Sculpting a legacy

By Wang Kaihao/Wang Yiran | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-17 07:19

Zhang Yu plans to start by opening stores in Japan and Russia but says each country will only have one branch.

The Tianjin workshop is his only store in China.

"There won't be another China store," he explains.

"Such high-level handmade art pieces can only be produced in small quantities."

He has, in recent years, only made about five pieces annually.

A large statue takes months because he has to wait for parts to dry before taking the next steps.

"I'd rather view the genre I've inherited as a local Chinese style rather than Niren Zhang," he says.

"Niren Zhang may finally diminish as a brand. But that's OK if this folk art develops healthily. It's really important that more individuals make good stuff and attract attention. It doesn't matter whether they work for me."

Yet he hopes his sons-one is in elementary school and the other is in kindergarten-will continue the line.

"If you have a rich legacy, you want to leave it to your children," he says.

Wang Yiran contributed to the story.

Contact the writer at

If you go

Zhang Yu Sculpture Gallery 797 Zhongjie, 798 Art Zone, Chaoyang district, Beijing. 010-5762-6389. Clay Figurine Zhang Art Museum 4 Tongqingli, Ancient Cultural Street, Gulou Nanjie, Nankai district, Tianjin. 022-8734-0608.

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