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Naruo: A Naxi artist finds a place for the past in the future

2009-12-03 15:15 BJT

BEIJING, May 29 (Xinhua) -- Almost 40 years after leaving his home in the ancient Dayan town in southwest China, Wang Rongchang, 61, still speaks heavily-accented mandarin.

The dark-skinned artist speaks little English despite 12 years living in the United States. To his foreign friends, he is better known by his Naxi name, Naruo.

Under this title, he has made a language all his own, painting vividly colored scenes of his home and people based on the unique Naxi pictographs.

The only pictographic writing system still in use, these detailed drawings have described the lives of generations of Naxi, whose kingdom survived in what is now southwest China from the Eighth Century till 1274.

His paintings have been exhibited around the world, but Naruo has disdained fame and fortune, saying the purpose of his creativity is to sustain the culture of his people in a rapidly modernizing world.

Since retiring as an art teacher at Beijing's Minzu University in 2008, his major works have been based on more than 200 figure drawings, which he drew 30 years ago in a village of Dayan.