“You know, the rich are different from you and me,” goes the simple yet famous quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald, and he might as well have been talking about the peculiar antics of the super-wealthy in 21st century China. While it’s a nation with over 5,000 years of collective history, it’s only been since 2014 that China has claimed the title of being the world’s economic leader in modern times. Alongside this rise in the country’s status, there has emerged a privileged group of over 8,000 Chinese citizens who qualify as ultra-high-net-worth individuals with over $30 million in assets…each. The obvious question, besides how to make that much moola in the first place, is of course, what to spend it on. And while tropical vacations and fancy yachts might come to mind as logical options, it seems that the tastes of the Chinese jet-set crowd are a little more particular.
10. A Dog With “Lion’s Blood”
Even the richest people in the world are prone to having four-legged best friends, as Paris Hilton and her chihuahua Tinkerbell once proved, though normally such pals do not cost $2 million US dollars. That is approximately how much a mysterious “property developer” paid to buy his Tibetan Mastiff, a type of shaggy, lion-looking dog with a strong pedigree and huge proportions. This specific puppy, one of a pair of twins, weighed almost 200 pounds already, and was considered by the breeder (doing an excellent sales job) to have “lion’s blood” that would make him a “top-of-the-range mastiff stud”.
But while this $2 million dollar purchase in early 2014 certainly set a new pet-precedent, Tibetan Mastiffs had already been recognized as a status symbol for rich Chinese since at least 2011, when another similar pup sold for (only) $1.5 million dollars.
9. Two Gold Apple Watches…For Two Paws
If the ultra-wealthy amongst the Chinese are liable to spend millions on their furry companions, then perhaps it’s not so shocking that they may also drop wads of cash for the best in animal accessories. But does any dog really need one, much less two, of the latest Apple product?
Wang Sicong, the 27-year old son of one of the richest men in China, seemed to think so. In May of 2015, he bought a couple of the electronic wearables for his husky Keke and posted the evidence to Weibo, a popular Chinese social media platform. These were the same model of gold Apple Watches that had originally sold out just one hour into their first day of release in China, even at the asking price of up to $20,000 each. Of course, despite the overwhelming demand for the gold watches, not everyone in China was of the same mindset, with Mr. Wang and Keke receiving outraged Weibo comments decrying the money squandered on these new toys.
8. Australia’s Highest Priced Apartment
The tallest building in Melbourne, Australia is still being constructed, but is expected to be ready in 2019. Sitting at the top level of this building will be a magnificent penthouse – one that covers 750 square feet, is worth $25 million Australian dollars, and now belongs to a Chinese businessman.
Described as a “very private and extremely wealthy Chinese national with a family who spends time in New York, London and various parts of China, as well as Melbourne”, this lucky purchaser will (soon enough) enjoy his privacy from the 100th floor with a 360-degree view of the city that he lives in (sometimes). Along with a glass elevator to take him up from the private entrance at floor 98, the penthouse will also boast a three-story spiral staircase and a private rooftop courtyard for star-gazing. The businessman might also be joined by his fellow countrymen, as reports have shown that Chinese buyers are purchasing around 12% of the new homes in Australia.
7. China’s Costliest Car
Focusing closer to home, another Chinese businessman became the first owner of a Hongqi L5 luxury sedan when he ordered one for just over $800,000 US dollars from the 2014 China Auto Show. Although not the most expensive car the globe has ever seen (that honor goes to the Bugattis and special-edition Lamborghinis of the world), the Hongqi does rank as the most valuable Chinese car ever made. For comparison’s sake, the Audi R8 automobiles made famous in the Iron Man movies retail for under $200,000 each, which means that this unnamed Chinese businessman is easily at least as rich as Tony Stark.
With “Hongqi” meaning “red flag”, and with previous models having served as the official car of the Communist Party, this purchase of the modern Hongqi sedan seems a patriotic choice. Either that, or a necessary one, as the Chinese government started to ban certain foreign brands, including Audi and BMW in 2011, to encourage more domestic production.
6. A “Chicken Cup” Worth Over $35 Million
For some of China’s ultra-rich, collecting antiques seems to be a sound investment. In this area, perhaps no antique purchase was as newsworthy (for a few different reasons) as Liu Yiquan’s successful 2014 bid of over $35 million for a “chicken cup”. So-called because of the chicken drawings on its sides, this rare palm-size porcelain collectible is over 500 years old and regarded as the ‘holy grail’ of Chinese art.
