Dating from 550-577AD, it is contemporary with the Anglo-Saxon burial of the Sutton Hoo hoard.
It was part of a consignment from the family of the Belgian engineer, financier, and noted collector Adolphe Stoclet (1871-1949) offered by Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury on May 24.
Exhibited at Art Bouddhique in Paris at the Musée Cernuschi in 1913, the stele was also pictured in the catalogue of the Adolphe Stoclet collection that was published in Brussels in 1956.
Estimated at £40,000-60,000, it sold to one of seven phone bidders for £440,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium).
During the turbulent years that followed the fall of the Han and of the Northern Wei dynasties , China was effectively divided into the Northern Qi (550-577) dynasty in the east and the Northern Zhou (557-581) dynasty in the west.
The split had a profound influence on both Buddhist doctrine and art in China with the Northern Qi proving one of the most vibrant periods in the history of Chinese lapidary.