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Beijing Elder Paints Three Gorges Scroll
An enthusiastic elderly painter from Beijing went to the Three Gorges twice, once in 1994 and again 1997, to make sketches of the landscape. During the past five years he drew hundreds of scenes of the 193-kilometer-long Three Gorges, creating a 228-meter-long, 1.4-meter-high scroll painting.

Li Yushan, 64, is a healthy vigorous old man. He spread out part of the scroll painting to show off his work, “Look, this is Baidi City. This is Shennu (Goddess) Peak. This is Shuzhuangtai (a famous scene like a dresser table). And this is the recently-bombed Fengjie County. ” Looking at his favorite work the old man sighed with emotions reflecting on all his hard work.

Three Gorges Inspire Me

Li is an amateur calligrapher and painter. His hometown is Hubei Province, and he has lived in Shashi City for many years. He said, “I grew up beside the Yangtze River. My ears were used to sounds of the songs of boatmen and my eyes accustomed to the bright white sails. I have returned to the Three Gorges area three times, and experienced different feelings on each occasion. To me, the Three Gorges are my inspiration.”

When hearing the news that the Three Gorges were to be dammed, Li felt there would be special significance in drawing the beautiful Three Gorges vista. After the damming, some of these sites will be sunk deep under the water. He felt that as a son of the Three Gorges he should do something for his hometown, so he went to the area to sketch the beautiful panorama and preserve its images for people who have never had the opportunity to visit the region and for future generations.

Hundreds of Sketches Made

Li went to the Three Gorges to make sketches for the first time in 1994. He lived there for half a month and made dozens of sketches. In 1997 he went there for the second time. He drew scenes from Shennongjia, Hubei Province, taking a boat upstream, to the Three Lesser Gorges (referring to the Longmen, Bawu and Dicui gorges in the Wushan County at the Daning River -- the first largest tributary of the Yangtze River), and then to the main Three Gorges. Taking over half a year his journey covered hundreds of kilometers. He recalled excitedly, “The scenes were so beautiful. The tranquil stream enchased the high hills. It would have been a pity not to draw it.”

To view the scenes from a better vantage, Li always stood on a boat for several hours. When it was wet or windy, he would retreat to the cabin to think about how best to compose his painting. When the boatmen heard why Li was there, they would all tell him of the most beautiful landscapes. Li said, “To help me get the best angles, the boatmen would always make exceptions and position their crafts in the best places for me.”

As Li's trip was all at his own expense, he really had to travel frugally. To make his little bit of money go a long way, he only ate noodles during the journey. After a day’s hard work, he could just afford the cheapest hotels and would sometimes share a bed with other people. When talking about the hardships of his journey, old Li said, compared to his fruitful achievements, the hardships were nothing. Three months later he brought back hundreds of sketches to Beijing.

Thousands of Sleepless Night

On the home, Li devoted himself into trimming the sketches. There were hundreds of sketches to trim so the work was very time consuming.

Next was the most intense stage -- illustrating the painting. Li said, “From the beginning to the end of the process my biological clock had completely shifted. I slept every afternoon once I was back, waking up each night to work on the illustrations. So as not to disturb my wife, I turned my bed into a studio.” In front of Li’s drawing desk there is a long black mark left behind by the soles of his feet. As he moved the huge length of paper from place to place markings were left behind on the floor.

After five years of illustration, the 228-meter-long Yangtze River’s Three Gorges Painting was finished. To add the final touches, old Li spent more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,209.61) to mount it. Holding the massive scroll, Li was full of untold satisfaction: “When I look at the scroll, it’s as if I was back at Three Gorges.”

At last, old Li revealed his own hopes, “I plan to go back to the Three Gorges again and sketch the local folk customs and finish my second scroll painting.”

(China.org.cn by Chen Lin December 2, 2002)

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