Lao Tse Chong, Feng Shui master to celebrity and wealth, puffed as he climbed the stairs. Ever the true master of his craft and insistent that he must examine every space in the house. In the midst of my great-grandfather’s ephemera, Lao Tse stopped, bolt upright, a look of surprise, then shock, quickly followed by delight. His eye’s sparkling despite the dim light provided by the single electric globe lighting the unlined attic room.
Atop an old steamer trunk a small carved box. On its surface Chinese characters and symbols, meaning nothing to me but clearly important to him.
“May I..,” he asked as he reached out examine the intricately carved box.
“Oh that old thing,” I replied. “It rattles like there is something inside. I have tried to open it since I was a child, and it is impossible. Just let me tell you.”
“This is a very auspicious article, certainly imperial,” he replied.
“Really… do you think it may have treasure inside?” I asked my heart beating faster.
“Do you mind if I try to open it?” He said. “Then we will both know the answer to that question.”
“Please, be my guest.” I replied.
He took the box in his hands and as though stroking his favourite cat, his hands caressed the surface. Octagonal in shape, he lifted it close to his eyes and inspected every minute element. Finally, he pressed in at the top and at the same time pressed one of the raised symbols, a dragon, a symbol of the emperor in the centre.
Click it sprung open with the lid spreading like the petals of a lotus to reveal a box comprising rows of tiny compartments.
“Ah…” said Lao Tse “a miniature Cabinet of curiosities.”
“A what?” I asked.
“It was most likely a gift for a young emperor, a gift to amuse and intrigue. It will have been given to test the mind and keep the spirits high. Let, me show you. Here, is a topaz to represent the Fire, a fan represent the movement of air, Wind. A tiny pottery talisman to represent Earth and finally, a bowl with a stream painted on the surface to represent Water.
“What are the other items in other sections?” I asked eager to find if there were any jewels inside.
Lao Tse reached inside and the next item revealed was a small box, inside a rather dried out Scorpion. Lao Tse carefully removed it from its box and held it in his fingers, however, the sharp sting of the Scorpion pierced his skin and he grabbed his throat, a look of horror on his face and dropped dead in that instant.