One man and his museum in
Oct 16 (Xinhua) Ma Weidu knew little about antiques when he
was a child in the chaotic China of the 1960s. But he used
to wonder why people hated beautiful old things so much, watching
them tearing paintings and dismantling old constructions.
the 53-year-old has his own museum filled with antiques. He
has been in the profession for almost three decades. Ma recently
became a household name after he started delivering lectures
on antiques and traditional culture on national broadcaster
watched how China's antique collection boomed. Now two places
are most crowded in Beijing before sunrise everyday: Tiananmen
Square where tourists crane their neck to watch national-flag
raising and Panjiayuan (a curio fair) where people bend their
head down to hunt for treasures."
believes three indices attest to antique collection prosperity:
extra money in pockets, government permission and increasing
interest in, and knowledge of, antiques.
Ma began collecting antiques, they were cheap. "It was
like picking up treasures littered on the ground."
people were throwing out old things to equip themselves with
modern products such as "a collapsible chair, a TV set,
sofa or a bike" in the late 1970s and early 1980s when
China just opened its door to the outside world and launched
dropped out from school at 11 when the Cultural Revolution
(1966-1976) began. He became an editor of a literature magazine
after publishing a novel. He once joined writers such as Wang
Shuo and Liu Zhenyun in producing China's early TV comedies
in the 1990s.
I was young, literature was my ultimate dream. But I left
it when I found the circle corrupt - some writers could bribe
judges for a prize."
turned to antique collection. "It's like when you drank
quality wine, you can't go back to common wine or when you
smoked a quality cigar, you can't go back to common cigarettes."
antique collection, there is a definite answer on whether
an object is genuine or not."
Ma got a treasure, he enjoyed showing it to his friends. "Once,
when I rushed into a friend's home, people inside were embarrassed
and quickly turned off the TV. When I found they were watching
porn, I said nothing exciting to watch porn, let's look at
the bowl I just collected."
named his museum after a word from the Taoist classic "Tao
Te Ching, Guanfu", which literally means "watch
it again and again". "If you watch an object again
and again, you are either in love with it or studying it."
His 3,500-square-metre museum mainly displays furniture and
china, Ma's two favourites.
museum is a place for you to enjoy culture. China's museums
have improved a lot. When I visited museums in the 1980s,
they were badly equipped with broken lights and women were
knitting sweaters at the door."
plans to leave his collection to society when he passes away.
belong to the society. We are just temporary keepers. When
looking at antiques, I often felt it was not I who was staring
at them, but they were staring at me. Most have been passed
on by at least 10 generations or up to 50 generations. We
are passengers before them."
describes himself as a "passionate" and "diligent"
man who "perseveres" in doing what he believes in.
friend describes him as a "man with the most common sense."
Wang Gang, an actor and anchorman for a TV show on antiques,
called him frank in determining the authenticity of antiques.
when a collector took out a curio for Ma to judge on a show,
he called "the object interesting, it's younger than
me". The collector took out another. Ma said "this
one is younger than my son". When another collector presented
a cup, he announced "there are only three such cups in
the world. You've got the fourth."
make sure he gets authentic antiques, Ma reads through basic
books and takes every chance to study relics in museums, exhibitions
or curio fairs.
he spends some days every month to help appraise "treasures"
brought by visitors. "It exposes me to the pressure of
market changes and helps me keep an eye on fake production
technique changes. If you don't follow the market changes
closely for one or two years, you are out."
home is furnished with traditional hardwood furniture. "My
son often cried when he bumped into them. But when he grew
up, he could clearly remember a certain wooden chair that
he had finished his homework on and had deep affection for
he gained all his knowledge outside school, he wished he had
"regular" education. He enjoys observing and talking
on subjects like literature, art medicines and anthropology
with unorthodox comments.
obsession in seeking authenticity in antiques and social phenomena
may come from his Taoism studies. "I'm an atheist, but
I study Taoism for its philosophy.
doesn't have class differences. Many others have class divisions
and discuss things in certain circumstances with time and
were dubbed "adult toys" in the past, providing
intellectual pleasure for collectors. "Today people put
monetary value before intellectual enjoyment. There is too
much knowledge covered under an antique."
said he built the museum not to revive ancient culture, but
to remind the offspring "we once arrived at such cultural