Statue in NY Chinatown triggers tension

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

On the Eve of the Spring Festival when most Chinese were getting into the holiday mood, tensions rose in New York’s Chinatown. A ceremony to unveil a sculpture at a public plaza to celebrate the Year of the Dog was canceled. The community organization that brought the sculpture was at the receiving end of the ire of hundreds of residents of the neighborhood. The fight was a result more of misunderstanding than hostility. But this tempest in a teapot should trigger a debate among the Chinese in China and abroad.

The protagonist of this episode is a bronze sculpture of a dog-headed man clad in a suit, sitting on the ground and holding a red apple. Chinatown Partnership, a community organization that focuses on promoting Chinatown to tourists, bought it from Gillie and Marc Schattner, an Australian artist couple, and shipped it over to New York for the New Year celebrations.

But many Chinatown locals were not happy with the news and more than 300 signed a petition against the purchase of the statue.

They were angry for various reasons, including the selection of the sculpture for public art without community advice, and the fact that it was made by artists who they said had no connection with Chinatown.

Many others were upset because of what the sculpture depicted – a man with dog’s head. They considered it disrespectful, and said if it were installed in a place like Chinatown, the insult would rub off on the entire community.

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