Artist yaks lyrically on wildlife paradise
Updated: 2013-12-08 08:15
By Palden Nyima and Wang Huazhong in Lhasa (China Daily)
Unlike many other artists in the Tibet autonomous region who excel in painting flowers, birds, or landscapes, Meng Fanhua has dedicated his life to the subject of wild yaks.
"I believe the wildness and toughness of wild yaks exclusively embody the spirit of Tibet, and the Tibetan people," says the 48-year-old artist.
Meng's parents were from China's northeastern Liaoning province, but he was born in the Wulan county of Qinghai province.
Wulan is near Hoh Xil an uninhibited land on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which is known as a paradise of wildlife.
Meng has been painting yaks for more than 10 years, and his work and name have become well known in Tibet's art world.
"The general effect of his painting is overwhelming, lifelike. Its tremendous momentum is like the mountains of Tibet," says Ao Chao, deputy director of the Ethnic Art Research Institute of the Tibet autonomous region.
"The wild yak is a kind of wild product of nature. His paintings of wild yaks match perfectly with the vast prairie and snow mountains."
Meng has had a particular interest in drawing since his childhood. In order to pursue his career and his passion in painting, he took early retirement from the Water Resources Bureau of Wulan county, Qinghai province, in 2002 and came to Tibet alone.
Meng was instantly attracted by Tibet's fascinating landscape and incomparably rich traditional culture. He found it was an artistic heaven, the right place to seek his dreams, and he decided to stay.
By chance, Meng met Yu Youxin - a famous yak painter in Tibet - in 2005.
Meng found Yu's Chinese painting Ink and Wash of Yak really fascinating. After a series of repeated, sincere requests, Yu finally took him as his apprentice. That was the start of Meng's "yak trip".
Meng has been painting wild yaks since 2006. He says that he paints them because he wants to call on human beings to protect them, treasure life and value ecological conservation.
Meng first explored Hoh Xil in the winter of 2011.
Later in 2012, Meng explored Tibet's Ngari prefecture - another of Tibet's paradises of wild animals - to seek one of the three kinds of wild yaks, the golden wild yak, which is an endangered species only found there in recent years.
It was an unforgettable trip to seek wild yaks in heavy snow.
He speaks of his dice with death when he stepped on the gas as his car was climbing a small slope near Mount Kailash only to see it slide before rushing down to a small valley.
"It was an adventure! I thought I wouldn't come back again. Luckily the car did not turn over and stopped safely on the thick snow. I came very near to losing my life," he says.
Meng had almost died on that trip; however nothing could impair his deep love of wild yaks.
"I respect wild yaks for their spirit, that they'd choose death rather than dishonor," Meng says, adding that most male wild yaks fight to the death.
"Yaks are very clean, they only eat the grass grown in the wild. They never rely on humans. Moreover, they produce valuable things - from their horns to their dung."
He says the most difficult parts of painting yaks are revealing their short legs and long hair, and to capture them running fiercely and their aggressive actions.
After winning many prizes for his works, various institutes and individuals have come to him with requests to paint wild yaks. Meng says he feels sorry because he could not comply with all requests.
"Stylistically, his work implies large rhythms and the bold powerful characteristics of wild yaks," says He Zhong, a poet and famous designer.
"I've spent more than 10 years in Tibet. I love Lhasa, and I love Tibet," Meng says. "I will safeguard this pure land, and I will keep painting wild yaks to my last minute."
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(China Daily 12/08/2013 page4)