If you’re a major auction house like Christie’s and Sotheby’s (who isn’t!), you should be looking over your shoulder: China is coming for you. As its middle class grows, the country is doing to high-end art sales what it once did to manufacturing: adopting it and profiting from it.

Today, the New York Times profiled the maturing of China’s national auction market — not just for visual art, but for carpets, antiques, and jewelry. Chinese companies like China Guardian and Tiancheng International are making a mint, because they understand the local market. China remains a huge growth market, with buyers snapping up ink brush work, calligraphy, and artifacts that aren’t well understood anywhere else.

“Once I was in London visiting Sotheby’s, and I was told they are jealous of China Guardian since some of their international markets are narrowing while our market is expanding,” Kou Qin, the director and vice president of China Guardian, said. “China’s economy is booming while other countries have been depressed over many years.” (Check that #humblebrag.)

Hear that? While you’re snoozing off the recession, China’s own cultural heritage is becoming the next great luxury commodity. Better save your pennies.

And your vineyards.

(Image: Yan Peiming)