A MAN is in a state of 'sheer disbelief' after his Chinese teapot sold at auction for a staggering £1m – despite it having a damaged lid.

The teapot was found on a shelf in a modest house in Dorset by expert Lee Young who had been invited there to value some ornaments.

The owner, who wasn't aware of its significance, is said to be thrilled and shocked about the life-changing sale result.

Mr Young, of Duke's Auctioneers in Dorchester, identified the stamp on the teapot's base as being that of the Chinese emperor Qianlong who reigned between 1735-1796.

On the lid was a finial of a peach, a symbol of immortality and unity in Imperial China, where peach trees were considered to be the 'tree of life' and Chinese brides carried peach blossoms.

The five-inch-tall green glaze celadon teapot was conservatively estimated to sell for a few thousand pounds but interest in it took off ahead of the auction.

It sparked an international bidding war between 10 buyers, with the successful telephone bidder paying a hammer price of £800,000 for it. With auction house fees added on the overall figure paid was £1,040,000.

There was stunned applause in the auction house as the sale was concluded.

The vendor, who does not wish to be named, is a middle-aged businessman. The teapot had been passed down the family for several generations but its previous provenance is unknown.

It had been sitting as an ornament piece on a shelf in the living room of the semi-detached home he shares with his wife.

Mr Young, head of Asian Art at Duke's, described how his heart 'skipped a beat' when he first handled the 'Imperial masterpiece'.

He said the vendor is still in a state of 'sheer disbelief' about the live-changing sale result.

He said: "As the owner handed me the teapot for an opinion my heart missed a beat.

"As I turned it over and saw the beautifully drawn blue seal mark of Qianlong I realised immediately that I was handling a piece made for the Emperor himself."

He added: "The battle for the teapot between ten telephone bidders took ten minutes with the price jumping in £20,000 increments.

"At one stage the price jumped by £100,000 as a buyer tried to frighten off other bidders.

"The saleroom was packed and the crowd broke into spontaneous applause when the auctioneer's gavel fell.

"I told the vendor and he is thrilled but in a state of sheer disbelief. I don't think it has sunk in yet."

Guy Schwinge, of Duke's, said bidders were prepared to overlook the damage to the lid as it was 'minor', in light of the 'exceptional' nature of the teapot.

In the same sale a Chinese boxwood carving sold for £185,000 and a Jade meerkat figure expected to sell for £300 went under the hammer for £50,000.