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What is your critical appreciation of Jeffrey Archer's "The Chinese Statue"?

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"The Chinese Statue," by Jeffrey Archer, is about the British perception of China (and the East in general) as an exotic place—a place of exotic tastes and exotic art. It is also about the British love for this exoticism and the love and importance of tradition. To convey this love, Archer not only highlights the adoration of the people for the Chinese statue but also conveys the beauty of the statue as a work of art. The story has two settings: a modern auction house in England and a village in China in 1871.

When a British man, Sir Heathcote, brings the statue to London, he ensures that the statue will be passed down to the first-born male children born to future generations in his family. This appears to be linked to the significance of tradition in China and the importance of male inheritance. The tradition continues for years, and everyone who inherits the statue values its beauty. They also value the tradition itself, and they feel honored to be a part of it. This continues in the family for years, until a man named Alex inherits the statue. Alex is selfish and lazy and has accrued a significant amount of gambling debt. Alex decides to sell the statue to pay off his gambling debts, thereby breaking the tradition and invalidating the statue's true worth as a work of art. The tradition of passing on the statue means nothing to him—he sees it only as a means to get himself out of trouble and improve his financial situation. Art and beauty mean nothing to him, either. In contrasting the values of Alex with those of the others, Archer also contrasts beauty and purpose with selfishness and greed.

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Write a critical analysis of "The Chinese Statue" by Jeffrey Archer.

Archer's story contains a story within a story. In the framing story, an art collector reads in the Sotheby's catalogue that a Chinese statue is coming up for auction, “the property of a gentleman.” This piques the first-person narrator's curiosity. He knows such anonymity protects the reputation of financially distressed aristocrats, but he nevertheless wants to know the history of the statue.

This leads to the story within the story, which the narrator relates very simply: the statue was obtained by a Sir Alexander Heathcote, a diplomat who served the queen and was sent to China in the nineteenth century.

The story is written in a simple, accessible, unembellished style. It offers a dry twist at the end, in which the base that was almost indifferently attached to the statue ends up being worth far more than the statue itself, which is revealed as a copy of a more famous piece.

The story is an example of colonial literature that "orientalizes" the Chinese. The concept of "orientalism," first presented by Edward Said in his groundbreaking book of the same name, asserts that countries in the West, especially Great Britain and France, created the false idea of "the Orient," a vast, mysterious, exotic, and feminized area comprising many cultures from Egypt to China. "Orientals" as a whole were depicted as childlike and inferior to Europeans and in need of their guidance.

True to form, the story both exoticizes—emphasizes the differences between the Chinese culture, with the Queen's imperial court filled with beautiful works of jade and run by silent and mysterious Mandarins, and England—and emphasizes European superiority: Sir Alexander is very tall, six foot three, and quite dignified, a sharp contrast to the short, pigtailed, toothless, scurrying, and "blue" Chinese artist with whom he interacts. In contrast to the reality of the British imperial presence in China, which essentially ruthlessly looted the country, Sir Alexander is shown as generous and munificent, rewarding the gift of the statue with a beautiful house for the artist.

The story is thus a fantasia told entirely from a Western point of view. Nevertheless, it is spare, well-paced, and entertaining.

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