By Chip Tsao | published Jun 17, 2010
No scene looks more surrealistically bizarre than an elegant older lady dressed in a classic Shanghai-style cheongsam, claiming herself to be the granddaughter of the late Sun Yat-sen, founding father of the now overthrown Republic of China, wielding a colossal bronze statue of her grandfather at the gate of the Chinese University, demanding it be erected on campus to show respect for the national hero. I deeply feel sorry for the vice-chancellor, Dr. Lawrence J. Lau, who had hardly finished a mud-flinging fight with his angry students over the erection of the statue of the politically sensitive Goddess of Democracy, only to enter into another battle with a descendant of the most-sacred Dr. Sun over the same issue.
The vice-chancellor feared that the university could fall into some third-rate public gallery of modern Chinese sculptures. That fear is sadly coming true. Following the admission of the statue of our “national father,” there would be little reason to refuse the statue of Joseph Stalin, once revered as the “national grandfather” of communist China in the 1950s, should the local pro-China camp so demand. Once you have the bronze statue of Old Uncle Joe jointly inaugurated by chief executive Donald Tsang and the visiting Premier Wen Jiabao, it would then become more politically correct to also include Chairman Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Kim Il-sung, and Kim Jong-il in the full exhibition of the great international communist family. Isn’t the importance of family the key ideological principle of Confucius, whose bronze statue is also firmly anchored on a hill at New Asia College, grimly glaring down at the valley of Sha Tin?
The Chinese University has been put on a difficult public trial. With a long-renowned department of art, some academics there must know that the Chinese have a deft hand for sculpting the face of Buddha on a tiny grain of rice that could be marveled at under a microscope, but statue-carving can hardly be called an outstanding Chinese craft, compared with the skill of the Greeks and Romans. For those who have forgotten what the former Tiger Balm Garden looked like, take a gander at statues in most Chinese cities, ranging from Beijing, Shanghai and even Taipei, a city which has taken years to demolish hundreds of bronze statues of Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek on the streets.
Calling these works kitsch is an insult to the German word—”metal zombies” or “frozen nightmares” are fairer descriptions. The latest masterpiece to be forced upon the Chinese University is no exception. A gloomy, deep-brown chocolatey Dr. Sun seated like Abraham Lincoln on a pedestal inscribed with slogans—it’s spooky enough to make Christopher Lee from any “Hammer Horror” film look like an angel. Stop Dr. Sun, so that Pol Pot will never follow, which would be as sinister as a statue of a raving, roaring, axe-wielding Jack Nicholson ripping a bedroom door open.
Labels: Politically Incorrect, 陶傑