A Chinese artist who managed to put Trump and Zen together in the form of a sculpture said he had a message for the bombastic former president: “Let go.”
The ceramic statue of the 45th U.S. president sitting cross-legged became a social media hit in China and abroad after the product was listed on the popular shopping site Taobao.
Its creator, 43-year-old furniture designer Hong Jinshi, told VICE World News he was surprised the statues he made for personal entertainment would rise to fame.
At his home in the southeastern city of Xiamen, Hong had been contemplating the sculpture for months, before settling on the final design last week. He said the idea came from the sharp contrast between Trump’s worldly personality and the peaceful, detached state of a buddha.
“You can say I’m giving him some advice,” Hong said. “Aiya, you are already so successful, and you should just let go of things, and enjoy your elderly life. Your life is already perfect.”
He has reserved one for the former U.S. president.
“I don’t know what he will think of this,” he said. “I have no bad intentions. My creation is quite interesting and positive. It’s a buddha, and a God-like figure. I think he should like it.”
The Chinese fascination with the former reality show host deepened after he won the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and it didn’t stop even as he began attacking China’s trade practices and mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the chaos that Trump unleashed at home over four years of his presidency earned him the Chinese nickname Chuan Jianguo, literally “Trump builds China,” because, the thinking went, he made China look good in contrast and contributed to its rise.
Hong said a friend posted his design on Taobao. The 6.3-inch tall version was priced at 999 Chinese yuan ($150), while the 18-inch version was available for 3,999 yuan ($610). The product description says “make your company great again.” Dozens of the statues have been sold, Hong said.
But on Friday, the sculpture, along with several copycats that emerged in the past few days, was removed from Taobao. Alibaba, the parent company of Taobao, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hong said he had no idea why. His friend has posted a new listing, removing Trump’s name from the product title and covering the face of the Trump Buddha in the pictures with a hat and a black cloth.
Trump-themed products are readily available on Taobao, including socks, T-shirts, and even toilet paper rolls with Trump’s face printed on them. One of the most popular items is a $2 toilet brush shaped like a miniature Trump, his signature hair being the brush for scrubbing toilets.
Hong said he had no opinion on whether Trump is a good or bad person. “He was an American president, very far away from us,” he said. “The only interesting thing was that he completely changed the image of a national leader. He is so funny and cute.”
At the moment, Trump does not seem to be living a peaceful life as depicted by Hong’s sculpture. This week, the former president issued a statement demanding more credit for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines despite having downplayed the threat of the coronavirus at the beginning.
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