ISC Echoes The Chinese Statue : the theme of love of Art


‘The Chinese Statue’

Question : Discuss the theme of Love of Art in the short story ‘The Chinese Statue’?

Answer : The story ‘The Chinese Statue’ by Jeffrey Archer, also depicts the theme of love of Art. Sir Alexander Heathcote, the craftsman – Yung Lee and the narrator of the story, all appear to be lovers of art.

  • Sir Alexander as a lover of Art

          Sir Alexander has been described in the story as having “more than an amateur interest in the art of the Ming dynasty.”This is depicted throughout the story. 

                 First, when he got  an appointment as British Ambassador to China, he was delighted as he had taken it as an ” opportunity to observe in their natural habitat some of the great statues, painting and drawings. “

           Second, during his term of three years, he took no leave and used that time to travel to the Chinese countryside and discover more about their art. 

           Third, when Sir Alexander chanced upon an old craftsman’s workshop “For over an hour the minister sighed chuckled as he studied many of the pieces with admiration and finally he returned to the old man to praise his skill.”

            When the craftsman, brought him to the back of his workshop ” The minister could have happily settled down in the orgy of ivory for at least a week. “

            Fourth, when Sir Alexander talked with the craftsman, his vast knowledge and love of Ming dynasty’s art was acknowledged by the craftsman. 

            Fifth, Sir Alexander was mesmerised to see the beautiful statue of Emperor Kung, which Yung Lee showed him. On seeing the statue – 

 Sir Alexander’s mouth opened wide and he could not hide his excitement “
  He felt confident that the statue been made by the great Pen Q and was made around fifteenth century. 

             Sixth, Sir Alexander admired Yung Lee for his own art and his kind act of gifting Sir Alexander, his family heirloom. He made all possible efforts to repay the craftsman and show his gratitude for the artist in him. 

        Finally,  Sir Alexander was so possessed about the piece of art that he wanted it to remain always in his family. Therefore, he bequeathed it to his eldest son and requested him to pass it to the eldest son or daughter of every generation and made a provision that it was never to be disposed of unless the family’s honour was at stake.

Craftsman Yung Lee as a Lover of Art 

        Yung Lee was a craftsman, who belonged to the old and trusted family of famous artisan  Yung  Shau. Many of his ancestors works were displayed in the palaces of the Manchu Princes.

      Yung Lee, himself was a skilled craftsman. When Sir Alexander visited his workshop he was filled with admiration for Yung Lee’s skill as an artist.   Sir Alexander kept on looking and admiring the pieces of art for over an hour. When Yung Lee took him to the back of his shop, Sir Alexander was so charmed by the beauty of his art that  he felt he could live within those pieces of art for at least a week. 

       A lover of art can easily recognise the other lover  of art. So Yung Lee could realise Sir Alexander’s love and knowledge of the Ming dynasty’s art. He gifted him the statue of Emperor Kung, which had been in his family for over seven generations. Initially he felt sad to part with his family heirloom, then he felt honoured and happy at the thought that the Chinese Statue would go to London with Sir Alexander and would be admired by many people. In fact, he fixed the base of the statue from his own collection, so that the piece could be put on display for others to see and admire. 

  •  Narrator as the lover of Art

   The narrator of the story also appears to be the lover of art as he is also present in the auction as a bidder at Sotheby’s Auction House to buy a piece of art. 

    Narrator’s love of art is also displayed when he studied the catalogue which read that the statue had been purchased purchased in Ha Li Chuan and was ” the property of a gentleman “. Then he became anxious to know the details about the Statue and its owner and leads him to do some research about it.

     The narrator’s love of art is also depicted when he bought the statue for seven hundred and twenty guineas, though he knew very well that it was a fake piece, mere a copy of original. But it appears that like Sir Alexander ” nothing could detract him from its overall beauty”. 

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