The story begins in Sotheby’s auction house, where a Chinese statue, belonging to an aristocrat, is put under the hammer. Upon delving deeper, the narrator of the story discovers that the statue was acquired by Sir Alexander Heathcote in the village of Ha Li Chaun, during one of the trips he took into the Chinese country to explore his love for Chinese art, in particular art that belonged to the Ming dynasty. The statue was acquired from an old nondescript craftsman. In reality, the statue had just been shown to Sir Alexander when the craftsman had discovered his interest in Ming dynasty. However, since Chinese traditions dictated that the host must part with anything a guest desires, the craftsman had to part with the statue. Since Sir Alexander himself was an exact man, he repaid the craftsman in full, building for him a nice house in the hills where he could retire.
When Alex carried the statue to Sotheby, he was informed later that the statue was a counterfeit and was only worth a fraction of what he owed his creditors. However, Alex’s stars were aligned, for the base of the statue – something that the old craftsman had put in place for the original statue was without a base – was an artefact that was worth a fortune. The narrator of the story then became the next owner of the statue, buying it for seven hundred and twenty guineas; whereas, the base was auctioned off to another American gentleman for twenty-two thousand guineas.