Priceless Ming Vase

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Krusty: Why, this rickety ladder in front of this door is the perfect place for this priceless Ming vase. Eh? Eh?
(Bart walks in, knocking the ladder over and smashing the vase.)

Bart: I didn't do it.

The thing that is so priceless (either because it's extremely rare, costs a lot of money, has great sentimental significance, is the product of countless hours of meticulous work that the owner put into it, or all of the above) that it simply must be destroyed. For the sake of comedy, of course.

In a comedic work, any item whose owner goes to great lengths to explain just how valuable and precious it is (particularly if it is pronounced "vahz" in a non-UK production) will be destroyed completely by a bumbling accident-prone neighbor, those three guys with funny hair you hired to put up wall paper, or Ben Stiller.

The person who broke it will often go to great lengths to repair or replace the item before the owner finds out. They will most likely fail and learn a lesson about honesty.

See also Watch the Paint Job, The Precious Precious Car, and Doomed New Clothes. Often overlaps with Ashes to Crashes.

Examples of Priceless Ming Vase include:


Advertising[edit | hide | hide all]

  • One Ernest P. Worrell commercial from the '80s has Ernest practicing for The Price Is Right by pricing various items in his house, and picks up the vase... with predictable results.

Ernest: Ming vase... a steal at two grand. [smash]


Anime & Manga[edit | hide]

  • The whole plot of Ouran High School Host Club centers around Haruhi having broken one of these. Lampshaded with a giant blinking arrow over it the moment it appears on screen.
  • Early in He Is My Master Izumi breaks a vase worth 5,000,000 yen. And that is just the beginning of her increasing debt. She simply break something just about every time she is cleaning up.
  • Played with in Totally Captivated when Ewon breaks a priceless vase given to Mookyul by the mafia boss. When the guys inform him that Mookyul will kill him over it, Ewon proposes gluing it back together since he is good at puzzles. Unsurprisingly the guys tell him to run and hide and never come back. Meanwhile, Mookyul doesn't notice the vase is missing but is rather upset that his favourite Butt Monkey has run away and forcibly brings Ewon back, while Ewon's terrified he intends to kill him. In the end, to emphasize how unnecessary the whole debacle was, Ewon eventually does glue the vase back together and it looks flawless.
  • A common running gag in Shin Chan revolves around Ai Sutome's servant/driver breaking a priceless item in her mansion and Ai using her knowledge of that to get whatever she wants. Best example: The Toilet Thinker!
  • One mission in Naruto had Kiba and Naruto guarding a priceless artisan dish for an ungrateful snarker. Inevitably, it breaks, but guess what? It's not so precious!


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Archie Comics:
    • This happens with Archie almost any time Mr. Lodge buys a precious antique.
    • Subverted Trope when Lodge buys an indestructible copy. Double Subverted when his attempts to get Archie to break it results in the destruction of the real thing.
    • Lampshaded in another story, when told that a certain vase is a Ming by Veronica, Archie goes into a tirade to Jughead on how cliche'd the whole concept is, almost breaking it several times. At the end of the story, Mr. Lodge comes in and says that the vase is not a Ming, and is from a different civilization.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Meet the Parents: The urn carrying De'Niro's mother and the Gazebo Owen Wilson built.
  • Duplex: Ben Stiller's Computer containing his finished novel.
  • Bean: Whistler's Mother. Before he destroys that, he's at the family's house, and two priceless valuables are introduced right after one another. Within a couple minutes, Bean sends the glass swan flying across the room into the painting, destroying them both.
  • This is a Once Per Episode occurrence in Jackie Chan movies. Mocked by The Onion headline "Jackie Chan attacked while carrying World's Most Expensive Wedding Cake.". For example Jackie Chan spends considerable time protecting the pottery treasures of China from damage in Rush Hour.
    • Beautifully averted in Shanghai Knights, however, where a fight between Jackie and several mooks takes place in a room full of these. Originally, the writers were planning to play this trope straight, until they realized that it would be much funnier if the mooks were afraid of breaking the vases because they belonged to their boss. This results in Jackie using them to his advantage by running the mooks ragged trying to keep him from breaking any of them.
  • In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Clouseau smashes a piano.

Butler: But that's a priceless Steinway!
Clouseau: Not anymore.

