The Chinese Statue – Summary

‘The Chinese Statue’ is one of the short stories written by Jeffrey Archer in his collection titled ‘A Quiver Full of Arrows’ (2006). The story is about the journey of a statue of ‘Emperor Kung’. This statuette originated from the Ming dynasty and was bought to London by Sir Alexander who kept it in his family for generations.

Summary

Sir Alexander had been an exact, organized and a time-bound person since an early age. With a spectacular career to his record, he grew from an employee at the Foreign office in Whitehall to the minister in Peking. On a personal level; he had an amateur interest in the art of the Ming dynasty. Hence, when he was appointed as a minister to represent the government in China for tenure of three years, he made the most of the opportunity at hand to live his interest thoroughly.

Sir Alexander, hence preferred to make the most of the short tenure and travelled on horse-back into the outlying districts to learn more about the country and its people. On one such outings, Sir Alexander happened to pass through a small village, about some fifty miles from paling, called Ha Li Chuan. Here, he met an old craftsman and was mesmerised by the collection of work that he has which include beautiful miniature emperors, classical figures etc. After a hearty chat with the craftsman and showering of compliments to the craftsman’s art, the sculptor gifted Sir Alexander a priceless statue. It was a six inch tall, ivory statue of Emperor Kung. Sir Alexander felt confident that it was sculpted by the great Pen, Q. somewhere around the turn of the fifteenth century.

As per the Chinese custom, one must return the kindness within the calendar year, when a stronger shows generosity. Hence, Sir Alexander called for a large part of his savings in the Bank, to reach him in Perking, at the earliest. A background check of the craftsman was made, whose name was Yung lee. With the approval from the Empress lady Heathcote, Sir Alexander gifted Yung Lee with a small white house of the perfect proportions, guarded by two stone lion dogs at the front entrance. Yung Lee was speechless and overwhelmed.

After the completion of his tenure and being titled the K.C.V.O. and awarded with the ‘Silver star of China’, Sir Alexander completed the work at the Foreign Office and eventually retired to his native Yorkshire. He wrote a will which stated that the statue be kept in the family for generations and never to be disposed off, unless the family’s honors was at stake.

Hence, each of Sir Alexander’s heirs, all of whom turned out to become civil servants and army officers, obeyed the legacy of the will and kept the statuette very safely and in great glory until the latest descendent; Alex Heathcoat lost all his money in playing roulette at an elderly age of sixties.

As the circumstances had it and what the will directed, Alex decided to sell the Ming Statue in order to save the family honour, for forging a huge debts, would bring shame on the family name. To his shock though, he discovered that the statue was fake and was only worth eight hundred guineas at the most. But just as he contemplates suicide, he also finds out that the base of the statue was authentic and belonged to fifteenth century. Eventually, at the auction, the Ming Statue (Lot No. 103), brought him seven hundred and twenty guineas and the base brought him twenty-two thousand guineas, largely enough to repay all his debts and lead a life on his own terms.

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