Col­lec­tor pro­motes hu­man­is­tic cul­ture

Head of pri­vate mu­seum as­so­ci­a­tion in Hubei be­lieves in shar­ing his pas­sion for art

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By LIUKUN in Wuhan liukun@chi­

He can­not play the pi­ano, yet he owns one of the big­gest pi­ano mu­se­ums in China. He is not a painter, yet he just opened an art mu­seum. He is not a me­chanic, yet he in­vented a wa­ter-re­sis­tive bar­rier that could po­ten­tially help pre­vent flood­ing. He is not a ty­coon, but sim­ply im­mersed in his af­fec­tions.

Born in Huang­gang city, Hubei province, He Li­jun started a com­pany which deals with ge­o­log­i­cal dis­as­ter treat­ment while study­ing for his mas­ter’s de­gree at China Univer­sity of Geo­sciences in Wuhan, the cap­i­tal of the province.

His pas­sion for pi­anos be­gan dur­ing a trip to Mis­souri in 2010, when he was fas­ci­nated by the ivory keys and el­e­gant crafts­man­ship of a pi­ano made in 1911. After buy­ing the in­stru­ment from its bank­rupt owner, he be­gan col­lect­ing and restor­ing more pi­anos.

“Rather than be­ing a mere mu­si­cal in­stru­ment, it’s more like an ar­ti­fact,” He said. “I par­tic­i­pate in the restora­tion work of ev­ery pi­ano, as it re­quires a lot of thought and each restora­tion project in­volves a di­a­logue with the de­signer.”

He had col­lected more than 70 pi­anos by the time he re­turned to China in 2013. In 2014, his pi­ano mu­seum was of­fi­cially opened, which cur­rently has more than 100 pi­anos on dis­play.

The mu­seum is lo­cated at Guqin Tai, which lit­er­ally means “ter­race of guqin (a Chi­nese zither)”.

Leg­end has it that Bo Ya, a Chi­nese mu­si­cian liv­ing about 2,400 years ago, once played the guqin at this lo­ca­tion. The mu­si­cian’s piece was greatly ap­pre­ci­ated by Zhong Ziqi, a wood­cut­ter from nearby, and the two be­came close friends. How­ever, at their sched­uled meet­ing a year later, Ziqi failed to at­tend for he had died. Bo Ya was heart-stricken for he thought no one else could un­der­stand his mu­sic any­more, so he smashed the guqin and never played again.

“This is the place where Bo Ya and Ziqi be­came zhiyin— bo­som friends, lit­er­ally ‘know mu­sic’, ” He said. “The tra­di­tional leg­end makes this an iconic place for clas­si­cal mu­sic in Wuhan.”

De­spite the fact that many of the mu­seum’s ex­hibits, in­clud­ing more than 50 Stein­way and Sons pi­anos — the ac­claimed Rolls-Royce of pi­anos — are rare and pre­cious, he in­sists on al­low­ing vis­i­tors to ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing some of them.

“I want to share my joy of mu­sic with vis­i­tors,” he said. “Many mu­se­ums are too up­tight and old-fash­ioned. The fa­mous pi­ano mu­seum in Xi­a­men even banned photo tak­ing.”

He’s art mu­seum opened in June this year at the same site.

“The city’s pri­vate art mu­se­ums demon­strate its hu­man­is­tic cul­ture,” Fu Zhong­wang, for­mer cu­ra­tor of Hubei Mu­seum of Art, said in an in­ter­view with Hubei Daily.

He was re­cently named pres­i­dent of an as­so­ci­a­tion of 34 pri­vate mu­se­ums in Wuhan, all of which face fund­ing prob­lems. But He chooses to see the glass as half full.

“We are, after all, sup­ple­ments to the pub­lic mu­se­ums,” He said. “We shouldn’t care too much about profit, but more about the mean­ing of what we are do­ing.”

I want to share my joy of mu­sic with vis­i­tors. Many mu­se­ums are too up­tight and old­fash­ioned.” He Li­jun, pi­ano mu­seum owner

Liang Shuang con­trib­uted to this story.


He Li­jun poses in front of a pi­ano he bought in Ohio, the United States, in 2012.

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