    • In the 2006 The Pink Panther, Clouseau gets his hand stuck inside a valuable looking vase:

Clouseau: Is this vase of great value?
Larocque: It is a worthless imitation.
[slams the vase on the nearby desk breaking both the vase and the table in the process]
Larocque: [Cringing] But that desk was... priceless.

  • In Flirting with Disaster, Ben Stiller destroys some knick-knack when visiting that neo-Confederate woman.
  • Flushed Away: Roddy accidentally destroys Toad's entire collection of cheap Buckingham Palace gift shop knick-knacks... I mean, priceless royal family memorabilia.
  • In Moonraker, James Bond and the first dragon of the film, Chang, are fighting in a Venice glass museum where they smash just about everything in the exhibition.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indy's father Henry hits him over the head with a vase because Henry thought Indy was a Nazi, and is instantly regretful - because he broke the vase. Turns out the vase was a fake.
    • This was actually intended to be a Call Back to an earlier scene in the film. Originally, while teaching at college, Indy was going to smash a fake Ming vase which a fellow professor thought was the real McCoy. Just as when Henry does it, the evidence of the fraud is the internal cross-section. Together, the scenes illustrate that, despite their rocky relationship, Indy and his father aren't so different after all. The scene in question was deleted in the final edit, but the professor (named "Mulbray") is still listed in the end credits.
  • In The Sandlot, a clueless boy decides to play baseball with his step-dad's autographed Babe Ruth baseball.
  • Appears in Hot Shots! Part Deux, when Topper catches a falling expensive-looking vase during a firefight. In a rundown riverboat in the jungles of not-Iraq.
  • In The Naked Gun Vincent Ludwig shows Lt. Drebin the many rare and valuable items in his apartment, including a rare Japanese fish, a pen given to him by Emperor Hirohito, his collection of vases, and Gainsborough's famous Blue Boy portrait. Naturally they all get destroyed.
  • One of the priceless artifacts stored at the Jade Palace in Kung Fu Panda is the Urn of Whispering Warriors, said to contain all the 5,000 souls of the Tenshu Army. Naturally, when Po arrives at the palace, he ends up breaking it. The end credits shows a palace goose gluing the urn back together, fragment by fragment.
  • In Risky Business, Joel finishes getting the house back in order just seconds before his parents get back home, but still gets in trouble because his mother's beloved crystal vase has a tiny crack in it.
  • In A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas, Harold and Kumar accidentally burn Harold's father-in-law's (played by Danny Trejo) Christmas tree after he tells a story of how important Christmas trees are to him. Harold and Kumar spend the rest of the movie frantically trying to find a replacement.
  • In The Party, while Bakshi (Peter Sellers) is trying to fix a running toilet in a producer's posh home, a painting falls off the wall into the tank. He tries to dry it off with toilet paper, but smears the paint beyond recognition (and never fixes the toilet either).
  • In What a Girl Wants, during Peach & Pear Orwood's coming out party, Henry tells Daphne not to mention the chandelier in front of the father as he will tell you the entire story revolving around it. When Daphne convinces Ian to play some rock music to liven up the party, you can guess what happens.
  • In Trading Places, Eddie Murphy, assuming that the Duke Brothers (more than corrupt corporate types, closer to American Aristocrats Are Evil) are scamming him (they are, ultimately) when they tell him they're giving him a richly furnished town house, tosses a Vase around, accidentally smashing it. The Duke Brothers chuckle good-naturedly, pointing out that even though it was extremely valuable, it was insured for rather more than it was appraised at, so he's technically made them money by breaking it (ha ha, insurance fraud is fun...)

Eddie Valentine: You want me to break anything else?
The Dukes: NO!