So as the proud owner of such a special item, what might one do with it? Well if you were Mr. Liu, you would have chosen to drink tea from the antique treasure while still at the auction site, and then have your photo from this indulgent moment go viral and cause anger across the country at this improper display of wealth! But on the upside, Mr. Liu did also earn 422 million American Express points for his special purchase, after needing to swipe his card 24 times to complete the transaction.
5. A Silk Tapestry Worth Over $45 Million
Not to be outdone by, well, himself, Liu Yiquan’s major purchases in 2014 also included a Tibetan “thangka” (a silk tapestry, the only one of its kind owned privately), which set a new record for the value of Chinese art work sold at an international auction. Liu acknowledged the auction to be a “very tough battle” with a “reasonable” final price, and the win allowed the multi-millionaire to again make headlines while adding to his collection at his private Long Museum.
Having come from humble working-class beginnings, Liu has been recognized in his country as “uncultured”, yet leads the way in fine-art collection and the celebration of national art and artists. A younger generation of Chinese art collectors has followed suit, with contemporary art purchases of merely a few million dollars at a time.
4. A Whole Bunch of Properties in Vancouver
When it comes to real estate, Vancouver has become known as both one of the best places in the world to live and correspondingly, one of the most expensive places in North America. The latter fact hasn’t seemed to phase the numerous Chinese foreign investors who have scooped up a number of properties in the Vancouver area for sometimes shocking prices.
In 2014, a Chinese buyer paid almost $52 million Canadian for a mansion that included a 10-car parking garage. Another 2014 house purchase in a posh area of the city saw Chinese buyers paying $8 million Canadian, which was $2 million over the original asking price.
But while they bring big money to the table, the prevalence and power of Chinese buyers have caused some concern for locals citizens who wonder about the long-term effects on the real-estate market. At the same time, without these circumstances, we would never have been graced with the existence of the reality Youtube series Ultra Rich Asian Girls in Vancouver, which would have been a great loss to society indeed.
3. A Custom Grand Piano With Crystallized Gold
With one of the most famous and talented modern pianists, Lang Lang, coming from China, it seems fitting that some of the Chinese super-rich choose to spend their wealth on luxury musical instruments. The best example of this might be the Sound of Harmony, known as the world’s most expensive Steinway grand piano, constructed over a period of about four years for about 1.2 million British pounds. This elaborately designed and named piano has a peacock-image theme, and was built using 40 layers of different woods and branded with the Steinway logo in crystallized gold.
And while the Sound of Harmony may be in a class of its own at the moment, it is conceivable that there may be more luxury Chinese pianos emerging in the near future, as there are now over 40 million Chinese children striving to become the next piano legend.
2. The Most Expensive Hotel in the World
If $25 million for an Australian penthouse and $50 million for a Canadian mansion were not quite impressive enough, then perhaps the purchase of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City might fit the bill. For the bargain price of just under $2 billion, a group of Chinese businessmen and their insurance company secured ownership of this historic Big Apple building in late 2014 (with an initial deposit of $100 million).
Formerly owned by the Hilton family, the Waldorf is situated above Grand Central Station and known for its Art Deco design and famous salad that includes apples, walnuts, and a mayonnaise dressing. With plans for a major renovation to restore the hotel to its “historic grandeur”, it probably won’t be too long before the hotel starts paying for itself with visitors eager to enjoy the modern Waldorf experience.
1. An $11 Million Dollar Wedding Day
Most parents would likely agree that their child’s wedding is a joyous occasion to be celebrated, and many parents might even chip in for some of the costs. But for Xing Libin, a chairman of the Shanxi coal mine company, no expense was too much for his daughter’s big day in spring 2012.
Rumored to have cost over $11 million US dollars in total, Xing footed the bills for three private jets to fly friends and family to the special occasion, as well as rooms at the Marriot, Ritz, and Hilton five-star hotels. And of course, there was his daughter’s dowry of six Ferraris (because clearly five was not enough).
However, as extravagant as this event was, it has already been eclipsed by another multi-million dollar Chinese wedding that featured only one red Ferrari but did include a convoy of 30 Rolls-Royce Phantos and a fleet of luxury motorcycles. And the pricetag for this particular occasion? Almost three times what Xing had paid!