Chapter 9 - Artifact Reading Inspector

Chapter 9: Ma Won’s Ume Flower Seowon (educational institute of Confucianism) (1)

In an unnamed tomb in China, about a dozen people were walking around. One of them took photos

while another carefully copied the footprints left on the floor

The leader Yang Chuin, manager of the Chinese National Culture Bureau’s Artifact Management

team, sighed. He was in his forties.

“It’s happened so many times…”

China was the country where grave robbing happened the most. Even though all the important

artifacts of the former empire were in the National Palace Museum in Taiwan (When Generalissimo

Chiang Kai-shek lost the Chinese Civil War and ran to Taiwan, he took all artifacts of the empire with

him. In total, he took about 700,000 artifacts.), an enormous number of artifacts were still owned by

civilians. It was also estimated that there were a lot of artifacts still buried in the ground.

Of course, the Middle East also had lots of artifacts waiting to be excavated but going there was

dangerous because of the terrorists. So, maybe it was natural that many grave robbers came to


The problem was that Yang could not entirely stop the illegal excavations. He couldn’t focus all his

personnel on stopping the activity, so they could only end up cleaning after the robbing was done.

“They dug straight to the place where the artifacts were buried. It was a clear job and didn’t leave any

trace. I think it’s him.”

Yang Chuin looked at Zeou Shuin while he reported with sparkling eyes.

“Then, I guess the artifacts will not be exported.”

It was the guy who had been giving Yang a severe headache for decades. He didn’t know his name or

where he was from, but the guy had been robbing dozens of tombs using the same method.

However, it was strange that he sold some of the artifacts abroad since, most of the time, he always

sold the stolen artifacts in the Chinese black market. He would always get away with it after taking the


Some of them were secretly delivered to powerful people and gangs, so Yang could do nothing about


In a way, that relieved him. However, he couldn’t let that keep happening.

“But I found something strange.”

Zeou Shuin, while wearing a white glove made of cotton, gave Yang Chuin a black box.

“What is this?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen this design before.”

Zeou Shuin had studied archeology at Beijing University. Although he was still young and

inexperienced, he was smart. So, if he had never seen the design, it meant that it was really rare.

Yang took out a white cotton glove from his pocket and then took the box from Zeou. Next, he studied

it closely from the bottom to the top.

“Hmm… it seems to be made of wood… but I can’t even guess what kind of glaze was used. It also

hasn’t rotted in a 400-year-old tomb. This pattern is also new to me… what is it? And why did he not

take this? Wait, where did you find it?”

“It was lying on the floor.”

“Then, there must have been something inside, right?”

“I think so, probably.”

“Hmm… I don’t think we can appraise it. Take it to the Appraisal Committee. There must be someone

who knows about this in there.”

“Then, the thing that was inside…”

“We must know what this box is to find out what was inside! Check the black markets as well. There

might be something like this. But I have a feeling that he hasn’t sold this in the black market.”

Zeou Shuin thought it was strange for Yang Chuin to say something so unscientific, as he normally

relied on scientific investigations.

“A feeling?”

“Yes, I think it is not for sale.”

Zeou Shuin couldn’t understand him, but he put his curiosity aside and carefully wrapped the box. He

was thinking about the date he would have with his girlfriend when he was finished.

Eunhae moved to Insadong with her driver. When she drove herself, she rode a Porsche Macan and

looked sexy. Now, while sitting in the back seat of a BMW7, she looked reserved and noble.

“Do you come here often?”

“I used to, but I haven’t been here for a while.”

“Hmm… I don’t know when you used to come here, but this place has changed a lot. It got a little

brighter since foreigner tourists started to visit. I liked the way it was before, but it is also a way for a

better living, so I just accept that.”

Eunhae got off in front of Insadong. She took Haejin and stopped in front of a normal shop that was

located among the many shops. Anyone could pass through there.


“This looks more like a souvenir shop than an antique shop.”

“I thought so at first. However, the owner of this place came to my gallery and showed me a photo. He

said I should come here if I was interested.”

“Let’s go in first.”

While going in, the dusty smell of antiques reached Haejin’s nose. He used to hate the smell, but now,

it made him feel comfortable as if he had come home.


The man who emerged from the inside was in his forties. He was wearing a modernized hanbok and

had a mustache. He looked like a professional.

Of course, Haejin didn’t judge a person’s ability from his appearance. The artifact would tell him

whether he was the real deal.

“Hello. I am Lim Eunhae, owner of Saeyeon Gallery.”

“Oh! You came for the thing. Then he is…”

The man smiled as if he knew that she would arrive.

“This is my personal appraiser.”

“You are very young for an appraiser. You also look good. Hahaha!”

