Statue of Mao Yisheng unveiled

University officials and Chinese dignitaries dedicated a statue of Carnegie Tech alumnus Mao Yisheng in a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Tuesday afternoon outside Baker Hall. The work was the first piece of art to be installed on campus under the direction of the Public Art Committee.

Carnegie Mellon president Jared L. Cohon began the program by recognizing the invited guests, which included Mao’s daughter and grandson. He also pointed out representatives of the organizations that had been instrumental in the statue’s production.

Zhao Zhongxian, the vice-president of the China Association for Science and Technology and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, gave a brief outline of Mao’s career.

A native of Jiangsu province, China, Mao began work on his civil engineering PhD at Carnegie Tech in 1917. Two years later, at the age of 23, he became the school’s first PhD graduate.

“Dr. Mao Yisheng enjoyed a special relationship with Carnegie Mellon University,” Zhao said through an interpreter. “[His work here] laid a solid foundation for his later achievement.”

After completing his degree, Mao enjoyed a long career as an educator and bridge designer in China. In his professional capacity, he designed that country’s first dual-use bridge. He was also a faculty member at five universities and president of four.

Since Mao’s time here, Carnegie Mellon has educated “generations of Chinese talents,” Zhao said, a trend he anticipates will continue in future years.

“It is my hope that this statue can ... continue to inspire all the Chinese students overseas and in this school ... to contribute skills and knowledge for the growth of our country,” he said.

Though the statue was installed just last week, the idea of its construction dates back about two and a half years to when Volker Hartkopf, a professor in the School of Architecture, visited the Broad Air Conditioning Co. factory in Changsha, China. He noticed that the grounds contained several statues of historical figures, and showed photos of them to PhD student Hongxi Yin.

When Broad Co. CEO Zhang Yue later came to Pittsburgh, Yin told him about Mao’s achievement at Carnegie Mellon and asked Zhang if he would be interested in sponsoring a commemorative statue.

“He immediately said yes,” Hartkopf said.

Since additional donors were brought on board to cover the design and construction costs, the University incurred no expense in the construction of the monument, Hartkopf said.

Although the location of the work was discussed at the public art forum held last month, Hartkopf said the installation met with relatively little criticism. “There was some reservation which was voiced about figurative art versus more abstract art. There was some discussion — we don’t have a sculpture of Andrew Carnegie, so why have one of a PhD recipient?”

Since the statue’s completion last Tuesday, Hartkopf said he had heard “absolutely nothing negative.” He said that the larger-than-life size of the eight-and-a-half-foot-tall bronze work, which had been a concern at the art forum in March, is not noticeable from a distance and keeps the statue from being “dwarfed by its alcove.”

The statue of Mao was created by Chinese sculptor Sun Lu, a faculty member at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. The relief around the statue was designed by Wang Jianfeng and Long Xiang, the head of the sculpture department at the China Academy of Art Institute.

The relief includes an inscription of Mao’s name written by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, a noted calligrapher who saw the statue unveiled in Changsha before it came to the United States.