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Participant Information

ZhiQiang Xu


In Spring of 1999, I was given a definite diagnosis of parkinsonism. Unfortunately, it came while my drawing skill was rather mature and I was prepared to create some large works which I had planned out for a long time.

This struck me hard. I took medicine - "Sinemet" - at first, which had no bad effect on my body. As the disease progressed, it affected my drawing. When painting the face of a person, I held the pen unstably, which affected the expression of art.

Nevertheless, I could not be arbitrarily controlled by the disease. I wanted to "strangle the throat of fate" and to struggle against the disease firmly. I moved my home from bustling city central to a suburb, nearby Zhong Mountain. I exercised by climbing the mountain to strengthen the body each morning. After returning home, I insisted on drawing.

The traditional Chinese painting is drawn on a table, but I stood up and drew on a frame, thus I had an open view and avoided distortion when painting figures. At this time, my neck, breast, and lumbar vertebrae were stretched straight, thereby rejecting the pathological changes of neck and waist.

Painting is my source of life. Because of my insistence on drawing, the progressing of PD slowed down. "Life rests with notion." Drawing pictures requires thinking to go quiet and one must get rid of distracting thoughts. When creating, I must move continuously and shift forward and backward, as well as move my hands up and down, lift them up and down when drawing a big picture.

An ancient motion for strengthening the body is "Taiji Gongfu" [Tai Chi]. Chinese pay attention to the combination of dynamic and calm, speed and slowness. Similarly, there are splashes of ink [accidents] and slow touching up in the painting process. This requires patience. The rhythm, or motion, of the pen in drawing can be light or heavy, quick or slow, so I sometimes draw without a break, but one should stop to breathe. Qi [energy] doesn't break [stop] when the pen track breaks.

Chinese painting stresses vividness. Based on this point, it's considered "Soft Qigong" to draw Chinese pictures. In fact, many Chinese old people cultivate their heart and nature by drawing. As a result, we can call drawing as "Yaiji Qigong Gongfu" [Writing and Painting Keep Good Health].

Chinese artists must update their knowledge continuously; be conversant with things past and present, familiar with classic literature. One point is especially important, for Chinese painting to appeal to the world, it must advance with time in all respects such as skill and materials. This asks [requires] the painters to have active brains which are unstoppable; maintaining brisk thoughts and the ability to communicate information.

For PD sufferers, using brain and hands at the same time helps prevent ossifying of the brain. Therefore, drawing is our best weapon when struggling with disease, and also a wonderful medicine for treating parkinsonism. When I'm creating a satisfying picture, my heart is unusually excited. I always think it is exactly the same as one longing for his sweetheart. The cheerful mood makes my body and heart more healthy.

I like music from my childhood. I've learned piano, violin, Two-hu, and vocal music. I always sing heartily now when I'm climbing and brandish a paint-pen [paint brush] while listening to splendid music. The inspiration comes spontaneously.

At this time, the paint-pen might move lightly or heavy, quickly or slowly, matching the rhythm of music closely. This distills drawing and it becomes a unique enjoyment of beauty. My state of illness has progressed slowly due to my insistence on creating art for the 6 years since I was diagnosed. My body and heart are in a hopeful and positive state now. Life is pretty; we must treasure it. We should struggle against disease and become strong person of life.