In 1938, when the Japanese arrived in Huan Hsu's great-great-grandfather Liu's Yangtze River hometown of Xingang, Liu was forced to bury his valuables, including a vast collection of prized antique porcelain, and undertake a decades-long trek that would splinter the family over thousands of miles. Many years and upheavals later, Hsu, raised in Salt Lake City and armed only with curiosity, moves to China to work in his uncle's semiconductor chip business.
In 1938, with the Japanese army approaching from Nanking, Huan Hsu's great-great grandfather, Liu, and his five granddaughters were forced to flee their hometown on the banks of the Yangtze River. But before they left, a hole was dug as deep as a man and as wide as a bedroom, in which was stowed the family heirlooms. Among their antique furniture, jade, and scrolls was Liu's prized porcelain collection, one he had amassed over many years and which contained priceless imperial items.