Speaking of the capital, the most famous site except for the Great Wall and Temple of Heaven is Panjiayuan Market, which is also frequently brought up in novels and TV shows.
In recent years, the collection craze is rising, and a bunch of collectors are still touting on shows. Panjiayuan Market is located on the southeast side of the third ring road of the capital. It used to be the largest flea market around the country, but it is now crowded by tourists and amateurs who dream of making use of the loophole — of course, they are mostly used by the loophole.
However, few people know that there is stone gambling in Panjiayuan Market.
Owners of some antique and jade shops will put several raw jade stones at their door to increase popularity, but only for fun. People should not hope that there is jade in those raw stones because the possibility is even lower than making use of the loophole.
One morning, Dong’s Jade Store has just opened for business. The clerk, Wang, who just graduates from school this year, is wiping the counter with a rag. Then he notices that a woman is standing outside the door and checking on the raw stone.
“Good morning, miss, do you want some jade? Come on inside!” Wang will receive a commission from every jade he sells. This young man who just takes the job is enthusiastic about selling and he is motivated every day at work.
Hearing his words, the woman in a wind coat looks up and smiles kindly at him. The rag in Wang’s hand falls down on the counter — Wang swears on his family ancestors that he has never seen a prettier woman in his 23 years of life.
Looking at the smiling woman, Wang suddenly feels that the acne on his face is so annoying. He is somehow ashamed and doesn’t know what to say.
The woman asks, pointing at the stones piled up on the ground, “Are these for sale?” Her voice is pleasant, like the sound of the wind blowing through groves of bamboo, which also makes others’ hearts itchy.
“Yes! 2000 yuan for each!” Wang comes to himself and nods.
The woman doesn’t try to bargain. She casually picks two stones and asks Wang to pack them up.
Wang should be happy that he sells the stones at a good price. However, he seems to be possessed by ghosts today and says, “2000 yuan is the price that can be bargained with. Since you’re so straightforward, I’ll just take 1500 yuan for each stone.” He then feels that he just shows his intention too obviously, so he adds, “This is a discount price. You’re very welcomed to come at any time.”
The woman doesn’t seem to notice Wang’s embarrassment. She pays 3000 yuan for the two stones as he says.
Wang takes over the stack of cash and smells the fragrance on them — is it her perfume? The fragrance is simple and elegant, so the perfume must be expensive. A beautiful woman like her certainly deserves all the best things in the world.
The woman doesn’t leave immediately after paying for the raw stones. She walks into the store and starts checking on the jade wares in the glass counter.
Dong’s Jade Store is not big. Except for several pieces of “treasures of the store”, all the other jade wares are cheap ones bought from the countryside by the shop owner. There are also some fake antique jade wares, as well as worthless jade pendants produced by factories — Wang is aware that the owner likes silly upstarts because he can make the most money from them.
“This, this, and this. Pack them up for me.” The woman sweeps her finger on the glass counter and chooses three jade pendants in a simple style.
Wang takes a closer look at the pendants she chooses, and he suddenly wakes up from the daze — all of the three jade pendants are the authentic ones Mr. Dong personally bought back, though they are not in such nice qualities and the prices are not so high.
No matter what, they are real antiques!
Wang feels that he is starting to sweat. He will not receive any commission by selling these three pieces, and he may lose all the bonus for months. However, how can he tell this woman about such nasty facts?
The woman seems to notice Wang’s tension. She laughs, “You will be scolded by the owner if I just pick the authentic ones, right?”
So she is not just lucky?
Before Wang says anything in reply, the woman points to two rings and says, “Pack these two up too. You’ll at least be safe.”
These two rings are made of cheap offcuts. The owner bought them back from jade processing factories. He sells them at the price of authentic jade rings, which is very profitable.
Wang is embarrassed, but the woman appears to see through him, “You’re just a worker here. I won’t put you in the pickle. Just wrap them up.”
Her words warm Wang’s heart. He shows his gratitude in actions and packs the five pieces she picks with the fanciest gift box in the store.
“The total price is 26,180 yuan, thank you so much. I’ll just take 26,000 yuan.” Wang takes over the card of the woman and handles the payment quickly.
“Miss, do you need me to call a taxi for you?” Seeing that the beautiful woman doesn’t drive a car here, Wang is worried that she may not be able to carry the heavy stones back.
Wang doesn’t realize that he is considerate today. He appreciates her so much that he doesn’t want her to do the heavy work.
