The hammer fell after 30-minutes of furious bidding between six men in the room and three telephone bidders. It was eventually sold to a Chinese man, said to be a Beijing-based agent, who sat on a gilded sofa at the front of the room but refused to comment after the sale.
The owners, who had no idea quite how much the vase was worth, were so shocked that they had to leave the room for a breath of fresh air.
Standing 16 inches tall and decorated with fish, the vase is thought to date from the time of Qianlong, the fourth emperor in the Qing dynasty, around 1740.
Experts said it probably once belonged to Chinese royalty but was most likely taken out of the country at the end of the Second Opium War in 1860 when the palaces were ransacked.
It is understood to have been in the vendors’ family since the 1930s.
The astronomical price was reached due to the rising demand for Imperial associated trophies among Chinese collectors.