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Nicholas Chow, Deputy Chairman for Sotheby's Asia and the International Head and Chairman of the Chinese Works of Art department, poses with a rare Ru Guanyao brush washer, after it sold for $37.7 million during an auction in Hong Kong, China October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

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By Stefanie McIntyre

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A nearly 900-year-old porcelain Song dynasty bowl smashed the world auction record for Chinese ceramics on Tuesday, selling for HK$294.3 million (£28.38 million) at a Sotheby's sale in Hong Kong.

The small, blue-green item broke the previous record, also set in a sale in Hong Kong, when a 500-year-old imperial "chicken" cup from the Ming dynasty Chenghua period sold for HK$281.2 million ($36.0 million) in 2014, Sotheby's said.

The 13-cm (5-inch) bowl, used to wash brushes, was fired in the famed Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) kilns in Ruzhou, and was sold to an anonymous buyer after a 20-minute bidding battle.

Such "Ru guanyao" wares -- known for their intense blue-green glaze and "ice-crackle" pattern -- are extremely rare because the kiln in China's central Henan province had a brief production run of only around two decades.

The bowl, from the Chang Foundation in Taiwan's Hongxi Museum, is one of only four known pieces of Ru heirlooms in private hands. Since 1940, no more than six Ru vessels have ever appeared at auction, according to ceramics expert Regina Krahl.

"We've had in last 20 years a huge sort of influx of mainland Chinese buyers. We're filling the room with new prices, new interest and that's what's really driven the price today," said Sotheby's Asia deputy chairman Nicolas Chow, who declined to reveal the nationality of the buyer.

($1 = 7.8122 Hong Kong dollars)

(Writing by Venus Wu; Editing by James Pomfret and Kim Coghill)

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