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Imaginative artist brings novel characters to life

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-04-29 10:03
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Chai Peike, 83, has taken up an ambitious project to paint 480 characters that appear in A Dream of Red Mansions, one of the four most famous classical Chinese literary works.

Chai hails from Guyuan city in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region and is proficient in Chinese brush painting.

Over the years, he has developed a habit of turning the characters of novels he has read into images.

"When I read books, I should be able to visualize the characters," Chai says.

"My aim while reading is to absorb the stories and transform them into paintings."

He has recently donated a set of paintings depicting 108 characters from Outlaws of the Marsh, a classic Chinese novel series, to an archive in his hometown.

A fan of this epic novel series, Chai has developed his own understanding of the ancient heroes after studying their characteristics for years.

"Every time I close my eyes after reading the book, the characters appear in my mind," says the octogenarian.

"This allows me to paint them according to my visualizations and sometimes even improvise.

"Wu Song, who kills a tiger with his bare hands, is my favorite hero because of his hatred toward evil and knightly spirit. So, I painted him as a perfect man."

According to the novel, Wu Song had one arm chopped off by a bandit in the end, but the senior artist's version has two arms, and the character's facial expression was also based on the artist's own interpretation.

Chai's hometown Guyuan is the cradle of a local literary culture called "Xihaigu Literature".

Xihaigu, a region that was long deemed "uninhabitable", bid farewell to poverty in recent years.

"Guyuan is not only the center of Xihaigu area but also the source of its literature," says Wang Lun, dean of the Guyuan Archives.

"The fighting spirit of the heroes in Outlaws of the Marsh has inspired us to combat poverty and improve our lives, which is in line with the local culture."

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