasty.

The artwork was initially estimated to sell between 75 million and 120 million Hong Kong dollars.

Many of Ren's 21 paintings are held in museums or owned by private collectors.

"This painting depicts the story of the five drunken princes after they had a very happy time and then they got drunk and went back home," said Sally Fong, a specialist of classical Chinese paintings at Sotheby's.

"Among the five princes, one of them is the future emperor. In this painting, we can see that he was depicted as the one who can tolerate the drunkenness, to go back home together with the other drunken princes."

Australian Associated Press