Man's passion documents bicycle culture
Updated: 2012-11-05 08:11
By An Baijie in Bazhou, Hebei (China Daily)
Chinese and international journalists from a media tour take photos of collections at the China Bicycle Museum in Bazhou, Hebei province, on Sunday. An Baijie / China Daily
Wang Mingxi, a bicycle collector, used to put a lot of efforts into looking for a place to keep the 370 bikes he collected from 16 countries over the past 60 years.
Wang, 77, a Beijing resident who repaired bikes for a living, started collecting them when he was 18, but he couldn't find anywhere large enough to house his collection until four years ago, when an official asked him to put them in a planned museum.
Yang Jie, Party secretary of Bazhou, a county-level city 120 km from Beijing, visited Wang in early 2008, when the county had plans for a museum for folk culture and collections.
"Economic competition between different counties will be determined in the future by the development of culturally related sectors," Yang told Chinese and international reporters during a media tour on Sunday.
Overseas journalists covering the 18th Party Congress, which will open on Thursday, have been invited to visit several cities before and during the event.
"I read reports about Wang in the newspaper and thought that a bicycle collection is a unique piece of culture," the Party chief said.
So Wang's 370 bikes were moved from a dark, damp basement in Beijing to the Huaxia Museum of Private Collections in Bazhou on Oct 28, 2008.
In June 2009, the museum separated an independent space for his bicycles and named it the China Bicycle Museum.
Wang's most valuable piece, the Platinum People, an English bike made in 1910, was placed at the center of the museum's exhibition hall.
"I spent 1,000 yuan ($667 then) in 1975 to buy that English bike from a collector, and my monthly income was less than 100 yuan at the time," he said.
A wealthy English man offered Wang 100,000 yuan for the Platinum People in 1998, but he refused, as he did to the man's offer to trade it with a Rolls-Royce.
"Not everything can be bought," Wang said. "The Platinum People lived with me for decades and became an indispensable part of my life."
Two technicians have been hired to maintain the bikes, and their salaries are paid by the government, said Zhang Weimin, curator of the bicycle museum.
More than 200,000 people visit the free museum every year, he added.
"The bicycles here are not just vehicles, but witnesses to history," said Bazhou's Party chief Yang. "In the 1910s, bikes were luxuries, and they became means of transportation for the Chinese in the 1980s. Now they're regaining popularity for their zero carbon emissions."
The government has long been dedicated to supporting folk collections and folk arts, and cultural industry has become a calling card of the city, which has a wealth of traditional arts such as Peking Opera, calligraphy and painting, Yang said.
The culturally related economic output grew by 1.6 billion yuan last year, accounting for 5.5 percent of the county's GDP.
"I am very glad that my private collection could be combined with the county's cultural industry," Wang said.
(China Daily 11/05/2012 page3)