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Roald Dahl's The Witches subverts this: a Cool Old Lady accidentally breaks one of her own vases and tells onlookers not to worry because "it's only Ming!".
  • Played for Drama in A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park - though these are priceless celadon vases. Tree-Ear accidentally breaks a vase belonging to Min, the master potter, and must work for him to pay off the vase's value. Later the two vases that were to determine Min's entire career, which Tree-Ear was carrying to Songdo, are broken by bandits out of cruelty.
  • The Paul Jennings short story The Strap-Box Flyer featured a sweet old lady who has a priceless porcelain collection, including a little china dog that she was especially fond of. She decides to put them all up on a shelf she was able to make herself, using a few wood pieces and a tube of Griffin's Great Glue, which bonds any material unbreakably...Unfortunately, Griffin is a fraud who conveniently forgot to tell his customers about the "for a couple of hours" part. Hilarity does not ensue when she takes a nap after happily placing her collection on the shelf, only to be awakened by the crash a while later to find the collection smashed to pieces. Including the little dog.
  • In Gordon Korman's This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall!, Boots, in an attempt to annoy his snobbish new roommate enough to force the headmaster to reunite him with his old roommate Bruno, deliberately used three of said roommate's mint 1886 Queen Victoria Canadian stamps to mail a letter to his mother.
  • Played with in Septimus Heap, where in Darke Larry from Dead Languages translation puts such a vase in front of his easily stuck front door so that people coming in will fall on the vase, break it and have to pay for it.
  • In Farmer Boy, the second book in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, so much description is given to Almonzo's mother's formal parlor—so elaborate her children are not even allowed to set foot in it—that when the children spend a week alone in the house, it's difficult to see Almanzo's throwing a tar brush at his sister and hitting the parlor's brocade-papered wall as anything but inevitable.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Frasier: A mask of the late wife of a neighbour, a blind James Earl Jones', the only thing he has to remember her by. Cue increasingly desperate attempts to replace it without him noticing only for him to reveal at the end that he kept the mold because he's constantly breaking the mask himself due to being blind.
  • Lone Gunmen: the autographed golf bag Langly throws up into.
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody (Subverted)- Early on, there was a Running Gag which involves a vase that was always in danger of being knocked down by Zack and Cody's antics, only to be saved by Mr. Mosby or some other hotel employee. Although it had never been broken, just the idea that it was going to break became the source of the comedy. It actually did break in the final episode of the series.
  • The Brady Bunch: "Mom always said never to play ball in the house." (For those who don't know, they broke a vase playing ball in the house.)
  • The first Dictionary in Blackadder season 3, which has been the work of ten years by Samuel Johnson. Which is promptly set on fire by Baldrick.
    • What Baldrick destroyed then turns out to be Edmund's book, which he has been writing for ten years. Funny that. The dictionary is revealed to be safe. Then Baldrick set that dictionary on fire.
  • The Armstrong and Miller Show has the "Enlightenment with Dennis Lincoln-Park" sketches, in which the title character is repeatedly entrusted with priceless works of art despite being totally accident prone.
  • On Black Books, Bernard and Manny house-sit for a friend and the first thing they do is knock over a vase. It's owner says that it's "the only one left in the world... now". The outtakes on the DVD show a take where Bill Bailey knocked over the vase but then caught it before it hit the ground.
  • Highlander: When Gina and Robert de Valicourt argue in "Till Death":

Robert de Valicourt: Not the Ming vase! Not the Ming-- (crash)

After they make up, Duncan buys them another Ming vase. It ends up broken too, because Methos thinks it's funny.
  • Seinfeld: The cabin. Cherish the cabin.
  • The Golden Girls: The girls have to deal with a recent break-in, and Rose goes out and buys a gun for protection. Late one night she hears someone at the front door—the alarm goes off and a frightened Rose fires the gun... hitting Blanche's priceless vase.

Blanche: You shot my vase!
Sophia: Thank God I hated that thing!
Rose: At least I didn't shoot Lester!
Blanche: I'd rather you shot Lester!

  • Family Matters: moments after Carl Winslow puts the finishing touches on a model clipper ship he built himself, the clumsy, nerdy, lovable Steve Urkel walks in. And then, guess what happens.
    • It gets to the point that Carl just buys all of his furniture in bulk now. But after he shows it to Urkel, the backups all get accidentally destroyed.
  • When The Late Late Show returned to air after New Year's, Craig was able to borrow a pair of "Priceless ming vases on loan from the Getty Museum". Then Secretariat comes out.
  • When Richard Hammond painted and James May sculpted for a "car art" challenge on Top Gear, the former plunged his work by accident to a pond, then crashed the latter's sculpture.
  • The end game for the fourth series premiere of Talkin Bout Your Generation was about "gluing together a ming vase you've smashed before your parents get home"... although Shaun actually did it by pushing each vase off a pedestal, and Gen X's vase barely chipped, so he threw it on the floor.


