Speaking for Myself: Artist’s Statement
I have no ideology, no “ism.” I’m just a blade of grass on the lawn, a flea that can’t lift up the covers, a mud fish that can’t make a wave. But I clearly feel the blood of five thousand years coursing through my body, the greatness I have inherited. That inheritance can stand strong, can go to battle, can pay for heartfelt ideals with human life.
From Plato’s Republic, to Owen and Saint-Simon’s Utopia, to ancient China’s Hundred Schools of Thought, these great thinkers all devoted their lives to their countries and their people. Whether through reason or expression, each of them represent the sage’s quest to find harmony, happiness, freedom, and equality for all humanity. I most revere Sun Yat-sen, who learned from the West to serve China, who weathered every setback and strove to plant China’s evergreen roots in the forest of the world’s great nations. My respect is unchanging for today’s leaders, who are steering China’s boat through every storm towards boundless seas.
The protective, contradictory, forthright, symmetrical figure of the cross encapsulates the perpendicularity of Western philosophical forms.Each of its doctrines and stories strive to praise justice, science, humanities, and reason.”God” gave Europe a good piece of land. Light dispelled the shadows of the dark ages, let the ugly side of capital be continuously repaired, and lead the simultaneous advancement of the spiritual and the material.Our great agricultural nation and its intellectual achievement naturally produced the taijitu, the map of the universe anchored by the symbol of yin and yang, and which shaped the path of progress in its winding, cyclical, endless way. On occasion the ruler would change his mind about the Hundred Schools of Thought, sending tremors through the country. When the emperor of Japan hungrily eyed our territory, he started to save up, eating one meatless meal a day. Meanwhile, every meal at the Qing court was a 100-dish banquet. They squandered the people’s toil, eating until the entire Beiyang Fleet was annihilated, until China lost all respect and became the “sick man of Asia.”From dynasty to dynasty we followed the route charted by the taijitu, until our arrogant empire came late to the second Industrial Revolution and left us behind the rest of the world.
I don’t have a mansion or a brand-name car. I don’t have the trillionaire’s knack for making money. I certainly don’t have the disposition of the “great masters” to build one palace after another for myself. What I do have flowing through my veins are tenacity, pride, aloofness, and ambition. I despise evil and I worship my heroes. I love and care for the humanities. Along with these I have my narcissism, my radicalism, and the filth of my mind and my body. I seek purity in the Three Teachings of Confucius, Buddha, and the Dao. I am moved to tears by Confucius, Mencius, Laozi, Zhuangzi, by the poet Qu Yuan, and the priest Xuanzang. I am in constant dialogue with Plato, Aristotle, Owen, Saint-Simon, Tolstoy, and Rousseau. For decades I have lived among the farmers, the workers, the students, and the peddlers. They have given me strength, hope, and kindness. They are the ones who truly sustain us!Mao Zedong said it right: “Art serves the workers, the peasants, and the soldiers.” I sing of their joy and sorrow. But it is more important that I move them to recognize their own cultural value, to struggle with them to rejuvenate our national culture.
As we watch our leaders bring us into prosperity, my compatriots understand something much better than I: a nation without a cultural spirit is no nation at all, no matter how much the economy grows. A nation’s economy can be recovered in a few years, but if their culture withers away, it cannot be redeemed even in 100 years. In this era we don’t worry about money or know-how; what we worry about is spirit, a spirit of cultural greatness, a spirit of heroism, a spirit of selfless devotion; what we worry about is this afflicted, incurable generation of artists; how to wipe away this thick dust with the splendor of 1,000 years, and return this vital energy to our children, our lost, lifeless children.