A lifetime of collecting

By Zhao Xu ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-05-16 09:46:14

When asked if he has gone to the Zhengzhou Antique Fair, arguably the biggest in China, Liu Jinhong, 57, who has his own store inside Beijing Antique City, dismisses the idea as "tiring and completely unnecessary".

"Why should I go? They come to me almost every week," he said.It might seem arrogant, but Liu is an expert. There is a pile of books on his counter, on antique silver and embroideries, all penned by him. "Last month, two universities asked if I could give lectures to their students at the archeology department," he said. "And a museum show featuring my collection of court clothes from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) is pending."

"The antique gold and silver that I have amassed over the years weighs in the hundreds of kilos," he says.

Today, nothing about Liu suggests his humble beginnings. "I've always loved antiques and their feeling of age. The attention our ancestors gave to even the minutest details is moving," he says. "Twenty years ago I was working on the trains, which allowed me to travel from city to city. This arrangement served my hobby perfectly, because I took every opportunity to visit the local antique stores and markets."

"In fact, if you ask today, quite a few of us early collectors worked with the railways at one time or another," he says. "Travel made things possible at a time when few Chinese traveled, but it was perseverance, and persistent learning, that finally led me through the door."

Having established connections all over the country means that Wang is able to avoid China's maddening spring-time antique market circuit, where traders and buyers go frenetically from one place to the next, spending the night on trains and the day trawling all the major antique fairs. "Frankly, I miss those days. Exhaustion with excitement-that's what every antique collector must have experienced."

Admiring a gilt silver hair stick from two hundred years ago, Wang says collecting is humbling. "Look at this, isn't it gorgeous?" he says, pointing to the intricate metalwork whose technique has long been lost. "I don't know how long it will take before we can really catch up with our ancestors."


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