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Bring Confucius to Houston

Jun Yang
Chairman, Friends of Confucius Sculpture for Hermann Park

Since year 2006, Charles Foster and I had many conversations about having a sculpture representing China in the International Sculpture Garden at Hermann Park . The eighteen sculptures currently in the International Sculpture Garden are gifts donated to the City by the Houston international communities, representing important persons from Asia, North America, Latin America and Europe . The collections of sculptures in the garden include Mahatma Gandhi from India , Bernardo Higgins from Chile , Robert Burns from Scotland , Benito Juarez from Mexico and many others. 

Who would be the best person to represent China? There were a few proposed candidates, including Deng Xiaoping, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Sun Tzu and a few others. But over the long five thousand years of the Chinese history, Confucius, named one of the top ten most important persons that impacted the world, is probably the most influential figure. After many discussions and meetings with the local Chinese community leaders, including Leon Chen, Harry Sun, David Tang, and many others, we reached the consensus to present a Confucius statue to the International Sculpture Garden to represent China .

In June of 2008, Charles and I had a lunch meeting with Willy Wang, a renowned sculptor in Houston . We told Willy that we were going to build a Statue of Great Confucius in the International  Sculpture Garden and asked him if he could help us craft the statue. Willy said he would give it some thoughts. A week later, Willy called and said he would do it because it is a very worthwhile project.  

Shortly after Willy agreed to join us on this project, in the early summer of 2008, I had a meeting with Consul General Qiao Hong of China , who strongly endorsed the initiative of this project and promised full support from the consulate.  We later formed a project team to present the Sculpture to the city. Charles Foster and Leon Chen agreed to serve as the co-chairs, Elaine Zhang as the secretary, David Tang as the spokesperson and Harry Sun to serve as the treasurer and ceremony chair.  

When Minnette Boesel, Mayor White’s Assistant for Cultural Affairs, took office in early August 2008, one of her first emails was from me inquiring the city procedures of accepting a gift statue at the International Sculpture Garden . She was very excited about the project and quickly gave me the city ordinance on the International Sculpture Garden and related guidelines.

While I was working with the city on the gift procedure in the fall of 2008, Willy took a special trip to visit the Fine Art Institute of China to conduct his researches on Confucius and his times. There is a Standard Sculpture of Confucius available in China , but Willy thought he could do a better job to more adequately demonstrate Confucius’ life and his significance in the history of China .

On October 3rd, 2008, the Consulate General of China in Houston , the City of Houston and Friends of Confucius Sculpture for Hermann Park had a meeting and jointly initiated the Great Confucius Statue project. The dedication date was set to be September 26th, 2009 at the meeting.

On February 3rd and 11th, 2009, we presented the mock-up of the statue and our proposal to the Hermann Park Garden Center Advisory Board and Houston Arts Alliance, and received the approval from both. In the approval process, one frequently asked question was how tall Confucius was. I was able to find in the book of “Records of the Grand Historian that Confucius was indeed a 7 ft and 3 inches tall man. But, he is still slightly shorter than our beloved basketball player Yao Ming.  

On Feb 21st, 2009, Willy officially started his frame work of the statue at his Southwest Houston studio. In the following three months, Willy often worked more than ten hours daily on a seven-day working week schedule. On May 6th, the clay statue was molded into a rubber model and later casted into bronze at a foundry in Bastrop .

On Sep 2nd, at the City Council meeting, it was unanimously passed that the City of Houston will accept the gift of the Great Confucius Statue as a gift and will permanently place it at the International Sculpture Garden of Hermann Park. This date is surely a milestone of our project.

Today, on Sep 26th, 2009, we are gathering here at the Houston Garden Center to dedicate this Great Confucius Statue to the City of Houston , in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of establishment of the Sino-US diplomatic relations and the 2,560th anniversary of the birth of Confucius.

This statue would not have been here without our community’s support, especially support from our donors. I want to thank every one of our forty donors for their trust, friendship and encouragement, without which we would not have been able to get together here today. Their names are permanently engraved on the foundation of the statue and they will be remembered for their great contribution to this statue.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Mayor White and Mrs. White for their support on this project. I also want to thank many of our friends at the city: Minnette Boesel, Mayor's Assistant for Cultural Affairs, Joe Turner, Director of the Parks and Recreation Department, Rick Dewees, Deputy Director of the Parks and Recreation Department, Susan Christian and Eileen Quan of the Special Events Department, Frank Michel, Communications Director, Jan Clark of the city Legal Department, Bernard Simien of HPD, Mary Hughes of Houston Garden Center. My thanks also go to the city council and all of the council members for passing the resolution to accept this art piece into the International Sculpture Garden . I want to specially thank Councilwoman Wanda Adams for bringing this up to the council meeting.  

In addition, I want to thank the Hermann Park Garden Center Advisory Board, specially its Chairwoman Susan Keeton, and Doreen Stoller, the Executive Director of Herman Park Conservancy. My thanks also go to the Houston Arts Alliance Board for their valuable inputs. 

This project’s success is based on the strong support from the Houston Chinese community. Many local organizations were involved in this project, including the Chinese Civic Center , Asia Society, Guangdong Association of Texas, Shandong Fellowship Association, Yee Fung Toy Family Association, and many others.

The unique feature of this statue is that it is ALL Made in Texas .  The statue was crafted by our fellow Houstonian Willy Wang at his Southwest Houston studio. The molding and foundry work is completed at Bastrop , Texas by Deep in the Heart Art Foundry. The pedestal and foundation is done by one of the best monument companies in the country, Schlitzerberger & Daughters Monuments, here in Houston .  

 Lastly but not the least, I want to thank our friends at the Consulate General of China in Houston . Their initiative and continuous guidance of this project has been significant to today’s dedication. I want to thank Consul General Gao Yanping and her predecessor Consul General Qiao Hong, Deputy Consul General Yu Boren, Deputy Consul General Zhou Ding, Consul Chu Kaimin, Consul Chen Guangda, Consul Ran Qijun, Counsellor Tsai Lien and her predecessor Counsellor Li Jiping, Consul Sun Aiping, and many others.  

Now, visitors that come to this wonderful garden will see the Confucius Statue and have a chance to read Confucius’ teachings. Confucius after 2,560 years has come to Houston to share his wisdom, ideals and thoughts.

 © Friends of Confucius Sculpture for Hermann Park  2009. All Rights Reserved.