Chinese sculptor moulds memory of Mao

Tue Jun 28, 2011 12:53am EDT
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By Maxim Duncan

YAN'AN, China (Reuters Life!) - Sculptor Wang Wenhai has dedicated his life to one man - China's controversial former paramount leader Mao Zedong.

Since Mao's death in 1976, Wang has made well over 2,000 sculptures of the "Great Helmsman," most of them from the soft, red clay dug from the nearby hills. A terracotta army of miniature Maos fills his tiny flat and studio in Yan'an.

Wang, now 60, worked for two decades as a Mao Zedong thought propagator in Yan'an, a gritty north-western Chinese city which the Communist Party made their base for 13 years before taking control of China in 1949.

"Because I used to work as a Mao Zedong thought propagator and spent all day promoting him, I have seen a huge number of .Chairman Mao portraits and file photos," Wang told Reuters.

"Every photo of Mao has left a deep impression in my head. So when I make a Chairman Mao, I don't have to think much, it just comes out through my hands," he said.

Wang first made Mao en masse when he produced 1,300 statues in the years leading up to the late chairman's 100th birthday in 1990. Though production has slowed down since, making the leader's image is still effortless.

Every sculpture is unique, but Wang and his wife, Wang Yanhua, make sure Mao's signature mole is never absent from his chin.

Wang grew up in an era when almost every artist made images of Mao, though many leapt on other subjects when ideological grip weakened after his death.   Continued...

<p>A woman stands at the Mao Zedong's Badge Collection Museum near Weihai, Shandong province June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Carlos Barria</p>