The Twisted Path of the Ming Vase

A few years ago, I attended the wedding of a wealthy friend.  It was held at her father’s house in Woodland Hills, a sprawling home with an elegant backyard worthy of a Julia Roberts romantic comedy.  During the reception, I wandered the grounds at my leisure.  It was lovely.  They had spared no expense, and it was like a labyrinth of beauty.  Finally, in a room that they probably called the primary living room foyer, I came upon a white and blue vase with Chinese markings that was the size of a 50-inch plasma television.  The bride’s sister told me it was a Ming vase.

“Oh, my father’s wife bought it for $40,000,” she said.

It would probably be $500,000 now, since the market seems to have appreciated, as reported in this television segment, below.


“He doesn’t know anything about vases or China, but he had the extra money and his wife begged, so he bought it,” she said.

Lately, I’ve been reading about those famous Ming vases.  They were manufactured in Jingdezhen, in the approximate center of China.  Jingdezhen was blessed with the special clays required for the manufacture of porcelain.  It also had dense forest with lumber necessary for running kilns, as well as the Yangzi River, which allowed for easy transport of fragile items, rather than horsecarts.  By the 16th century, Jingdezhen was turning out hundreds of thousands of porcelains, from small plates and bowls to huge ones, like the one I’d seen, which were used in sacrificial ceremonies.

It’s amazing how the period Ming vases have made their way through the world.  After manufacture, they were sold, then kept or displayed or used, and then, decades later, passed down to the children after the owners’ deaths, then kept or displayed or used some more for decades, perhaps sold, perhaps stolen, perhaps being destroyed in or surviving war.  Many vases each century are broken, and the surviving number gets smaller and smaller.  Those pieces that have survived today go for exorbitant prices, though, such as the price paid by my friend’s father.

A year after the wedding, I asked the bride about that Ming vase, and she told me something that made my heart sink.

“Oh, somebody got drunk and knocked it over,” she said, laughing.  “Really, though, I don’t feel sorry for my Dad.  If you’re going to display something like that during a wedding, you’re asking for it, don’t you think?”

That was one of the more interesting stories I’ve heard, so I worked into the plot of my novel, What Happens to Us, available on Kindle for only $3.99, at  I believe novels should be a collection of the most interesting things that have ever happened to people.  I don’t like to bore readers, don’t like it at all.  Give the book a try.  I guarantee you won’t be bored.

Cover What Happens 1d


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