Name: Zhang Wei
Chinese zodiac sign: Dog
Education: I graduated from high school and then began my work as an artist.
Profession: I make and paint traditional Chinese sculptures, like tiger baby dolls (Hutou Wawa) and the Rabbit God (Tu’er Ye). I also like Peking opera and painting facial masks. I started doing this in the 1980s. Before that I made pseudo-antique porcelain. I like making things with my hands and produce art since I was a child, especially making the traditional craftworks.
These days I sell part of my work through the Gift of Hope organization; a company that is founded and managed by disabled artists and that sells the work of disabled artist to foreign clients.
When you are at home, what is your favorite activity? What do you enjoy the most?
Nothing special, I just like reading books. Actually, making painted sculptures is my biggest hobby. I can sit here for a whole day and keep working. Usually, I get up and sit on this chair until midnight. I haven’t been downstairs for a week.
I can paint around 30 tiger baby dolls a day by myself and together with my wife we can paint 50 to 60 dolls. However, painting is just one step of my work. Before that, I have to make models of clay, which takes a lot of time.
I sell finished painted sculptures to middlemen at a wholesale price of 7 or 8 RMB. But the retail price depends on where the shop is and what kind of shop it is. I won’t sell them at a very high price. The middlemen and retailers will mark up the prices and sell for at least 5 times higher than the wholesale price.
These days I sell part of my work through the Gift of Hope organization. They give me a price that is up to 5 times higher than the normal wholesale price.
I also like reading news. Historical and traditional things can interest me, because my work has something to do with that.
Name three of your daily routine activities:
I make painted sculptures, read news on the internet and sometimes pay attention to the stock market. Making painted sculptures is the only thing my wife and I do, nothing else.
What is your favorite food?
Anything will do. Fried food, if I have to name one.
How much money does your family spend on food per day?
I’m not sure of the expense per day, but we spend around 2,000 RMB on food per month.
Where is your hometown? (if not Beijing: do you miss your hometown? if so, what do you miss most?)
I’m an authentic Beijinger. In 1971, I moved to this building from a bungalow not far away from here. When I was a child, there was a city wall standing around this area. But it was torn down during the Cultural Revolution.
This apartment was given to us as a compensation for the demolished bungalow. In those days, the compensation was in the form of a house, they did not give money. In the beginning more than ten people lived in this house, including my aunts and uncles. Now, only my wife, my son and I live here.
What is your most precious childhood memory?
There’s nothing special in my childhood memory. As children we just played around.
What are the three most important things in life for you?
Family is most important to me. It makes no difference to me what kind of food to eat. We can buy almost any food we want nowadays. A harmonious family relationship is the most valuable.
My son is 17 and studies in the Guangqumen High School. He’ll take the college entrance examinations next year. He doesn’t have special ideas for the future now. My son is self-conscious and independent. He studies well and is one of the class leaders. We parents don’t always tell him what to do, because we want him to be independent both in study and in life.
What are, according to you, the values that one needs to live up to in life?
Nothing special. I just think that people shouldn’t complain too much and put all faults on others. We have to adapt to the society and the environment. Complaining is of no use and won’t benefit you at all. Living happily in the world is good enough.
Would you say you are a) happy b) somewhat happy c) somewhat unhappy d) unhappy
I think I’m happy. There’s some inconvenience because of my physical condition, but I cannot do anything about that. However, my family is quite harmonious. That’s enough and that’s all I ask for.
What do you expect will the future bring for you?
Just to live. Leading a normal life is good enough for me. If I have some spare time, or when I retire, I want to make my own work. Not painting for work’s sake but just following my own interests. But currently I’m too busy with work and I don’t have time and energy to do other things.
What is your religion?
Video of the 360 degree panoramic photo
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the below video is on Vimeo; banned in China