Chapter 161 – Seeing the Light Again (4)
“Glass? Is it really glass?” It was the excited voice of an old man.
Haejin then looked toward the direction of the voice, and it turned out to be Professor Jeong Cheonman, from Korea University’s archaeology department, who was taking part in this excavation.
When the Cultural Heritage Administration saw the gold bracelet Byeongguk had found, it excited the professors and researchers of the best university in Korea as it could be the tomb of a king.
Of course, the help of young university students was also needed to excavate such a tomb.
As the leader of the excavation, Haejin needed more people, and the students were going to learn a lot by participating in such a project.
“I think it is glass,” Haejin replied as he carefully removed the dirt with a brush. Although it was dim after being buried for so long, the transparent jade-color object was clearly a water vase made of glass.
“Oh…” Cheonman’s voice was shaking with thrill.
“Glass? Why is everybody so excited about glass?” Byeongguk asked about what was going on. Although he had lived as a grave robber his entire life, he only knew how to steal. Appreciating the true value of artifacts was something he couldn’t do.
That was why he used to ask Haejin or his father to appraise for him.
“Glass was very rare during the Three Kingdoms period. Glass vase is mostly found in the tombs of kings,” Haejin explained.
“Yes. If this is here, this tomb probably belongs to a king.”
Shinra Glass objects were normally found in huge tombs belonging to a king.
It was something that only particular people could own, like a golden belt and a golden crown. It means the political and social status of the dead was very high.
“Wow… first the gold bracelet, and now this glass bottle. We might be able to excavate a huge tomb that will be recorded in history books.”
“Probably,” As Haejin replied while digging with a small shovel, someone came next to him and helped.
It was Cheonman. He had been at the back a minute ago, but now he was right next to Haejin.
“Your pants will get dirty. Why don’t you wait there?” Haejin said.
However, Cheonman didn’t mind getting dirty. He leaned down and started to dig after saying, “I can’t stay still… I am too excited, haha…”
He looked even more excited than his students. Anyway, after an hour of digging, they were able to lift the bottle from the ground.
“Oh… it is remarkable,” Cheonman exclaimed. The bottle in Haejin’s hands was still in perfect shape. It had a mysterious hue that absorbed the light around it.
“This is similar to a Greek Oinochoe.”
Oinochoe was a type of jug that was made in Greece. Basically, it is a kettle for the wine.
Its body is usually in a spherical or cylindrical shape, and it has one curved handle. Its body would sometime look like the human body.
It was usually used to pour the wine. There were also various types of them, some had red figures, black figures and geographical patterns until the end of Greek pottery.
In the later days, its shape and decoration had even more variety. For example, its body shapes became extremely long.
Ancient Greek vases were called differently according to the shape, like oinochoe, krater, amphora, and hydria.
Cheonman, surprised, said, “Oho… you know that? I heard you are the director of an art museum… but you seem to know a lot.”
It looked like Cheonman hadn’t heard about Haejin yet.
“I am not the director of Park Haejin Art Museum. I work as a restorer,” Haejin replied.
“Haha… you let a businessman manage your museum and you do the restoring? That is very unusual. Anyway, nice to meet you. Now that I think about it, I haven’t introduced myself. I am Jeong Cheonman of Korea University’s archaeology department.”
“I am Park Haejin. I work as an appraiser and restorer. And this is senior researcher Choi Byeongguk of my museum, he is the one who found this tomb.”
“I am Choi Byeongguk,” Byeongguk enjoyed being introduced with that title. He then put a serious expression on his face, which Haejin had never seen before, and offered to shake Cheonman’s hand.
“Nice to meet you. Did you find this tomb? You have done something extremely meaningful,” Cheonman complimented Byeongguk.
“Well, it was nothing…”
While the two talked among themselves, Haejin examined the vase in his hands.
Seeing that, Cheonman asked, “What do you think?”
Haejin answered, “At the time, glass was made mostly in the east of the Mediterranean like Syria, so it must have come to Shinra through the Silk road or by sea. And… it has a trumpet-shaped mouth.”
“When that style was introduced to China, the Chinese called it the Head of Fenghuang Bottle as the shape resembled the head of Fenghuang. You do both appraising and restoring? That is really unusual.”
(Fenghuang is a mythical bird of eastern Asia that is somewhat like a Phoenix.)
Cheonman studied Haejin’s face and asked another question, “How long have you been working as an appraiser?”
“About two years.”
It hadn’t been a year since Haejin started working as an appraiser, but it looked too short, so he just said two years instead. However, it was also way too short.
“Two years? Well, are you in your 30s now?”
“No, I am 28,” Haejin replied.
Cheonman then commented, “28… then two years of career is not that short. You are at an age to learn, but you already own a museum… are your parents rich?”
Usually, people didn’t ask that kind of questions so directly as it could sound rude, but this professor was very straightforward.
“No, I just got lucky,” Haejin answered.
