Sculpture by Chinese artist unveiled in LA

Updated: 2012-05-14 16:01


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LOS ANGELES - For the first time since the first transcontinental railroad in the United States was created 143 years ago, a sculpture was unveiled at the Union Station in Los Angeles Saturday to pay tribute to the Chinese railroad builders.

The sculpture, created by award-winning Chinese artist Yuan Xikun, depicts three generations of Chinese railroad builders: the father is standing with an iron hoes on shoulder and staring at the horizons afar, the grandfather is crouching besides and touching an unfinished crosstie and the grandson is leaning on grandfather and listening to him for a story about railroad building.

"In 2007, I visited the railroad factory with the companion of Sacramento city councils. I was deeply touched and moved by the stories of Chinese laborers, and that gave me the inspiration of the statue. They were far away from their home country and their families. The railroad was truly built upon their blood and bones. That's why I named the statue 'Pioneer of Railroad Construction' to show them my respect," said Yuan who travelled from China to unveil his sculpture.

Qiu Shaofang, Consul General of China to Los Angeles, said while unveiling the sculpture that it is more than just celebrating the joys of train and train travel. It "offers us an opportunity to reflect on the bitter hardship and proud accomplishments of Chinese laborers who connected the coasts of the United States of American one-and-a-half centuries ago."

Qiu said the hardworking Chinese laborers not only built the railroad 150 years ago which links between the coasts, "they also build the bond between two peoples."

"If the vast Pacific Ocean could not prevent Chinese and Americans working together to create the miracle 150 years ago, there is every reason to believe China and the United States can manage our difference well and work together and emerge as winners in this era of globalization," Qiu said.

Emmett Fremaux, vice president of Amtrak, the only intercity passenger rail provider in the U.S., travelled from Washington to Los Angeles to unveil the sculpture.

Fremaux highly praised the contribution of the Chinese laborers in building the transcontinental railroad in the U.S..

He said without the contributions of the Chinese laborers the transcontinental railroad in the U.S. could not be completed and the sculpture vividly depicts the three generations of Chinese laborers which will remind Americans to remember this specific period of history.

Fremaux said it is the first time a sculpture depicting Chinese railroad builders was dedicated to the Union Station in Los Angeles.

The significant role of Chinese laborers in the transcontinental railroad was described by Leland Stanford, president of Central Pacific Railroad Company as "a class they are quiet, peaceable, patient and industrious, ready and apt to learn all the different kinds of work required in railroad building. Their toil in severe weather, cruel working conditions and for meager wages cannot be under appreciated."

"I wish to call to your minds that the early completion of this railroad has been in large measure due to Chinese laborers, to the fidelity and industry they have shown," Stanford said.

Saturday is the National Train Day in the U.S. to mark the 143rd anniversary of the creation of the nation's first transcontinental railroad.

On May 10, 1869, in Promontory Summit, Utah, the "golden spike" was driven into the final tie that joined 1,776 miles (2858 km) of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways, forever transforming America.