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
"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
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.
(China Daily May 15, 2003)