Bamboo and rock (1993) Li de Cai

Aad Hoogendoorn
About the artwork

This is the first Chinese mural in Europe, originally applied in 1993 by the Chinese artist Li de Cai. He then lived on Katendrecht, not far from this ornament list. This painting seems to have played a role in Sino-Dutch trade relations, although the story does not tell exactly how or what. It is a fact that Sino-Dutch relations have a long history on Katendrecht. In 1911, Chinese workers came over from England as strike breakers. They continued to live on Katendrecht, which was then still a port area. A Chinese community grew there, which is still present and visible on the peninsula. There is a Chinese church, an Asian supermarket and a Chinese tree as a monument for future generations. Storyhouse Belvédère has a wall-filling photo of the Zee family in its large lobby, one of the mixed Chinese families who lived in Katendrecht. There would even be a European China Center one day, which eventually did not take place. But there is this painting Bamboo and rock - is the Chinese title Jin jié lngyu. Li de Cai chose a well-known theme from the Chinese painting traditions: bamboo branches. He has depicted this in a soft, watercolor-looking painting style. Li de Cai often provided his paintings with a poem in Chinese, which is also the case here. The translation is:

The roots fall between the rocks
and sprout the germs.
The hollow, knotted articulated signs
are unspoiled but strong characters.
After a nocturnal spring rain the
stems, stripped of their casing,
through the clouds towards heaven.

In 1993, mayor Huang Ju of Shanghai, the sister city of Rotterdam, unveiled the mural. After more than 25 years, the work was very damaged and it was removed in 2019. For some time we investigated whether the work could be restored, but unfortunately this turned out to be impossible. That is why it has been decided to make a new painting, which will be applied in 2020.

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About the artist

The Chinese artist Li de Cai (1943, Inner Mongolia) studied from 1960 to 1964 set designs at the art academy in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region in China that borders (Outer) Mongolia and Russia in the north. After this study he developed into a watercolorist, calligraphist and painter. He ended up in the Netherlands and lived at Katendrecht on the Brede Hilledijk. Nearby, on the Veerlaan, he painted a mural at the same time that he exhibited in the Netherlands in the company of other artists of Chinese origin. In the Princessehof ceramics museum in Leeuwarden, among other places, he showed his work with classical Chinese inspiration: themes such as bamboo, in a fine, subdued painting style that matches the decorative, because realistic but without three-dimensionality. In his free work he used brushes and rice paper, which entails a certain soft line that you also see in his painting on the Veerlaan. He chose subjects that stem from Chinese visual traditions: bamboo, orchids, chrysanthemums and plum blossoms. To make it more accessible, he combined that with cows and mills, something that not every critic reacted very enthusiastically to. He would then remain active as an artist in Rotterdam for a long time to come.

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Veerlaan 70B, 3072 ZX Rotterdam, Netherlands