Story and illustration by Talya Dahan Dunleavy
A friend told me that he had seen a beautiful carved Chinese walnut on TV’s antiques Road show. He was fascinated by it. This sparked my interest and i decided to collect them.
I was always drawn to Chinese culture and history. Sure enough, my lucky day arrived and I became the proud owner of an antique carved Chinese walnut. It now sits happily in my display cabinet and I enjoy it whenever I pass by.
My walnut was carved over a hundred years ago in the last days of the Ching dynasty in china. It was a very different world from ours.
I can imagine the carver sitting on the steps of a tiny workshop, in the middle of a bustling Chinese market. Maybe it was in Peking, a great commercial center. The voices of thousands of people, birds and other animals, mix with the clanking sound of rapid footsteps. The delicious smells make me hungry.
My walnut still has a beautiful faint aroma. It is carved with figures of immortals and flowers. It stands 1.75 tall and wide. The round carved wooden stand matches it perfectly. The walnut is a deep tobacco color. It has a patina of over a century of handling and oxidation. All the sharp edges are gone. They have been smoothed off by the skin of human hands.
Did people carry these in their pockets for good luck? I imagine that they did. Maybe they would rub it while gambling, wishing it would bring them a great fortune.
My walnut is so light, only 12 grams, yet it is so sturdy and durable. It is slightly warm to the touch, not hard as a stone carving would be. The seed is gone from the closed shell, probably by some Chinese ingenuity. My walnut has been in so many interesting places and it wants to tell me stories. I listen.
Someday I might write a book about my walnut’s life.