May 15, 2003
Sculptor honours Mao
Unlike pop fans yelling at concerts or soccer fans asking stars to sign names on their shirts, Wang Wenhai has chosen a unique way to show his love and respect for the people he admires.
For over 20 years, the 52-year-old staff member at the Yan'an Revolutionary Museum in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province has been making clay sculptures of the late Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976), the founder of New China.
Wang said he has not counted exactly how many sculptures of Chairman Mao he has made, but said: "I am sure that the number is far more than 1,000, each with a different expression and posture.
"I have not sold any one of them. I do it only because I love and admire him deeply."
Some of his best works have been chosen as exhibits in the museum where he works, according to Wang. His work is welcomed not only for the vivid portrayal of Mao in appearance but also in spirit.
People often asked Wang about the secret of his works. Wang replied with only one word: "Devotion."
Wang began to work as a guide at the Yan'an Revolutionary Museum in 1970 after finishing secondary school.
Wang's main task at the time was to introduce Mao Zedong Thought to the visitors.
He chanced upon sculpting when several professors from the Xi'an Academy of Art came to draw pictures and make sculptures to decorate the museum.
Curious and intrigued, he volunteered to work as their assistant and model, during which he learned the basic techniques of sculpture.
The soft and sticky clay comes from the Loess Plateau where Yan'an, the base of the Chinese revolution, is located. The clay, excellent natural material for sculpting, has furnished a popular medium for the local people to knead various objects, Wang said.
When he started to make his own sculptures, the first image which rushed into his mind was Mao Zedong, he said.
"Because of both the era and my work, Mao Zedong became one of the familiar figures in my life."
To get deeper understanding of the late Chairman, Wang hung Mao pictures on all the walls of his home and collected all the relevant books he could find about Mao.
"He is a common but great person. I always try to fuse this kind of feeling into my sculptures," Wang said.
In 1993, to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of Mao Zedong, Wang held an exhibition in the city, to show off about 1,300 sculptures he made. The exhibition echoed the feelings of the local people towards the great leader at that time.
Those sculptures featured Mao at different ages in various poses - waving his hand, sitting, lying, standing, reading books and making a speech, Wang recalled with nostalgia.
Now a decade has passed. Wang's next plan is to make a new series of sculptures that reflect the life of Mao during the Long March (1934-35).
"These hard days should not be forgotten even when our lives nowadays have improved so much," he said.
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