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • Garfield: Jon once bought a real Ming Vase. Garfield casually reached over and shoved, smashing it to the ground. ('Ming, shming.") Jon had a brief Heroic BSOD followed by a hysterical meltdown, screaming "YOU DUMB ANIMAL! YOU'RE SO STUPID! YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU DID!" Then, once he had left, Garfield privately reflected (in very eloquent language) that he had smashed the vase as a protest against the autocratic tendencies of Imperial China.


Radio[edit | hide]

  • A Bob and Ray skit had newsman Wally Ballou conducting an interview at a glass-fruit factory, and repeatedly dropping and breaking the expensive product. When he assures the outraged owner that "Of course, my employers Bob & Ray will cover this..." we abruptly 'cut back' to Ray: "Ah, thank you, that was Wally Ballou. And no, we won't."


Theatre[edit | hide]


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Super Paper Mario, you can't progress in the game until you have "accidentally" broken a priceless vase on top of a question mark block. You then have to pay a million rubies to make up for it, which the villain who tricked you into breaking the vase never actually expected you to get.
    • It's also something of a subversion, because if you scan it beforehand, Tippi will say it's worth only 100 coins at the most.
  • In the Ace Attorney games, the Fey clan's greatest treasure is the Sacred Urn, said to house the soul of the clan's founder. It gets broken and put back together again at least three times over the course of Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations.
  • In Worms, if you find one in a crate, you can break a Priceless Ming Vase... the pieces of which then blow up. Like everything else in the game.
  • In The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker, Link can break some of these, but if he breaks too many, he has to pay 10 rupees each.
    • A sidequest in The Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks has Link bring an incredibly fragile vessel to Steem so he may decorate his sanctuary. The slightest hit from an enemy attack or reckless actions on the rails will smash it to pieces. Even when Steem has the vessel safe and sound- it isn't. Don't even think about whacking it with a sword.
  • In Colossal Cave/Adventure, one of the cave treasures is a delicate Ming vase. If you put it down, "the vase drops with a delicate crash" and the item is destroyed (leaving worthless fragments behind). One of the game's many puzzles is figuring out how to collect it safely. Drop the soft pillow first, then put the vase on the pillow.
    • In the parody Very Big Cave Adventure, if the Genre Savvy player attempts to do this, the pillow eats the vase and laughs at them.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

Dave: Nice house you have, Iris.
Iris: Thanks! We just got done redecorating and landscaping. Here are the glass cabinets for our collectibles...the priceless vases are family heirlooms...and here's where my husband keeps his collection of extremely fragile mounted insects with...er...
Dave: Sorry. I tend to cause foreshadowing.
Iris: I'm cutting the house tour short before the computer room, okay?

