User:Tc262/Yüan Meng Ch'ien
Draft page of the article of Yüan Meng Ch'ien
|Yüan Meng Ch'ien|
|First appearance||July 7, 2012|
|Created by||island6 art collective|
|Born||March 4, 1918|
|Death||March 3, 1968 (Age 49)|
Yüan Meng Ch'ien (Chinese: 袁梦迁; Pinyin: Yuán Mèng Qiān; Mandarin: [yan məŋ tɕʰian]) is a semi-fictional personality created by the artists of the island6 art collective Liu Dao, based on historical events in Shanghai.
Haunted by his childhood sojourn to the spirit world, he spent his days inside his mansion, avoiding the outer world and most people other than his immediate family. Terrified of losing his life and wealth to unnamed, unseen forces of evil, he surrounded himself with the most bizarre talismans, trinkets and thingamajigs. Curios, knick-knacks, gadgets and gizmos, specimens of flora and fauna both alive and dead crowded the rooms of his mansion and spilled into the hallways and the vast vaulted living room. Even after his death, his estate remained unclaimed due to widely circulated rumors that the mansion, and its frightening collection, was cursed. In July 2012, through a peculiar fluke of fate, the island6 art collective inherited Yüan Meng Ch'ien’s collection of oddities.
Yüan Meng Ch’ien’s early childhood remains highly disputed. It is rumoured he was first seen in 1918, in the arms of a Sing-song girl who worked at the "Galaxy of Beauties", one of Shanghai's largest brothels. It is unknown when or where Yüan was born, but his mother brought him along when she left the brothel in 1920 to move into a new mansion with a wealthy tycoon, allegedly one of the Qiu paint magnate brothers. From a very young age and gradually more after adolescence, Yüan suffered from severe headaches for which there seemed to be no cure. His mother resorted to increasingly questionable avenues to cure her son of his debilitating migraines, even dabbling in the occult.
In 1928, when Yüan was at the age of 10, his foster parents were murdered. The local police’s investigations were inconclusive, but it was accepted they had fallen victim to the Green Gang. Rumour spread that the murder was part of a bid by the conservative elements of the Kuomintang to suppress the Chinese Communist Party and its sympathizers, a movement that reached its peak with a massacre in the April 12 Incident in 1927. Yüan's parents had been known to be sympathetic to the Communist cause. Yüan Meng Ch’ien was then taken in and educated by the Tushanwan Orphanage in Xujiahui. He returned to his foster father's family mansion after he turned 18.
Unfortunately, Yüan continued to be plagued by poor health into adulthood. Heir to a vast wealth and presumably troubled by his chequered past, Yüan engaged in strange practices, including making the bizarre purchases that formed the basis for his now infamous collection.
Yüan Meng Ch'ien died suddenly on December 17, 1957. At his untimely death, it was the family ayi who found him clutching a small rune tile as if he was in the middle of reading his future. Yüan had no known living relatives or friends. As he had become a total recluse, his estate was largely abandoned to the care of his secretary, housekeeper and butler, Mr. Choi.
Mystery surrounding Yüan Meng Ch'ien
The looming presence of the dilapidated mansion on Weihai Lu has piqued the curiosity of passers-by and rumor-mongers for decades. Gossip and speculation grew into legend and lore. Some claim to have been inside the mansion and seen unworldly creatures. Others were reported as victims of strange animal bites.
No one has any idea of what oddities still remain within Yüan’s estate. State auditors who attempted to make an assessment of the mansion’s worth found several stained and poorly-kept ledgers from purchases Yüan had made during his lifetime. Yüan had also kept cursory notes for each of his purchases, which give us a glimpse into a deeply troubled mind. Grotesque wooden masks are said to encase spirits who “suck soul of bad man”; antique dressing tables are recorded as “homes” for the ghosts of past lives; caged birds are marked with a cryptic note that “only who [sic] with third eye can see”. Attempts to locate Yüan's relatives have failed and his few employees, who left the mansion the very day the tycoon was found dead, are presently unreachable. His estate remains untouched to this day, awaiting either demolition or preservation.
In April 2012, the last living relative was located thanks to genealogy experts. The mysterious heir is Rose Tang (Chinese: 唐罗丝; Pinyin: Táng Luōsi; Mandarin: [tʰɑ̌ŋ lwɔ́sɨ]), an artist currently living in Shanghai. Tang has been endowed with the entire rights to Yüan’s estate, including the mansion and its collection. As a member of the island6 arts collective, Rose Tang has permitted the collection to be put on exhibition.
From July 2012, the island6 art collective is presenting an exhibition inspired by Yüan Meng Ch'ien’s and his collection of oddities. The exhibition, entitled “island of Oddities: The Yüan Meng Ch'ien Collection” will run from July to September at the island6 gallery space in Shanghai's contemporary art district m50.
- Khoon, Choy Lee. Pioneers of Modern China: Understanding the Inscrutable Chinese, World Scientific Publishing Company, 2005, p. 417-8