Normally, antique appraisers were old. The better they were, the older they were. It was because

accurate appraising required knowledge from a lot of experience.

So, Haejin found the man even more suspicious when seeing that he was glad that the appraiser was


A person with a real artifact would doubt Haejin, wouldn’t he? If you took out a real artifact and some

young fraud said it’s fake, the deal wouldn’t be done.

“May we see it first?”

“It’s inside. Please, come this way.”

He opened a small door that led deeper inside the shop, there was a large space behind it. The man

went in and motioned them to follow.

Inside the door, there were many artifacts. They were clearly different from the souvenirs displayed in

the outer part of the shop. Some of them were worthy enough to catch Haejin’s attention.

The man stopped in front of a table in the middle. Next, he carefully took out a painting from behind.

“Do you know what this is?”

He glanced at Haejin while asking. He meant ‘Are you good enough to recognize this?’. He was trying

to find out how good Haejin was.

It was an oriental landscape painting. There was a garden that looked down on a waterfall and a guy

who was sitting there, relaxed. Over the man, there was a large ume flower tree. It was quite


“Isn’t it a painting of Ma Won?”

Ma Won was a Chinese artist who lived in the Southern Song period. He greatly had an effect on

landscape painting in China.

“Hoo… then you recognize this painting?”

“It’s Ume Flower Seowon.”

“You are good enough to accompany the director of Saeyeon Gallery. You’re right. This is Ma Won’s

Ume Flower Seowon. Bringing it from China was not easy.”

Eunhae glanced at Haejin after asking, “You know it shouldn’t be a stolen good, right?”

If Eunhae were to keep it to herself for enjoyment, it would not be a problem. However, if she

exhibited a stolen artifact in her gallery, she would be humiliated and might even be summoned by the


“Of course. Its former owner was a Chinese named Wang Gwang. He made a business deal and lost

a lot of money. The Triad, a Chinese gang, took many of his artifacts to recover the money they had

invested. Legally, of course. That was more than 20 years ago. You can check it if you doubt me.”

His claim was so confident that Haejin thought that he was telling the truth.

“I’ve already checked that.”

Just as Haejin had thought, Eunhae had tried to find out the whereabouts of the painting when the

man left after giving her the photo.

“You see? No one knew where this was for the past 20 years. Now, it’s here.”

“How did you get it?”

“A while ago, the owner of the painting came to Korea. Luckily, he and I are close friends. He wants

me to sell this painting at a good price”

Haejin chimed in, “Why does he want to sell it here instead of selling it in China?”

“Because he is Korean.”


“More accurately, he is Korean Chinese. He is a middle boss in the Triad, but he is also a Korean with

Korean citizenship. He came to Korea because he was in great danger. Now, he wants to settle down

in Korea. He thinks that this painting could fund his stay.”

“Does that prove that it is not a stolen good?”

“Hhhh… of course not.”

He smiled and showed them a piece of paper he had prepared in advance.

“This is a certificate that proves that this painting was been given by a Chinese who used to own it. Of

course, he was the boss of the Triad. Well? I think this deal is legal enough.”

Haejin could see the greed in Eunhae’s eyes. An artifact like this would certainly draw attention in the

upcoming exhibition.

“What is the price?”

“Five billion, no discount.”

Eunhae looked surprised, but soon she nodded. If it was real, it was worth at least that. No, if she

could buy it with five billion, she would be buying it cheap.

“In check?”

Haejin interrupted to sound him out. He smiled and shook his head.

“Oh, you know how it works. A check would leave traces. The owner of this painting doesn’t want to

leave any traces. He wants to stay low.”

Eunhae looked at Haejin. Her eyes said that everything was up to Haejin now.

“Then, I will take a closer look. May I turn on the lights?”

“Of course.”

While he could use magic, he was worried about losing control of his legs and embarrassing himself.

Therefore, he preferred not to use it.


Haejin had seen Ma Won’s paintings many times with his father. He knew well how a seal should look

and also knew his style. Because of that, he thought a crude forgery wouldn’t fool him.

However… looking at it, he couldn’t find anything that told him it was a fake. The touch of the brush

was delicate but elegant. The seal was perfect.

As for the paper, making fake paper was possible, so he couldn’t tell if it was fake by examining the

texture of the paper, dust or dirt.

Then, he needed tools for a detailed analysis… but, judging from the guy’s confidence, he probably

wouldn’t find out the truth even if he used proper tools.

“Can I get a cup of water, please?”

“You are thirsty? You must be careful.”

He brought the water and put it far away. It meant that Haejin shouldn’t drink near the painting, he

could understand that.

Haejin pretended to drink the water and dipped his index finger into the cup. Then, he drew the spell’s

pattern on the table, as if it meant nothing.

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