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CHANGING CURRENTS
REFLECTIONS
The MEDIUM, the MESSAGE and the SAUSAGE DOG
CYCLING TO XANADU
THE CHINESE DREAM
CHINESE NEW YEAR ADS
BEYOND THE WALL
ANYONE FOR TENNIS?
VIEWS FROM ABOARD THE CHINA EXPRESS:
1 Zola and Retail Marketing
2 Playing the Waiting Game
3 Beware the Ides of March
4 The county not on a map
5 Chinese Chess in Beijing
6 Build it and They'll Come
7 Riding the Water Dragon
8 The Best of Both Worlds
9 Storming the Great Wall
10 Welcome to the Wangba
11 The Catcher in the Rice
12 The Marriage Business
13 The Crouching Dragon
14 Counting the Numbers
15 A Century of Migration
16 Shooting for the Stars
17 Rise of Yorkshire Puds
18 Harry Potter in Beijing
19 Standing Out in China
20 Self-pandactualisation
21 Strolling on the Moon
22 Tea with the Brothers
23 Animated Guangzhou
24 Trouble on the Farms
25 Christmas in Haerbin
26 Dave pops into Tesco
27 A Breath of Fresh Air
28 The Boys from Brazil
29 Rolls-Royce on a roll
30 The Great Exhibition
31 Spreading the Word
32 On Top of the World
33 Moonlight Madness
34 Beijing's Wild West
35 Avatar vs Confucius
36 Brand Ambassadors
37 Inspiring Adventure
38 China's Sweet Spot
39 Spinning the Wheel
40 Winter Wonderland
41 The End of the Sky
42 Ticket to Ride High
43 Turning the Corner
44 Trouble in Toytown
45 Watch with Mother
46 Red-crowned Alert
47 In a Barbie World
48 Domestic Arrivals
49 Tale of Two Taxis
50 Land of Extremes
51 Of 'Mice' and Men
52 Tour of the South
53 Brooding Clouds?
54 The Nabang Test
55 Guanxi Building
56 Apple Blossoms
57 New Romantics
58 The Rose Seller
59 Rural Shanghai
60 Forbidden Fruit
61 Exotic Flavours
62 Picking up Pace
63 New Year, 2008
64 Shedding Tiers
65 Olympic Prince
66 London Calling
67 A Soulful Song
68 Paradise Lost?
69 Brandopolises
70 Red, red wine
71 Finding Nemo
72 Rogue Dealer
73 Juicy Carrots
74 Bad Air Days
75 Golden Week
76 Master Class
77 Noodle Wars
78 Yes We Can!
79 Mr Blue Sky
80 Keep Riding
81 Wise Words
82 Hair Today
83 Easy Rider
84 Aftershock
85 Bread vans
86 Pick a card
87 The 60th
88 Ox Tales
CHARTS
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2018
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008
2001 to 2007
BIRDS IN CHINA - PHOTOS
BIRDING in CHINA
PORTS of CALL
ABOUT & CONTACT

Master Class 

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From stick characters to this in five easy lessons

Hanli Zheng greeted me with a warm handshake and a beaming smile.  “Good to meet you,” he said, “…come inside and have a bottle of water”.

 

  I had heard great things about Mr Zheng: wonderfully talent artist; distinguished professor of art; gifted teacher; and great with kids. 


  Zhou Zhou, who is five years old, is a big fan of his.  “I love going there [to Mr Zheng’s summer art school], it’s great fun and the teacher is really cool.”  Before her five-lesson crash course in art at Mr Zheng’s, all of Zhou Zhou's paintings contained stick characters with round heads and big smiley faces.  After a dozen or so hours of tuition from Mr Zheng and his wife, Ms Wei, she’s gone from matchstick men to the attached Van Goghesque masterpiece.


  The burning question I had to ask was: Why does someone whose work now commands five figure reserve prices in European auction houses teach art to small groups of five to eleven year olds in his summer school in Beidaihe, a small town in Hebei province?


  Mr Zheng’s face lit up.  “Why?!” he beamed.  “It’s because I just love to teach children.  They are so open to doing new things”.


  And how does teaching small children compare with teaching young adults?


  “I can be absolutely straight with the young ones… I can tell them what I think in a direct way, without needing to dress up the words.”


  Mr Zheng’s love of children is apparent in his sensitive depiction of them in some of his paintings; many of which feature auto-biographical scenes from his childhood in a remote, small mountain village in Dongbei’s [Manchuria’s] Jilin province, very near to the border with North Korea.


  It was there that he developed his love of art.  Somehow his talent was spotted and he was able to progress through the system all the way to study art at university in Changchun.  Then the army came calling.


  He was signed up by the army’s entertainment division, which toured the region’s bases, performing song and dance (with revolutionary verve and propagandist scripts no doubt).  Mr Zheng smiles at the memory of this.  “The army and I didn’t really get on… we had a different way of thinking,”  he says with a glint in his eye while gesturing to the long black pony tail that has been his trade mark since he was (honourably) discharged.


  On leaving the army, Mr Zheng took up a post as a teacher at Yanshan University (where he met his wife), in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province.  After several years there he was awarded a professorship.  Although he loves teaching, he most enjoys the time in his studio painting or sculpting.


  I asked him about the future and what he dreams of doing.  More than anything he would like to exhibit his work in the great art cities of Europe.  But before he does that, he dreams of fulfilling a boyhood ambition by travelling there to study the great artists that have inspired him.  He lists Michelangelo, Picasso, Turner, Hogarth and – I wasn’t surprised to hear – Van Gogh as his favourites.  


  As he talks about this “dream trip” his eyes light up again.  He talks animatedly, in short, sharp sentences, that are punctuated with smiles of wonderment.  It’s as if, as a boy, he were being asked “what would you like to do when you grow up”.  In a word, Mr Zheng, then as now, wants to “explore” – and, of course, to savour every moment while doing so.  He sees the world with the eyes of someone who is in awe of the wonderful things that can be discovered. 

 

  Even when he talks about topics that the vast-majority of grown-ups would consider mundane, Mr Zheng exudes excitement.  It’s this boundless energy and enthusiasm that his young pupils can readily empathise with. 

 

  Mr Zheng takes his place among the small group of young children.  “Right!” he enthuses, “What are we going to do today?!”.

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Mr Zheng and some of the lucky children who have been signed up for summer classes