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A behind-the-scene look at Obama's gift to Chinese president
2011/02/13

By Henry, Zhang Baoping

CHICAGO, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- The artist brothers who created a painting as U.S. President Barack Obama's gift to his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao had a good idea of just what to do.

"When President Barack Obama wanted us to create a painting as a state gift to President Hu Jintao, the first thought that came up to me was to express our best wishes," Dahuang Zhou said Saturday.

The painting "Eight presidents and the Great Wall of China," created by Chinese American brothers Dahuang Zhou and Shanzuo Zhou, was presented to Hu during his visit to the White House on Jan. 18.

The brothers told Xinhua how Obama chose the gift for Hu.

Shanzuo said the White House made the request last December that an oil painting be created to present to Hu by Obama as a state gift during the Chinese president's visit to Washington.

While the theme of the painting was decided by the White House, it was left to the Zhou brothers to conceive the best materialization of that theme.

They decided that the American presidents who visited China since Richard Nixon's ice-breaking tour in 1972 would represent the two countries' friendship, and that the Great Wall would show the length and depth of Chinese culture. The painting remained a national secret before its presentation, Da Huang Zhou said.

"We used strokes to sketch the eight presidents," Da Huang Zhou said.

The spiral red line represents the development and great expectations of the bilateral relations and the bold black line, a typical stroke of Chinese painting, is used to depict the Great Wall. The blue spots on the left top and red and white lines shows the national banner.

A short video was posted on the White House website to reveal the behind-the-scene story of this painting's creation.

The video explained that "the painting is replete with imagery and motifs that represent 5,000 years of Chinese culture and the friendship that our two countries have shared and will continue on together into the future."

The painting measures 86 inches wide and 68 inches high, numbers associated with good luck in Chinese culture. Obama learned the meaning of every symbol on the painting before it was sent to Washington on Jan. 14.

The gift was presented to Hu on the evening of his arrival in Washington on Jan.18. Obama introduced the Zhou brothers to Hu in a private meeting in the White House. The Zhous then presented the painting to the Chinese president.

Hu sent President Obama a bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln as a gift.

The Zhou brothers arrived in the United States in 1986 and have lived in Chicago since. They started to work together to create modern abstract paintings in the 1980s and have enjoyed a high reputation.

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