I’m a small album of images
Colorful landscapes in black and white
Brushed as the emperor’s plaything
And how he loved to play

My maker despised arranging his talents
At scales amusing children and rulers
Yet emperors suffer nothing second rate
And your family and village and ancestors will suffer

My painter added all the colors of ink
Smooth braveries of brush
Created me in a style of centuries past
A master far greater than mine
Though the emperor thought them equal
And an emperor is always correct

I lived long crammed in a sandalwood box
Looked at by no one but himself
Meaning no one

Don’t know how I survived wars and floods
I have been bought and sold and bartered
Enjoyed and forgotten and discarded
Now set to be sold again

But the experts of the auction
Who once declared me an imperial masterpiece
Now call me a recent forgery;
Good to know
Had not imagined they can paint this well

It’s still true those who know least
Feel most certain that they’re right
I am what was
Not what they say
I can be read like a book
But you have to know the letters