Scrapping My Paintings
Tr. by Zhang Peiji
 Twenty years ago, when I was living on the northern side of the Qianhai Lake, Beijing, one of my neighbors gave birth to a blind baby. I felt sorry for him as he grew up. What would become of it for life? Personally, I would have refused to come into this world disabled. Nevertheless, all parents love their own babies and will do whatever they can to rear them even though they are born disabled. A work of art is to the creator what a baby is to its parents. When I was a schoolboy, I used to tear up a lot of the exercises I did. That was a common practice, and I never regretted it. Now I am doing the same with my paintings. I will often use a palette knife to cut into a canvas so as to let off my pent-up anger or anguish. Sometimes, it will bring me ease of mind to scrap my own substandard works, which were my lasting agony. Sometimes, I will feel extremely dejected when a painting I have done under hard conditions in remote mountains and dense forests turns out to be inferior. But I will nevertheless carry it home on my shoulder after wrapping it up carefully in a tarpaulin. It’s my sick baby, my blind baby. I shouldn’t abandon it.
 I produced a great many paintings during the scores of difficult years. Some of them were my favorites, some were defective, some, though unsatisfactory, were fruits of my painstaking labor...All art explorers are liable to take roundabout courses or lead themselves astray, thus ending up in fiascoes. Defective works should be exposed rather than covered up. But things on earth have changed and men are so much under the sway of money that they have become conscienceless and unfeeling. Paintings, nowadays, have market prices. Many of my paintings given as presents to friends, schoolmates, students and newspapers and periodicals have found their way to the market or auction house. In the 1950s, after I finished a set of Jinggang Mountain landscape paintings, I donated a replica of it to the Jinggang Mountain Administrative Office at its request for permanent museum display. Later, when I looked over the original set of the paintings, which represented the immature stage of my attempts at nationalizing oil painting, I felt dissatisfied and had it all destroyed by fire. Unexpectedly, however, the replicated paintings recently showed up one after another in an auction house. Making a gift of painting or calligraphy to friends has been a traditional virtue of ours related to interpersonal relationship, which values affection above material gains.
 It is natural and beyond reproach for works of art to end up becoming commodities. The problem is that inferior paintings of low artistic value, often, under cover of high reputation, openly beguile avid art collectors and people rush for speculative buying and reselling of them, cheating each other. I made up my mind long ago to scrap all of my unsatisfactory paintings so as to prevent the circulation of low-grade products. So I began to butcher my own babies. I would hang up on the wall my problematic paintings batch by batch and time and time again for rigorous screening. Substandard paintings were eliminated and demolished. Poor paintings on paper, be they ink and wash, watercolor or gouache, were torn to pieces. Poor oil paintings on canvas had to be cut to shreds with a pair of scissors. Poor paintings on three-ply boards were a hard nut to crack, and had to be blotted out with oils. My daughters-in-law and grandchildren would lend me a helping hand. But they sighed regretfully while joining me in unrolling and tearing up gigantic painting scrolls of over six feet in length. I too could not help feeling soft-hearted and silently endured anguish in my heart. As my studio was piled high with the scrapped paintings, my daughters-in-law, together with our housemaid, would take the scrapheap downstairs to make a bonfire of it in the yard. I looked out of my studio window and saw paper ashes flying up from the raging flames. And I also saw children and neighbors crowd around watching and chatting. I didn’t know what they were chatting about. Left in the studio were some three-ply boards covered with multicolored oil paints. I had all of them temporarily stored in the balcony without knowing what I could ever do with them in the future. I remember that back in the famine years I even used my unsatisfactory oil paintings for building chicken coops.
 I’ll, before the end of my life journey, continue to do a lot of creating as well as destroying, but, hopefully, more creating than destroying!
1. “前海北沿”意即“前海北岸”，可译为on the northern side of the Qianhai Lake或on the north of the Qianhai Lake。
2. “他将度过怎样的一生”可译为What would become of it for life?或How was it to drag out this existence?其中it均指“婴儿”。
3. “作者对自己的作品，当会体会到父母对孩子的心情”，可按“作品对于作者，犹孩子对于父母一般”译为A work of art is to the creator what a baby is to its parents。
4. “任何一个探索者都走过弯路和歧途，都会留下许多失败之作”译为All art explorers are liable to take roundabout courses or lead themselves astray， thus ending up in fiascoes．“探索者”应指“艺术探索者”，因此译为art explorers。
5. “有遗憾的次品”可按“成问题的画作”译为problematic paintings。