“Is luck enough to explain how you got to own a museum? Well, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to…. but I’m just a little curious.”
His curiosity was understandable. Getting rich so fast, the way Haejin had done, was normally impossible.
“I guess incomprehensible things do happen sometimes,” Haejin replied with a vague answer.
If they had been alone, Haejin could have told him everything that had happened, but as there were many people around them, he didn’t bother to explain.
“Hmm… you are right. I just hope you were born with a silver spoon. It would be a little disappointing if you were not…” Cheonman nodded, but judging from his expression, he was still doubtful.
He said he hoped Haejin was born with a silver spoon. He was probably thinking that Haejin had done something bad to establish his museum.
Haejin didn’t care about what he thought. He just wanted to drop the matter with a smile, but Byeongguk didn’t like it.
“You may not know it well, but he is the best appraiser in this country. People of the world all beg for his help. Americans, Europeans, and even the royals of Arabia,” Byeongguk defended Haejin.
“What? Oh… really?” Cheonman couldn’t fully believe him. Actually, what Byeongguk said did sound a bit like nonsense.
The royals of Arabia begging for help… how could that be real?
Only those who had watched everything would believe it, but as Cheonman had never seen Haejin before, he was probably thinking, ‘where did these frauds come from?’
“That’s enough, uncle. I will send this to the restorations team, so please take photos and clear the site. Uncle, please check the inside.”
They had only taken a few steps into the entrance. As the Japanese had practically destroyed the tomb, from now on, no one could guess which object would show up and where.
Additionally, as the structure of the tomb itself had probably been shaken, an expert had to handle it. Byeongguk was also the best expert they had, so he said, “Let me handle this. You should go and restore that vase…”
As it was in perfect condition, all that had to be done was to remove the dirt on the inside.
The restoration wasn’t going to take more than a week. But then, Cheonman hurried to follow him and yelled, “Wait! Why are you taking it?”
“Why am I taking it? My institution is leading this excavation, so I should take this and restore it,” Haejin replied.
“This is an artifact with extremely important historical value. It is the treasure of this country!” Cheonman yelled again.
Haejin had endured it until now as Cheonman’s questions had some sense in them, but now, he started to get irritated and replied, “Who doesn’t know that? Do you think I am on my way to sell this?”
Cheonman threw a bomb solemnly by saying, “Who knows?”
Now, Haejin couldn’t just let it go as Cheonman was clearly not going to back off easily. Even though the government had given Haejin permission to excavate, convincing him with words was not going to work.
“You just crossed the line. Do you think you can handle the consequences of what you just said?” Haejin asked.
“I am just having a reasonable doubt. Few know better than me how many corrupted archaeologists there are,” Cheonman replied.
As archaeology in Korea practically had a history of theft and grave robbers, Haejin didn’t think Cheonman was completely mad.
Saeyeon Gallery had siphoned a considerable number of Korean artifacts, and there were more galleries and museums like that.
Additionally, as Haejin had appeared so suddenly like a comet that fell from the sky, he admitted that he could be doubted, nevertheless, Cheonman couldn’t accuse him like that in front of so many people, unless he had good evidence.
If he had asked Haejin to let a few of his students help with the restoration of the vase, Haejin wouldn’t have said no… but Cheonman overreacted when seeing a treasure walk away in front of him.
“You are making it hard for us to work together. I will officially ask the government to exclude Korea University from this excavation.”
Cheonman yelled in shock, “Ridiculous! You think the Cultural Heritage Administration would grant that request? Do you think everyone here is a fool?”
Haejin replied, “I don’t, but I don’t think they will refuse my request. Well, I guess you are thinking it will never happen as you know every official from the Cultural Heritage Administration… but I bet they will give me what I want. Sujeong! Go back to Seoul with this. I will come to the museum straight away. Make sure to exclude the students from Korea University from the excavation, okay?”
Haejin handed the vase to Sujeong, who had come with him. She started to load it carefully with her fellow researchers. Cheonman made a fuss to stop it, but the guards of the museum stopped him.
Byeongguk looked bitter. He waved his hand at Haejin, put on his gears, and walked into the tomb.
Haejin went to his car after checking Byeongguk enter the tomb, but Cheonman struggled with the guards and eventually came to him.
“I will tell the minister and reporters about all this! Every Korean will find out how you stole the treasure of the country!” Cheonman yelled.
Haejin wanted to say, ‘be my guest’, but he knew he would pay a lot if he let him do whatever he wanted. Plus, public opinion is tricky. He could become the traitor of the nation in a second.
Haejin then went to Cheonman and said, “I don’t understand. Why are you doing this? The Cultural Heritage Administration gave us the official permission to excavate here. Where is that delusion of yours about me stealing the artifacts excavated coming from?”
Haejin couldn’t understand at all. Cheonman had his reason to have doubts, but this was too much.
This was too weird. Eventually, he snatched Cheonman’s glasses.
“What, what are you doing?”
Instead of answering that question, Haejin used magic to look into the past.