whose heritage?

heirloom
Heritage
means something that is handed down from the past: as a tradition, a national heritage of honor, pride, and courage; something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth; ; something reserved for one: the heritage of the righteous; something that has been or may be inherited by legal descent or succession. any property, especially land, that devolves by right of inheritance.

It is no coincidence that I recently came across a small heritage through a relative. The items are not exactly that old. The original owners lived around the time when the formation of the Republic of China as a constitutional republic put an end to 4,000 years of Imperial rule. The Qing dynasty, (also known as the Manchu dynasty), ruled from 1644–1912. I brought some of them back to the heirs who have confirmed that they are not selling. The above photo shows two Chinese Swatow (Shantou) Pewter Tea Caddy Containers (possibly a hundred or less years old), a Vintage Chinese Hand-carved Cork Art and a collection of modern poetry published in 1987 included because they were found together.

According to China Daily, Shantou people “drink more tea than anyone else in China. Shantou became a city significant in 19th-century Chinese history as one of the treaty trading ports established for Western trade and contact, sited both American and British Consulates. Today the historic quarter of Shantou features both Western and Chinese architecture. Online source states that about 2% of the population belongs to an ‘organized’ religion, with 40,000 Protestants, 20,000 Catholics and 500 Muslims.

What are the real values of heirlooms? No one can place any intrinsic value on any item except the heir herself/himself. In this case, I have checked the websites of some auction houses and found varying values have been cited on similar items. But the final word is from the heirs and they say, “No, we intend to just keep them.”

I try reading up the history of those who fled the strategic trading and battle port occupied by the Japanese army during 1939-1945 and moved to the rest of the world. I cannot imagine how they could have carried and preserved heavy tea canisters and other intricate sets of silver and beautiful fragile bone China tea sets which I have also found in that house.

There are many things we do not understand about the generations before us. I cannot understand their values and priorities. Perhaps I am too engrossed in the modern technology-savvy world in which we give high value to anything close to ‘weightlessness’. We grumble about a laptop weighing 3lbs and above. On the other hand, we do not mind going to the gym to lift heavy metal to get our muscles in tune.

Well, here are some realistic observations from a book I am reading, by a futurist.
“…For example, today’s high school students have a hard time understanding why Columbus risked life and limb to find a shorter trade route to the spices of the East. Why couldn’t he simply go to the supermarket, they ask, and get some oregano? But in the days of Columbus, spices and herbs were extremely expensive. They were prized because they could mask the taste of rotting food, since there were no refrigerators in those days. At times, even kings and emperors had to eat rotten food at dinner. There were no refrigerated cars, containers, or ships to carry spices across the oceans.) That is why these commodities were so valuable that Columbus gambled his life to get them, although today they are sold for pennies…”

Yet, on the other hand, the futurist admitted this, “…The point is: whenever there is a conflict between modern technology and the desires of our primitive ancestors, these primitive desires win each time. That’s the Cave Man Principle.” ”
― Michio Kaku, Physics Of The Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny And Our Daily Lives By The Year 2100

Agree. I would rather take a cup of hot tea with a spot of fresh milk than staring at the cold laptop in the cold, unheated cave. You know, the value of a laptop easily depreciates to zero within a couple of years. But a tea canister appreciates its value with decades/centuries and is still going strong.

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