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Setting Mao in stone

By Li Yang (China Daily)

10:11, July 16, 2013

Jiang Jiwei carved daily before passing away in 2009. (China Daily)

Overcoming severe hardships, a local eccentric created stone monuments that continue to inspire visitors.

Jiang Jiwei was a farmer before he was 35 years old, the "enemy of the people" during the first four years of the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) and a rock carver afterwards till his death in 2009 at 78 in Zhutang village, Quanzhou county of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

"He had always been Chairman Mao's student all his life," says his illiterate widow, 82-year-old Liu Xiaoying.

The hill behind their shabby house is called Yulu Hill, or a hill of Chairman Mao's quotations, because half of the southern slope of the small hill is carved with the words of Mao and the other Chinese leaders' quotations and their portraits.

Jiang started carving on the hill in 1970 and continued until he did not have the strength to lift a chisel in 2008. He left behind 70 portraits — embossment and statues — of famous communists in China and about 220,000 characters of 1,200 pieces of quotations of the people.

"It is said he feigned madness and acted like an idiot to protect himself from the radical revolutionaries' persecution," says Jiang Caizheng, 83, a fellow villager who knows Jiang Jiwei well. "He was simply immersed in the hard work of carving and did not care about anybody else."

Born in a farmer's family, Jiang Jiwei was educated for three years in a family school. He was a clever farmer and a skillful self-taught carpenter with some knowledge of Chinese traditional medicine.

He was warmhearted and always ready to help other villagers, according to his wife. "I married him because of his kindness and brightness, despite his poor family," says Liu Xiaoying, who was acclaimed as the most beautiful woman in the village decades ago.

Wang Zichuang, a local reporter from Guilin who interviewed Jiang many times, says, Jiang believed in communism and applied to join local pro-Communist guerrilla forces during the civil war (1946-49). He was refused because he did not have a gun.

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