--- SEARCH ---
Learning Chinese
Learn to Cook Chinese Dishes
Exchange Rates
Hotel Service

Hot Links
China Development Gateway
Chinese Embassies

Man of Indomitable Spirit
Zheng Jieping, a disabled man with an iron determination to be a useful member of society, has achieved his goal -- despite having no hands, he has become a renowned calligrapher.

His life and struggle is being held up as an encouragement to all disabled people.

Life Experience

Zheng had a tragic accident in 1965 when he was four years old. He was in a factory where his father worked in a small town of Shandong Province. An electrician took him to a workshop and left him to play alone. Zheng was electrocuted while playing with an electric transformer and, although his life was saved, he lost both forearms.

As he grew up he refused to allow the horrific accident to prey on his mind and despite his disability he was able to do well at primary and elementary school.

As a schoolboy, he took a great interest in sport. He persevered in long-distance running all year round, even on freezing days. With friends, he would start running at 4:00am or 5:00am and this determination played an important role in building up his amazing stamina.

Zheng took part in the Third Olympics for the Disabled in New York City in 1984 where he had marvelous and surprising success. He won a silver medal in the long jump breaking the world record, a bronze medal in table tennis and a fifth place in swimming.

Zheng's career in calligraphy started in 1975 when he was 14. In order to conquer the obstacles that don't exist for ordinary people, he had to work twice as hard and expend double the energy to succeed.

Placing a calligraphy brush between the tumps of his arms, he applied himself to mastering the art of calligraphy. Two years later, in 1977, he won a prize in the "Students Artistic Works Exhibition" and the prize strengthened his resolve to scale new heights in calligraphy.

Zhu Jia, Han Tianheng and Zhou Zhigao were his tutors and he also met many other well-known calligraphers such as Hu Wensui and Zhou Huijun from the Shanghai Painting Institution. Under their instruction, he redoubled his efforts.

Surprised by Zheng's unswerving faith in himself, Jiang Zemin, then Mayor of Shanghai, presented him with an inscription in 1987.

Family Support

Zheng's family now lives in a single-room flat on the ground floor of an old high-rise building which is rather crowded for a family of three.

"We once considered buying a new flat with one more room so he could open a small exhibition space for his artistic works but we needed a large sum of money and I had to give up the idea," said Xu Dengying, Zheng's wife.

Xu married Zheng in 1992 but their romance had to overcome many early difficulties. Xu was Zheng's neighbour and after falling in love with him, she made up her mind to devote herself to helping him.

Zheng's love for her finally overcame the objections of her parents and they were able to marry. One year later, a son was born and they named him Zheng Weixiong. The 10-year-old boy today is the pride of the family and he has followed in his father's footsteps by winning a gold medal in the "Youth Calligraphy Competition".

Working as a teacher in Xuhui Educational Bureau, Xu is kept quite busy taking care of the family and doing all the household chores.

The couple's monthly income is about 3,000 yuan (US$362). After covering their son's tuition of 7,000 yuan (US$846) a year and the expense of buying Zheng's calligraphy equipment, plus other family needs, there's nothing left.

True Artist

"There's no denying Zheng's status as a calligrapher. He would be regarded as a first-rate calligrapher among able persons, let alone among the disabled," said Bai He, vice-professor from Shanghai University, also a renowned calligrapher.

In Bai's view, Zheng performs well in the running hand, official script and seal characters but is a little bit behind in the cursive hand. "As the cursive hand demands much more skill and speed, it can be too hard for Zheng," Bai said regretfully.

As for the regular script, which demands great effort to remain steady, Bai said Zheng had spared no effort to execute it well. The lack of forearms has made it harder for him to execute the four angles.

But the swift shift from dense ink to lighter ink and the various styles he has been able to master has proved Zheng's versatility.

Bai also has high praise for Zheng's ability in composition. "He has wise judgment on spatial arrangement and this can be shown in his sealing and inscribing processes."

Future Wishes

Looking over his life so far, Zheng said: "The disabled are still in a disadvantaged position in our society due to the social welfare system and their rejection by normal people."

He sometimes feels a chill in the atmosphere at Xuhui High school, where he works as a librarian and part-time calligraphy teacher. Perhaps the school authorities are not too happy with Zheng's frequent appearances in the limelight.

"But we can see there are vast openings and hope ahead," Zheng said and he has given effect to his hopes. As a member of Shanghai's political consultative conference since 1985, he has put forward many initiatives, two of which have been accepted.

One of his future plans involves the Hengde Vocational School, recently opened to the public. The name means perseverance and morality in Chinese and the school provides different training courses to meet the various needs of students. He is also looking for partners to co-operate on educational training courses, both locals and foreigners.

(Shanghai Star February 13, 2003)

Print This Page
Email This Page
About Us SiteMap Feedback
Copyright © China Internet Information Center. All Rights Reserved
E-mail: webmaster@china.org.cn Tel: 86-10-68326688