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Summersgill Auctioneers in Easingwold had catalogued the dish, with a staple repair to the rim, as 19th century and expected it for sell for under £300 at a general sale on May 12. However, interest in the run-up to the auction had included a commission bid of £13,000.

The 12in (30cm) shallow dish – brought in for sale by a local lady who had owned it for many years - is of a type first pioneered during the Xuande (1425-35) period.

The decoration in underglaze blue includes a single branch of flowering pomegranate to the centre and four fruiting branches including peach, lychee, persimmon and cherry blossom to the cavetto. Written in a horizontal line under the rim is a six-character reign mark for the ninth Ming emperor Chenghua (1465-87).

A handful of other Chenghua-marked dishes of similar size with this 'pomegranate' pattern are known, including a dish sold as part of the sale titled For Imperial Appreciation: Fine Chinese Ceramics from the Greenwald Collection held by Christie’s Hong Kong in December 2010. It realised HK$2.66m ($343,939). Another pair with a yellow enamel ground was illustrated in Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Ch'eng-Hua Porcelain Ware, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2003.

This helped explain the enthusiasm for this piece that, despite its condition issues, sold at £31,000 (plus buyer’s premium of 18% including VAT). The buyer had come to Yorkshire from Japan that day.

Tim Summersgill, owner of the auction house, said: "He had taken a taxi from Heathrow to Easingwold. After fierce bidding on the phones and internet he bought it, put it in his suitcase and the taxi was still waiting outside the saleroom with the meter ticking to go back to Heathrow.”