The New MLK Statue is a Fine Example of Chinese Communist Iconography

The first time I saw this image, it was just a thumbnail on a webpage, and I could not make out the face:

MLK statue“Just another clichéd statue of a Chinese leader,” I thought, as I moved on to other news.

Imagine my shock when I discovered that it was a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. for a national memorial in Washington DC.

As it turns out, the statue is indeed an example of Chinese communist iconography. Malcolm Moore, the Telegraph’s Shanghai correspondent, reports,

The 30ft-tall statue, which forms the centrepiece of a $120 million (£73 million), four-acre memorial to Dr King, opened to the public on Monday on the National Mall in Washington. It is the only memorial on the Mall that does not honour a president or fallen soldiers.
Standing in the shadow of the Washington Monument, the statue shows Dr King emerging from a mountain of Chinese granite with his arms crossed and is called The Stone of Hope.
However, there has been controversy over the choice of Lei Yixin, a 57-year-old master sculptor from Changsha in Hunan province, to carry out the work. Critics have openly asked why a black, or at least an American, artist was not chosen and even remarked that Dr King appears slightly Asian in Mr Lei’s rendering.
Mr Lei, who has in the past carved two statues of Mao Tse-tung, one of which stands in the former garden of Mao Anqing, the Chinese leader’s son, carried out almost all of the work in Changsha.
More than 150 granite blocks, weighing some 1,600 tons, were then shipped from Xiamen to the port of Baltimore, and reassembled by a team of 100 workmen, including ten Chinese stone masons brought over specifically for the project.

Lei Yixin working on the MLK statueLei Yixin and his team in front of the MLK statueLei Yixin is from Hunan, the same province as Chairman Mao. He was a do-nothing clerk at a publishing house when a local public official spotted some of his doodles and encouraged him to become a sculptor. While he has produced a wide a variety of work, his specialty is sculptures of Chairman Mao and iconography for the Chinese Communist Party, and he has been so successful in that realm that he has been given a permanent stipend by the state.

Here are some of his other sculptures:

The last sculpture above is even more indicative of Lei Yixin’s politics than the statues of Chairman Mao–it is a statue of the patron saint of Chinese communism, Lei Feng. Lei Feng is the propaganda symbol of the Chinese Communist party.

Defenders of the selection of Lei Yixin to make this ill-begotten communist version of Martin Luther King, Jr. claim that his detractors are racists. There could be nothing further from the truth. Indeed, it should be a matter of simple common sense that a monument in Washington DC should be made of materials from America by American workmen, and not by someone on the payroll of the Chinese government who specializes in creating propaganda to buttress the Chinese Communist Party’s rule.

Are the people behind this travesty saying that there was not enough good marble in the US to complete this project, and that the quality of sculptors in the US was so poor that they had to get a Chinese sculptor who specializes in communist kitsch to do the job?

The sculpture should be disassembled and sent back to China where it belongs.

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24 Responses to The New MLK Statue is a Fine Example of Chinese Communist Iconography

  1. Talk about out sourcing. Who made this decision? It had to be a racist Tea Party type.

  2. Jim says:

    Absolutely wretched. In conception, construction, and result. Mao L. King looks less dynamic black civil rights leader than a pudgy version of Eldrick ‘Tiger’ Woods emerging from a mass of bubbles and whitewash one would expect from being slimed on ‘You Can’t Do That on Television!’-or has it become ‘Ni Hao’ at this point.

    Absolute disgrace but a perfect symbol as to the deplorable state of America at this time.

  3. lairdkeir says:

    Reminds me of the statue of Stalin that once graced Prague. The monument is an embarrassing pastiche of the type of symbolism that is all too familiar to me from my decade in China- a man towering over us plebs, not deigning to even look at us, back straight with arms in determined, static pose. None of the heavy lifting we looking up are accustomed to, but then he doesn’t seem to acknowledge those doing the fighting, the striving, the suffering. But then the point of such memorials is to mythologise such heroes to strike an eternal distance between them and us. At least the mass-murderer Mao is always shown finished, with his feet moving slightly forward as with those showing the pharaohs. Compare MLK simply standing in stone with those Michelangelo had wresting themselves from their stone prisons. But then, because in the end the memorial has no honest, sincere meaning, $800,000 had to be spent simply to cover the superfluous blocks on either side with quotations.

  4. I’m not at all happy with the statue, but I do like the area in which the memorial stands. Hopefully a more fitting sculpture can be made in the future. I agree, it’s a fitting symbol of how deplorable things have become, and I doubt Dr King would be happy with the statue, or with the world he would see today. I believe he would have us to continue waging his campaign of peace, love, and brotherhood, because we seem to have fallen off from doing so, and look where it’s gotten us. I, for one, intend to help make Dr King’s dream a reality. Despite the social realist Chinese iconography in stone we are apparently stuck with.

