The Tale of the Chinese Trunk

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July 24, 2015 by biblionna

2008 was a big year for me. I moved to Washington, DC and I traveled to my first foreign country besides Canada. Three friends and I went to China for a month, and it was a fantastic experience. I came home with so many memories, pictures, and of course, souvenirs. Maybe the craziest souvenir is my Chinese trunk.


I bought it at an antique store in Shanghai that was recommended in Fodors (I think) for about $250. It’s important to go to a reputable store because in China you must provide a receipt to customs saying that you bought your antique item legally and that it is allowed to leave the country. My friends thought I was nuts, but I was determined to get something special. I’ve never had it looked at by a professional to see what it’s actually worth. The antique store didn’t have anything written in English about it, and I didn’t get any paperwork with it except for my official receipts, which I think I’ve lost. But I feel like I paid a pretty fair price for it, considering how big and sturdy it is. The only similar piece I’ve been able to find online is this (I admit  my google search was cursory though). I wonder if I have a half of one of these.

But the real story is how I got it back to the states.

The trunk got delivered to our Shanghai apartment a couple of days before we were scheduled to leave. I don’t know who thought of the idea to claim it as luggage instead of having it shipped, but that’s what I did. I covered the trunk up in a cheap quilt, and then I wrapped it with packing tape.  When we got to the airport, no one really questioned me. In fact, I think they are used to people sending strange items on planes there, because they had a special contraption that was like a giant saran wrap machine. I put the trunk on its side on top of the machine, and it wrapped the whole thing tightly in plastic. Then I paid the oversize luggage fee ($50 at the time) and since it was my second free bag, that was it! When we landed in the US, the customs agent thought it was a little weird, but they didn’t make me unwrap it, which kind of surprised me. I mean, I could have smuggled a child in there!

The trunk was no worse for wear after its ordeal, and I can’t believe how much I saved by sending it as personal luggage. It has been my faithful tv stand ever since and I love how much character it gives the room, especially since the rest of my furniture is from Ikea (I know, I know, but I was young and had never been shopping at an Ikea before, so I went a little crazy).


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Abi - librarian, artist, interior design padawan, nerd (obviously). Let's boldly go.

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