    • And sure enough, before the evening's gaming is over, Dave has opened an interdimensional portal that causes the house to be swarmed by angels. While attempting to fix the microwave.
  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures: Kria has an odd way of showing that she cares for her daughter.
  • Discussed and subverted early in Homestuck, when the SACRED URN of NANNA'S ASHES seems to be introduced as this. John notes the comic inevitability of it tumbling and shattering, but doesn't seem to find it priceless, or concerned with how priceless it may be to his father. As a veteran jokester, Nanna may appreciate the use of her remains for a gag, and when she's later incarnated as a clown spirit she doesn't even mention it.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The Powerpuff Girls :
    • The girl are tasked with protecting The Mayor's priceless super-rare one-of-a-kind porcelain poodle from some crooks, only to drop it and watch it smash to a million pieces as soon as they saved it. Apparently, everyone was fine with it.
    • In another episode, Bubbles can't keep her hands off a Ming vase (the object of the very first crime Mojo Jojo ever committed). Mojo does save the vase before it falls, but when he's zapped by his own laser, it's destroyed anyway. He definitely wasn't fine with it.
  • The Simpsons
    • Subverted in "The Mansion Family". When Homer and family house-sit for Mr. Burns, Homer takes Burns's yacht out and gets hijacked by pirates. Meanwhile the priceless Ming vase Burns keeps on a narrow pedestal is unharmed and his rare coin collection was not spent in the vending machine that's kept right next to it.
    • Homer has also torn and spilled chocolate on the US Bill of Rights while sitting in Archie Bunker's chair, and destroyed the Stonecutter Sacred Parchment by using it as a napkin.
  • The Critic: Parodied in a spoof of Saturday Night Live. "Mr. Sweaty Guy, this is the original copy of the U.S. Constitution. It's been kept dry for two hundred years. I want you to hold it."
  • The Fairly OddParents: Subversion—Timmy's parents got a priceless Ming vase at a garage sale for $1 and insured it for $50,000, so when it got broken, they were not upset. Vicky was, though, because she'd gone to some trouble to get Timmy to break it so the parents would clobber him.
    • Played straight in another episode where, while attempting to find out if the world really has stopped having sound, Timmy causes a domino effect in his living room which destroys a Faberge Egg, a Ming vase, the Venus of Milo and The Holy Grail. With the world being silent, though, his parents are unable to yell at him.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Zig-zagged to hell and back in "Wet Painters": SpongeBob and Patrick are hired to paint Mr. Krabs's knickknack-festooned living room with paint that supposedly never, ever comes out. They manage to paint the entire room (pretty much by accident) without getting paint on anything else. At first it appears that they are off the hook, until SpongeBob notices a tiny, nearly microscopic speck of paint on Krabs' first dollar earned. Trying to wipe it off only spreads the paint all over, and they spend the rest of the episode trying to get it off, then hiding it from Mr. Krabs. Finally, Krabs discovers the painted bill, and licks it clean! Turns out Krabs only told them the paint was unwashable to mess with them, which causes him to laugh so hard he gets spit all over the walls, washing off all of the paint.
  • Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends: Happens in the very first episode, when Mac's mean older brother begins forcing Mac and Bloo to destroy the house by running them into objects. The Ming vase only gets broken at the end of the scene, where Bloo grabs it and smashes it over Terrence's head. Terrence tries to blame them for it, but his mom doesn't believe him.
    • In the episode "Busted", Bloo breaks a bust of Madame Foster while roughhousing. His attempts to fix it just makes things worse.
      • Mr. Herriman finds out about this, and it looks like Bloo is going to be grounded, but then... he laughs, saying that the bust gets knocked over and broken so many times that Mrs. Foster had several dozen copies made, which he keeps in a closet, just in case.
  • Subverted in Jackie Chan Adventures, where Jackie often spends most of his time in Uncle's antique shop saving antiques from breaking after they fall from some place rather unsafe for a rare antique. Not that he lets any hit the ground, this is Jackie Chan...
  • In The Boondocks episode Stinkmeaner Strikes Back, Huey knocks out the possessed Tom with Grandad's ancient lamps and vases which have never been mentioned in either media prior to the moment Huey needed to knock Tom out cold.
  • Family Guy: Subverted; Peter launches himself out of a cannon. Cut to a scene involving a room full of dominos, priceless crockery, and the owner's "newborn haemophiliac baby", with a wide open window. Cue Peter speeding though the air towards the window only to land just outside without harming a thing. He even leans in to comment on the man's "really nice things".
  • Subverted on Jimmy Two Shoes: Jimmy and Beezy accidentally break one of Lucius' vases, causing them to freak out and fear his trademark Disproportionate Retribution. Turns out the vase is one of several that are worthless, Lucius breaks them whenever he gets mad.
  • In an episode of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987, Shredder has an entire room in the Technodrome full of ancient porcelain vases, all stolen because Shredder admires how rare and valuable they are. An alien from another dimension that loves to eat fine china quickly devours them all.
  • The Batman: When Bennett arrives at Wayne Manor and tells Bruce "I met the Batman," Alfred knocks over a vase, then brushes it off with "It's only a Ming."
  • Batman the Animated Series: Strangely, Alfred deliberately smashed a Ming (he had been driven mad by one of The Joker's poisons) and afterward felt ashamed, and was even prepared to accept docked pay from Bruce Wayne as punishment.
  • There is one easily missed moment in "Infinite Realms" of Danny Phantom, where Vlad Masters defeats all Ming warriors so they will lead him to their master. Cue shot of broken vases and this:

Monk: You have dishonored our priceless treasures! We shall never obey you!
Danny: You see what happens when you play ball in the house?


Real Life[edit | hide]