    • John Scotus says:

      Thanks for the comment. I think it is right to have a memorial for Dr. King in Washington DC to celebrate his life and message. I just do not think that this statue was the way to do it. I’ve never been to Washington DC, and find it unlikely that I would get a chance to go there in the near future. I would hope that the rest of the memorial is a more fitting tribute to the man.

  5. I’m not sure why this is so surprising…nothing is American made anymore.

  6. anotherbozo says:

    This info, with Edward Rothstein’s article in the NY Times, validates my own reaction to the photos–I haven’t seen the actual memorial. But after Googling other MLK busts and statues I can imagine why the Chinese sculptor got the award–he got closer than anyone else to King’s likeness (particularly in earlier studies); the general standard up to that point was pretty low.
    What gets me is King’s son having such sway in choice of sculptor, when according to Rothstein the family demanded to be paid $800,000 for the use of MLK’s image and words IN THE FUND-RAISING PROMOTIONS! Wonder if anyone has heard about that sorry story.

    • John Scotus says:

      I haven’t read the Rothstein article. Thanks for the pointer and the comment. It does seem that for whatever reason King’s son has become the official “protector” of King’s legacy. It is too bad, because he does not seem worthy of his father.

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  8. Pingback: MLK Made in China « odd little rants

  9. Pingback: Made in China: Martin Luther King’s memorial statue « Natural Wisdom’s Blog

  10. Anonymous says:

    There are many qualified American sculptors available, and in the fitting state of Georgia some excellent marble that more closely resembles a black man instead of a lilly white King. This shames the Gates foundation; their contribution is now with the Chinese government.

  11. Bill says:

    After watching the MLK monument dedication, and reading this article, it is impossible to conclude anything other than that the American Civil Rights Movement has co-oped by a new American Communist Party. The communist manifesto delivered by Bernice King was appalling. MLK was all about equal opportunity, and personal responsiblity. NOT about unearned redistribution of wealth, NOT about becoming wards of the state.

  12. Penrose says:

    To me, the MLK Memorial is further evidence of the decline of taste and culture, the Walmartization of America. Nothing created today has any depth or meaning, from entertainment to literature to art to education. It’s all just ephemeral sensation and filler. We have become the Eloi of H. G. Wells’ “The Time Machine” — ignorant of the past, it’s hard-won glories and standards, and so soulless and expendable. Our aspirations and achievements are as forgettable as fast food. Why shouldn’t King’s statue be made in China? Despite its incised quotations (most platitudes without his resounding delivery), it expresses nothing about America beyond its present existential void.

  13. blackacidlizzard says:

    So communists who have pretty much destroyed America have gotten this statue of a communist who sought to destroy America constructed by a communist who certainly can’t have much good to say about the America that once existed.

    Business as usual.

    • John Scotus says:

      I was not at all under the impression that MLK was a communist or that he sought to destroy America. My quarrel is with the choice of the sculptor, workmen, and materials, and with the statue itself.

  14. Pam says:

    It’s ridiculous that most of these comments are negative. Why can’t people see the unity this momument represents. That’s the problem with America. We are so racist. SO WHAT A CHINESE MAN SCULPTED the King’s memorial. Celebrate what the memorial stands for EQUALITY. RIDICULOUS. WE CAN’T SEEM TO GET BEYOND POLITICS AND COLOR LINES. Grow up people and learned to be grateful and appreciative and stop finding fault in every little thing. THE MEMORIAL IS BEAUTIFUL AND THE REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING WAS NOT A COMMUNIST. HE WAS A MAN WHO LOVED EVERYBODY AND WANTED EQUALITY FOR EVERYONE.

    • John Scotus says:

      Not an issue of color lines at all. And unless you wish the US to unite with Communist China, not an issue of unity either. It is purely about the US, what it stands for, and where it is headed. From what I understand of MLK, he would be appalled–simply appalled–of this memorial, this statue, and the way it was dedicated. And this is right–Americans should be appalled by this.

  15. Paul Dobbins says:

    Shameful that an American Icon has become the historical spokesman for the American Communist party. Mao was a human rights hypocrite, who was affectionately known as Uncle Mao. and his little red book. Millions died from his POOR rhetoric. That all but destroyed a hopeful nation amidst a cultural REVOLUTION! The American people would do well to sit up and take notice of this purposeful destruction of The United States of America! When you see a carte blanche effort to rewrite the Constitution, and the round up of “American Dissidents” WATCH OUT!

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