In front of Huang Xuan were four caskets, all made of first-class lacquered wood, reflecting dim light and feeling heavy.
Zhou Shuming was smiling, baring his teeth. He put his hand on the casket in front and said in a tone he thought sincerest, "Mr. Huang, these are the treasures I have found. Each one is special. Although I was in a rush, even the old man in the Qian family would be amazed when he sees them."
"Let me have a look." Huang Xuan didn't comment on Zhou Shuming's words and kept his countenance, but the look in his eyes betrayed him.
Zhou Shuming opened the first casket proudly. There were three books wrapped in light yellow satin. On the left was a bigger one, a Buddhist scripture, on the cover of which were written sloppily the title of the book The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra: the Universal Door of Gwan Shi Yin Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the Sounds of the World.
The specialized questions should be left to the professionals. Huang Xuan called Rolin and pulled the satin in the middle. The title of the book was written in small regular script the size of a fingernail, Imperial Decree of Emperor Mu Zongyi of the Qing Dynasty.
Huang Xuan didn't know who Mu Zongyi was, but luckily he could read the words "the Qing Dynasty" and "Emperor". He exhaled and thought, "Boy, the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) has been over for just a few years, imperial stuff has already been scattered into the hands of merchants. Nevertheless, although Huang Xuan was surprised, he didn't show it on his face, which disappointed Zhou Shuming.
With a flick of his finger, nonstop, Huang Xuan went on to lift the satin on the right, totally ruining the mystery Zhou Shuming had planned. This was a handwritten copy of a play, much thicker than the first two, with the title Yu Shuang Room on the upper right of the cover.
Huang Xuan could read only two of the three words and felt a little embarrassed. He opened the book and saw a seal on the internal page, which seemed the name Cheng Yanqiu on close reading.
"By comparison, it is judged that the average price of The Wonderful Dharma Buddhist Flower Sutra: the Universal Door of Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva should be between 250,000-350,000; Imperial Decree of Emperor Mu Zongyi of the Qing Dynasty, 650,000-850,000; the handwritten copy of the play Yu Shuang Room, 5-6 million." Due to the impact of the plane passage, Rolin was talking as concisely as possible, which appeared to be related to his procedure.
Hearing the price of 6 million, Huang Xuan was heartened and looked at Zhou Shuming who didn't have a clue what he was thinking and was racking his brains to figure out a way to persuade him. "These used to be imperial," Zhou Shuming said enthusiastically. Lifting his gown, he was ready to give a speech, but Huang Xuan waved his hand and interrupted him. Now that he had known the prices, he needed no more sales pitches. He believed Rolin's judgment was far more accurate than any cultural relics connoisseur.
The purchase of the grains had cost him over ¥600,000, but one single book would cover all of it and bring nine times more profit. Thinking this, Huang Xuan was very satisfied. However, pursuing profit was the nature of merchants, and as a descendant of the Huang Family, Huang Xuan was no exception. He put on a long face, covered the scripture with the satin and said, "Take this one back." He sniffed, drank a mouthful of tea and said slowly, "I will keep the handwritten copy. As for this one," pointing to Imperial Decree of Emperor Mu Zongyi of the Qing Dynasty in the middle, he said, "Leave it here. I will decide after looking at others."
Seeing that Huang Xuan had picked the handwritten copy of the play, Zhou Shuming was full of contempt and considered him a profligate son of rich parents. Well, People had different values in different times, the Revolution of 1911 just ended, and the Qing Dynasty still had great influence on the people. Although traditional opera was the quintessence of the nation, to scholars, a handwritten copy like this was worth even less than the scripture Huang Xuan just looked down on. Thinking that he had already known Huang Xuan aesthetic standards, Zhou Shuming went past the second casket and opened the one in the middle of the table. He flicked the dust off, lifted the satin and said, "Please look at this—"
"I would like to look at them myself." Huang Xuan waved his hand, annoyed. Ignoring Zhou Shuming, he moved the corner of his mouth slightly and said, "Rolin, evaluate the prices."
After scanning and comparing the books, Rolin started talking, "The evaluated value of Series on Study: Letters to Hu Peixi by Zhao Zhiqian is 1,5-2 million; the Fourth Volume of Model Calligraphies of the Chunhua Era of the Song Dynasty, 3.5-4.5 million; the Ten Volumes of and One Complement to Wei Suzhou Collections by Wei Yingwu of the Tang Dynasty, Checked and Punctuated by Liu Chenweng of the Song Dynasty, 2-2.5 million. Huang Xuan sniffed again, checked his excitement and said to Zhou Shuming flatly, "Let's move on."
"Confucian Canon during the Spring and Autumn Period of the South Song Dynasty (1127-1279), 1-1.5 million; the handwritten copy of an annotated edition of the Shurangama Sutra, 2-3 million." The handwritten copies of the Song Dynasty block-printed editions had been praised since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). On the one hand, the proofreading was so careful that most of them were best editions; on the other hand since the culture in the Song Dynasty had been prosperous, there were a lot of editions. Therefore, the Song Dynasty best editions had been more expensive. At the millennium, an intact page of the Song Dynasty best edition had cost more than 10,000 silver dollars; a very thin book had cost one house.
On the high-end market, the Song Dynasty best editions enjoyed exceptional advantages yet were not absolutely in the lead, especially in the Republic of China, because although there were a lot of book collection buildings, many rare editions might not cater for modern people. Huang Xuan sipped some tea to cover his elation and said to Zhou Shuming, "The books in these two caskets are OK. However, Boss Zhou, if you have only these few books, you can't have all my grains yet."