The woman thinks for a while and says yes to Wang — he offers to call a taxi for her out of kindness. It’ll be impolite to turn him down.
Wang runs out to call a taxi, and the woman walks out of the store. Since there is no one in there, she feels that it’s best to avoid arousing suspicion.
A hunched old lady is wandering on the street. She notices that the beautiful woman standing at the door of Dong’s Jade Store is wearing fancy clothes, so she fixes her eyes on the woman.
“Miss, can you have a look at this?” The old lady says. She takes out a cloth bag with her trembling hands and opens it.
The woman wants to say no. But the old lady’s hair is gray, and she is wearing a thin jacket on such a cold day. Her back is hunched, and her lips are blue due to the coldness. The woman can’t say no to the old lady.
The woman looks down into the cloth bag. A phoenix hairpin decorated by pearls is lying there. The pearls are shiny and the hairpin seems to be made of silver. Its style is rare because the phoenix has two heads… What is wrong with it?
When the woman is thinking about this, the old lady says with tears in her eyes, “This is my family heirloom… I will never sell it if my husband isn’t going to need the money for surgery…”
People with common sense know that in Panjiayuan Market, you should never believe in stories — everyone in the stories is a tragedy. But if you buy the stories and take home a bunch of “antiques” produced last year, you shall become the most tragic one.
The phoenix hairpin looks weird because it is so new — it is obviously newly made.
The old lady stares at the woman in front of her nervously. She grips the hairpin harder. She has been to several stores this morning. Politer owners said that “I can’t decide”, and the impolite ones scolded her and called her a damn fraud.
The old lady certainly knows about the phoenix hairpin. Still, she can’t understand why everyone says it is a fake when it’s really her family heirloom. If it’s not for her ill husband, she won’t have the courage to keep trying to sell it.
Will this beautiful woman buy it?
The woman checks on the phoenix hairpin carefully, and she looks tempted. Meanwhile, Wang has called a taxi for her and hurried back soaked in sweat — it occurs to him when he is calling the taxi that he has left the store unguarded, so he runs back in a rush.
Seeing that the woman is still at the door, Wang breathes a sigh of relief. Then he thinks that his thoughts are too dark. How can a decent woman like her be a shoplifter?
Wang notices the old lady in rags. He starts to frown after knowing the situation. He has seen a lot since he began to work here several months ago, and he is tired of stories that the sellers’ family member is waiting for the money to do kidney or heart transplant surgery. The old lady’s story is nothing different.
However, the first rule in the world of antiques is that you never say it out loud the authenticity of items when others are doing business.
Since it’s inappropriate for Wang to say anything about the hairpin, he says to the woman, “Miss, your taxi is waiting.” His words are kind of a reminder, and he is thinking that the old lady may be upset. But the old lady seems not to understand his implication and only looks at the woman with hope.
“Lady, how much is the phoenix hairpin?” The woman finally asks for the price.
Her voice is beautiful as usual. Wang is secretly anxious. As long as you ask about the price, the fraud can always trick you into buying these so-call antiques.
The old lady is still frightened by those impolite store owners. Her face becomes red because she is not sure how much she should offer so that the woman will buy the hairpin.
The woman notices the embarrassment of the old lady. She asks with a smile, “How much does your husband need for the surgery?”
Wang is astonished. The old lady fails to understand the question, and she is surprised, glad and worried after the woman repeats her question.
“50,000 yuan…” The old lady regrets saying this. If the price scares the only possible buyer away, how can she ever pool enough money for the surgery?
The woman has no objection to the price. Soon, she withdraws the money from the bank and buys the hairpin. The woman then personally calls a taxi for the old lady in case she may be robbed.
She has closed the deal so fast that Wang here is still in a daze.
Wang comes to himself after the woman gets on the taxi with the raw stones and leaves. The woman certainly has sharp eyes, for she can pick the authentic jade out of a pile of fake ones. How come she can’t figure out the authenticity of the hairpin?
Wang is not sure whether it is fake or not. No matter what, the woman is kind-hearted — if the hairpin is a fake, she must sympathize with the old lady. If it is authentic, the price she pays is much higher than it may worth.
Thinking of the fact that the woman insisted to buy two rings when she clearly knew that they were fake, Wang feels itchy on his nose — she is such a nice person in the dark time. Maybe the world isn’t too bad, right?