Trump as You’ve By no means Seen Him Earlier than
There is no shortage of goods in China dedicated to former United States President Donald J. Trump. There are commemorative coins, toilet brushes, and cat toys; Tons of characters including updated versions of Mount Rushmore, plus all those flags, bumper stickers, and hats from past and future campaigns. (Does anyone else believe that all of the Make America Great Again stuff was really made in America?)
Enter the Trump Buddha.
A furniture maker and decorator in southern China has cast a sculpture of Mr. Trump in white ceramic ware, legs crossed and hands resting quietly on his lap. He is wrapped in a monk’s robe with his head bowed and his eyes closed as if he were in meditative calm, an emotional state not normally associated with the 45th President of the United States.
The artist calls it “Trump, the Buddha of Knowledge of Western Paradise”.
“He was already very successful, but now he is still tormenting, obsessing, having lots of ideas and doubts,” said the creator, Hong Jinshi, when asked for his inspiration.
Mr. Hong’s sculpture reflects an ongoing cultural fascination with Mr. Trump in China that began with his election. Many admired his bold style, his family’s business relationships with China, and even his early promotion of China’s leader Xi Jinping, whom he described as “an incredible guy.”
Admiration for Mr Trump in China may have peaked during his visit to Beijing in 2017. Since then, its image has deteriorated along with relations with the United States. The fraying of those links was exacerbated by a bitter trade war, the coronavirus pandemic, and a re-election campaign in which Mr Trump used China as a club to attack the final winner, President Biden.
43-year-old Hong lives and works in an old cement factory in the coastal city of Xiamen. He conceived the work last year, but only recently completed the first sculptures. He put these up for sale at the online retailer Taobao and offered two sizes, one that was just 6 inches and one that was 18 inches. He’s asking for the equivalent of $ 153 and $ 615.
In the description, he ironically added, “Make your business great again.” And judging from online comments, some potential customers were buying their way into the playing field as if worshiping the statue might bring good luck.
“It may have something to do with my personality,” said Mr. Hong. “I love teasing people and joking.”
Mr Trump “still struggles with all these things every day,” he said of the former president’s penchant for arguing with opponents. “I think this picture is just the opposite of him and his personality.”
Mr. Hong’s listing in Taobao went viral online and attracted the attention of The Global Times, a state newspaper, and others this week.
He has sold around 100 sculptures so far, but in China, where intellectual property rights are loosely enforced at best, fakes have already been made and sold on Taobao at a fraction of the cost of their originals. He complained to Taobao, but the pirates just changed the photos and updated their listings to move on.
His sculpture hasn’t been the first on the news lately. Another, also reportedly made in China, appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida last month along with Mr. Trump himself.
It remains to be seen whether Mr. Trump’s legacy as an artistic muse will last as, for example, that of Mao Zedong. It may depend on Mr. Trump’s political future. Trump 2024 goods are already available online.
Mr. Hong regards the Trump Buddha as a work in progress. He said the lines on Mr. Trump’s lips were too deep, producing an effect that was inconsistent with his vision. He said he hadn’t thought of creating a sculpture of Mr. Biden even though he was intrigued by another prominent American entrepreneur, Elon Musk.
He has set aside the first of 100 numbered pieces of the larger works for a specific patron. If possible, he said, he’d like to give Mr. Trump one.
“He was very, very successful, so from a religious point of view he should just let go at this point,” he said. “He should enjoy his life at this age.”
Claire Fu contributed to the research.