Ye Xingsheng loves painting. His works have won him many awards. He's a member of the Chinese Artists' Association, the president of the Tibetan Artists' Association, and also a university professor. Yet, he's well known as a fervent collector of Tibetan artware.
Ye Xiangsheng has spent half of his life collecting more than 2,000 pieces of precious Tibetan artware. What makes him different is the incredible fact that he sacrificed almost all of his belongings for these artwares, and then donated them to the Tibetan Museum in 1999.
Born in 1948 in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, Ye Xingsheng moved to Tibet with his Tibetan stepfather in the 1950s. He became the first Han student in Lhasa Middle School, and learned the art of painting there.
An old Lama gave him a pot of butter groma when Ye was copying some mural paintings in a temple at 13 years old. After eating it, Ye kept the beautiful pot and this became the first item in his collection. From then on, Ye continued to obtain pieces of Tibetan folk art for over 40 years. He has witnessed the destruction and erosion of Tibetan folk culture. By collecting Tibetan arts and crafts, Ye intends to awaken Tibetan confidence and pride in their cultural heritage and artistic creativity.
He is such an obsessed collector that he spent every penny he had buying Tibetan craftworks. He credits his collection of over 2,000 items as the key to understanding the glorious civilization Tibet once had. Some people say his collections could potentially be worth millions of yuan. Regardless, he enjoys living on his salary and would not exchange anything for his collections. He doesn't take money seriously. That's his way of living.
In 1999, Ye Xingsheng made a surprising decision - to donate his years of over 2,000 collection items to the Tibetan Museum. He believes he should return these precious art works to Tibet since they are rooted there. Right before the departure of his collections, Ye was sad, and he tied a Hada (a piece of silk used for greeting gift) to every box containing his collections and burned incense to pray for the future. Days later, he wrote to one of his friends, saying that without home, painting, and Tibetan collections, he had nothing left. He firmly believes, however, that his collections are in the right place.
(chinaculture July 7, 2006)