Exclusive Interview with the Sculptor of Chu Kochen's Statue --Commemorating the First Anniversary of the Unveiling of Chu Kochen’s Statue


On November 18th, 2022, the Chu Kochen Statue was unveiled at the International Campus. This is the third full-body bronze statue of Chu Kochen completed for Zhejiang University, following those at Yuquan Campus and Zijingang Campus.

To celebrate the first anniversary of the event, our editor interviewed Professor Pan Xirou, the statue’s sculptor, from the China Academy of Art. Let's follow the story of the statue's creation and pay tribute to our beloved former president, Professor Chu Kochen.

Returning Home from the United States

The Chu Kochen Statue at the International Campus captures the university’s cultural intersections with this UIUC alumnus and ZJU former president, and is themed with "归来·远望," meaning "Return & Vision,” which represents President Chu's devotion to the country: after completing his studies at UIUC and Harvard University, President Chu never changed his original intention. He turned down invitations from many American universities, proudly returned across the oceans to his homeland, and became president of ZJU. Originally a scientist, he then became an educator and dedicated himself to the service of his country by revitalizing the nation's culture and educational undertakings.

Prodessor Chu Kochen, Young and Old

While Professor PAN was working on the Chu Kochen Statue for International Campus, he was faced with two significant challenges: first, there were few pictures of President Chu, which made it difficult for him to shape a three-dimensional sculpture; second, over his lifetime, President Chu’s face changed a great deal. The Chu Kochen Statue at International Campus was modeled after young Chu who had returned to China after his overseas studies. His features at the time were quite different from those of the older President Chu well-known by ZJUers, so how could he make the statue recognizable, but at the same time, a realistic reflection of young Chu?

The final design was based on the image of young Chu, with a more mature artistic rendering. After having seen the design of the statue, ZHU An, the son of President Chu and ZJU alumnus, stated that the statue not only resembled the former president, but also captured his ethic of always looking forward, working hard, improving himself, and pursuing higher standards.

Dedication to the Country

President Chu's spirit of keeping "the top priorities of the country" in mind and always retaining "devotion to family and country" reflected that of many Chinese scientists at that time. In that era, group after group of students went abroad and, upon graduating, would eagerly return to the embrace of their motherland to help in the construction of New China.

In 1987, the first Chu Kochen Statue was unveiled at Yuquan Campus.

In 2007, the second Chu Kochen Statue was erected at Zijingang Campus.

In 2022, the third Chu Kochen Statue was completed at International Campus.

According to Professor PAN Xirou, although the three statues showcase Chu Kochen in different roles at different ages, they demonstrate the same vein of patriotism. The statue at Yuquan Campus shows President Chu carrying out social activities as president, a role in which he became a pioneer of modern education in China. At Zijingang Campus, the statue shows him in the middle of field research as a meteorologist, a role in which he made great contributions to China's modern meteorological science through his rigorous study and lifelong commitment. And at the International Campus, we see him returning home after his studies as student, ready to serve his country. In all these roles, his charisma has inspired future generations.

Passing on the Spirit of "Seeking Truth"

In the autumn of 1936, at the commencement ceremony President Chu asked freshmen two questions: "Why do you come to ZJU? What do you want to be after graduation?" The following year, under the flames of war, ZJU began a 2600-kilometer, nine-year relocation to the west, and in the autumn of 1938, at the opening ceremony in Yishan, Guangxi Province, President Chu put forward "Truth-Seeking" as the university motto. He was an active advocate of the truth-seeking spirit and passed on the torch of truth-seeking to generations of ZJUers with his lifelong commitment.

"I was born in the rural area of Chongming Island, Shanghai, in a poor peasant’s family; we had been so poverty-stricken that we had little to eat. Thanks to the Communist Party of China, I became who I am today," said Professor PAN Xirou. Born in 1935, he experienced the years of national crisis, but also helped to usher in the Great Leap Forward of the Chinese people from escaping poverty, to getting rich and strong. And, he has been able to pursue his passion and interpret his ideals with sculptures. In line with his pragmatic creative style, he modestly said, "For sculpture creation, it is already very good to achieve a resemblance, and the rest depends on others' comments." 

One master sculpted to portray his ideals, while the other returned to serve the country from his studies abroad. After years of vicissitudes, Professor PAN dedicated his life to the art of sculpture, while President Chu devoted his life to the development of science and education in China. The strong emotional resonance made Professor PAN determined to create a worthy statue of President Chu to show the charisma of this scientist, educator, and revolutionary.

Today, whether it's at Yuquan Campus, Zijingang Campus, or International Campus, whenever we walk past the statues, we can't help but slow down and stop to admire them, contemplating the two questions left by the former president and starting a spiritual dialogue with him through time and space. Today, we remember his lingering messages: "only discuss right and wrong, regardless of gains and losses"; "strive for the country and serve people worldwide as one's duty"; and of course, move forward always in the pursuit of the truth.

Article: SUN Xiaolei, LING Zixu;
Photography: ZJU Archive, ZJU Gallery, ZHU Zhouyue
Editing: LI Yinan
Editing in charge: XUE Qian
Reviewer: WU Fengbin
Translation: XIE Xiangling
English Editing: Ryan Flanagan; LIU Shuaiyin